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Ranking true No. 1 pass-catchers

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by RFIP, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. RFIP Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2013
    Likes Received:
    The term "No. 1 receiver" is often thrown around loosely, but to me, there certainly are not 32 No. 1 receivers in the league just because every team has a favorite target. (In fact, the Chicago Bears have two No. 1 receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.) This came up during the DeSean Jackson trade and free-agency discussions; as good a player as Jackson is, I don't consider him to be a No. 1 pass-catcher.

    Defining this term isn't a cut-and-dry thing. But I look at it this way -- a No. 1 receiver needs to be able to do everything well in the passing game:

    • They need to have the ability to separate from man coverage, understand how to find the soft spots in zones and have very strong athletic traits.
    • They need to be strong, fast and play big, which often -- but not always -- can eliminate shorter wide receivers from this equation.
    • They must be productive, even when opposing defenses are scheming to take them out of the equation; No. 1 receivers can be uncoverable and never come off the field.
    • They must display the above traits with consistency.

    Below is my list of players that I consider to be No. 1 pass-catchers (there are a couple of tight ends on the list), ranked in order from 1-14.

    Stands alone at the top

    1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
    This is just a special player in all areas of his immense game. Already an all-time great, Johnson is the epitome of what a No. 1 receiver truly is. He is one of a kind.

    Who can match up with these two?

    2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
    If healthy, Gronk is the perfect tight end, and frankly, he could be the most impressive tight end who has ever played this game. However, he must stay healthy. He has outstanding size, strength and power. Gronkowski is incredibly versatile, including as a blocker.

    He is the best red-zone weapon in football, scoring 42 touchdowns in his 50 career games; that is a truly astonishing rate.

    3. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
    As evidenced by his league-leading 16 touchdown grabs in 2013, Graham is an absolute scoring machine. He gets in the end zone on deep routes in which he outruns linebackers and safeties, or in close quarters by just being bigger and more gifted than those around him.

    Not much of a blocker, Graham is anything but finesse with the ball in his hands, often initiating contact. This is a great player who was unstoppable last season despite foot issues, and is only getting better.

    Freaks of nature, but a step below Calvin Johnson

    4. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
    Green is a very special player. Long and lean but possessing highly explosive traits, there are few like him throughout the history of this league. And wow, is he smooth. Green isn't the most physical wideout in the league, but the things he does so well are just incredibly difficult to find.

    With a quarterback who was a better deep passer, Green might be the best deep-ball receiver in the league.

    5. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
    This 25-year-old has been a simply dominant player for two seasons now. Only Demaryius Thomas and Graham caught more touchdowns than Bryant last year, despite Bryant being less than 100 percent for much of the campaign. He is also outstanding after the catch and extremely physical with the ball in his hands.

    Dallas' offense should be outstanding in 2014, and let's just say that its defense still needs a lot of work. Expect the Cowboys to be in plenty of high-scoring games. You know what that means? Get Bryant on your fantasy team.

    6. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
    Jones came to the league very raw, but he has a rare combination of size, physicality and power. His movements are aggressive and violent, and he has become a complete receiver. Although he missed much of the year with a foot injury, only Josh Gordon averaged more receiving yards per game in 2013 than Jones.

    He might be noticeably higher on this list one year from now. His time is now.

    7. Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
    Despite highly suspect quarterback play, Gordon was the breakout receiver of 2013, accumulating 1,646 receiving yards -- after being suspended for the first two games of the season. He has it all: size, deep speed and great body control. What is frightening -- for opponents -- is that Gordon is only 22 years old, making him the youngest player on this list.

    8. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
    Thomas might be the best receiver in the league after the catch, where he instantly turns into a physical ball carrier with home run abilities. His supporting cast sure helps, but Thomas is a top option on any team, and only Graham caught more touchdowns than Thomas last year.

    He is both a great deep threat as well as a player who can do tons of damage in the screen game. Put him in Oakland or Jacksonville and Thomas is still one of the best wide receivers in the league.

    9. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
    Jeffery didn't eclipse 51 receiving yards in Chicago's first three games and also had three other outings in which he had fewer than 60 yards receiving, but he was utterly dominant against the Saints and Vikings. Still a little up-and-down, the 24-year-old has rare size and body control for such a big man. He also has very strong hands.

    Only Gordon and Calvin Johnson average more yards per catch than Jeffery in 2013. Jeffrey was the Bears' most feared receiver by the end of his second NFL season.

    Oldies but still very goodies

    10. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
    Drops were a problem for Marshall in 2013, which has been a recurring theme throughout his career, but he caught 100 passes (for the fifth time in his career) and scored 12 touchdowns. Marshall attacks the football in the air and is a very aggressive ball carrier once it is secured.

    Marshall just turned 30 years old, but his style of game should translate for some time, and he is showing zero signs of slowing down.

    11. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
    When I bring up Johnson as a Hall of Fame wide receiver, I get many mixed reactions. I see this guy as a Hall of Famer without question, but also feel that he hasn't quite gotten his proper due over his illustrious career. While Johnson is getting up in age and has never been a big touchdown producer, only five players had more receptions of 20 or more yards than Johnson this past season.

    Obviously, the Texans were awful and the quarterback play was poor in 2013, but Johnson still had a great year. He still has it.

    12. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
    Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer, will turn 31 before Week 1, and while he might not be as explosive as he once was or possess blazing speed, he is a master at the position in terms of route running, using his strong frame. It doesn't hurt that Fitzgerald has the best ball skills and hands in the league.

    He is also much tougher than some think, missing just four games in his 10-year career.

    Just ask their quarterbacks if they are No. 1 receivers

    13. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
    With great size for the position, he is often mistaken for a possession weapon, however only three receivers converted more receptions of 20 or more yards last year. His deep speed and big-play ability is vastly underrated, but Nelson also is Aaron Rodgers' go-to target when Rodgers needs a first down and has always proven to be reliable.

    Nelson had his best season in 2013, accumulating over 1,300 receiving yards, and bear in mind that he was playing without Rodgers for much of that time. He isn't a product of the system or his surroundings and would be great in any environment.

    14. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
    This is Colin Kaepernick's guy, and the Niners' passing game suffered quite a bit with Crabtree out of the lineup for the first 11 games. But even after that point, Crabtree wasn't himself this past season.

    While he isn't much of a deep threat, Crabtree catches everything and possesses a fantastic "My Ball" mentality. He is also quite effective after the catch. Although he is going into his sixth NFL season, Crabtree is only 26 years old. Expect a huge season from Crabtree in 2014, now that his Achilles tendon is fully healed.

    Close but not quite (alphabetical): Keenan Allen, Antonio Brown, Randall Cobb, Victor Cruz, Vernon Davis, Pierre Garcon, Percy Harvin, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Torrey Smith, Roddy White.

    Ramrocket, Prime Time and crazyhorns like this.
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