The Top 10 NFL Receivers: 2009
Everyone loves a good argument, so in the wake of my recent "Top 10 Quarterbacks", here's another does of debating fuel.
Jerry Rice is hard to top statistically for his career, especially since he was on so many good teams, won so many Super Bowls, and kept it going into his 40's.
But this list isn't about the Hall of Fame or career achievements. It's about, with all things considered, who is the best right now.
Randy Moss probably owned this spot at the end of last season, but if you've been watching football lately, that opinion is bound to change. I love what Moss did in Minnesota, and I'm loving him now, but it doesn't touch what Larry Fitzgerald is on the cusp of becoming.
Yes, that means Fitz' is our number one guy. Read on to find out who rounds out the top 10.
1. Larry Fitzgerald
If you're going to supplant Randy Moss as the best receiver in the league at only 25 years old, you better have something pretty impressive to bring to the table.
Oh, he does.
Fitz' has three seasons of 10 or more touchdowns, 1,400 yards, and over 100 grabs. The two years he didn't do these things he was either a rookie or battling a rare injury.
Fitzgerald also took his team on his back in 2008 as he broke playoff records for yards (627) and touchdowns (9), while helping the unlikely Cardinals reach the Super Bowl.
Give Fitzgerald 10 healthy years in this league, and Jerry Rice might be looking over his shoulder.
2. Randy Moss
Randy Moss has been one of the most controversial players during his time in the NFL, but he's arguably been one of the best.
Moss has registered over 1,200 yards seven times, and has scored over 10 touchdowns eight times, including an NFL record 23 scores in 2007.
Moss comes in second due to a spotty attitude, and the fact that he has been known to take plays off in the past.
Like it or not, character plays a large role in rankings, and not just team chemistry.
3. Andre Johnson
Johnson battled inconsistency issues early in his career, and some could say he still is. Since he has come into the league, he has recorded 1,000 yards in every other season, while posting under 1,000 in the even years.
However, it appears Johnson had a growth spurt in talent and work ethic last year, as he continued his role as the go-to option for whoever was throwing passes in Houston.
His huge season numbers of 115 catchs, 1,575 yards, and eight touchdowns landed him in the Pro Bowl, but what was most striking about 2008 was his impressive run of games with at least nine receptions and 100-yard games (four).
4. Steve Smith
If it weren't for a broken leg in the first game of the 2004 season, we could see Smith on a six-year run of 1,000 yard seasons. I guess we'll have to cope with four.
Smith has combined his excellent speed with near-perfect route-running, as well as exceptional hands to become one of the top-five receivers in the NFL.
If you're not talking about his huge 2005 season of 105 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 scores, you're talking about his 1,421 yards he achieved this season in only 14 games.
Smith may get a bad reputation for a sketchy attitude (or for punching a teammate), but he's a proven winner, and belongs at number four.
5. Terrell Owens
Whether he's throwing popcorn into his face-mask, writing with a sharpie, or bashing his quarterbacks, there's always a story with T.O.
Despite his on and off the field antics and over-the-top personality, Owens is actually one of the better receivers of this generation, and could be argued as the current best.
Owens displayed his perseverance in 2008 as he rode out the "Brad Johnson trials" and still posted over 1,000 yards and 10 scores, despite not having Tony Romo for three games.
6. Anquan Boldin
He's never wowed anyone with his speed, and has never been a touchdown juggernaut, but Boldin is one of the most hard-nosed elite receivers in the league.
And aside from maybe Hines Ward, he's possibly the toughest.
But grit alone doesn't get Boldin the No. 6 spot. Boldin has two 100+ catch seasons under his belt, as well as four 1,000 yard seasons. He may not be as good as his teammate, Fitzgerald, but Boldin definitely deserves to get paid.
7. Calvin Johnson
With over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns, Johnson is clearly a young player on the rise (and should never be forgotten) however, his stats and status as a receiver in today's NFL may be a bit skewed.
While Johnson put up nice numbers, he did have the assistance of a solid bunch of receivers around him (Roy Williams, Shaun McDonald, and Mike Furrey) for most of 2008.
Another interesting note is that two of his five 100-yard games came against the porous Green Bay Packers defense, something that even Kevin Walter from Houston was able to do. That ended up being Walter's only 100-yard game.
Johnson is talented and probably on his way to greatness, but you can't expect a high ranking for a guy who achieved these numbers on an 0-16 team.
8. Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall has two straight 100+ catch seasons, and he has done so without much help around him.
With no one else in Denver to take the attention off of him consistently enough, Marshall has become adept at battling double-teams for balls.
Marshall hasn't even begun to reach his potential, and could probably even benefit from some better decision-making. Still, with his size and speed, there are few that are feared more than he is.
9. Reggie Wayne
Wayne started his career off slow, not notching his first 1,000 yard season until his fourth year, but Indianapolis fans are likely to have forgiven him.
All he has done since then is help Indy' win a Super Bowl, while registering five straight 1,000 yard seasons.
Wayne clearly has benefited from getting passes thrown to him by one of the game's greats (Manning), as well as having opponents key in on the guy opposite of him (Harrison).
But even with these things working in his favor, Wayne has developed into a fantastic receiver with reliable hands, and the uncanny ability to pull of the Cris Carter-coined tip-toe catch.
10. Greg Jennings
Even though 2008 found Jennings notching his first 1,000 yard season of his career, it also found him exploding onto the scene as one of the most underrated receivers in the league.
Jennings posted 12 touchdowns, including several game-winners in an almost legendary 2007 season (mostly because of Favre).
In 2008, Jennings caught a pass of 40 yards or more seven times, officially making him one of the most effective deep threats in the game today.
11. The Honorable Mentions
11. He's small, not necessarily that fast, and white.
Sounds like a college basketball point guard at best, right?
Despite his physical appearance and all the stereotypes, Welker has developed into the Patriots' staple third-down option.
While being used as an extended running back the past two years, Welker has recorded seasons of 111 and 112 catches, while topping 1,100 yards both times.
Welker will remain in Randy Moss' shadow for all of eternity, but his shiftiness, route running, solid speed, and excellent hands land him one spot away from the top 10, whether you liked his mustache last year, or not.
12. Colston is a superstar waiting to happen, through he's slightly held back by an offense that loves to spread the ball around. He has great size to go with adequate speed, but his injury and poor play upon his return last season raises some eyebrows.
13. Roddy White is another up-and-coming receiver who may have reached his potential too soon. It's hard to say if Matt Ryan will ever be able to fully utilize him in a run oriented offense, but it's safe to say White has become one of the better deep options in the league today.
14. While Santonio Holmes has yet to record a 1,000 yard season, he is responsible for winning the 2008 Super Bowl, and has shown flashes of greatness over the span of his three season career.
15. Donald Driver, even after all this time, is still probably one of the most underrated receivers in the league. Despite being drafted in the seventh round, Driver has been able to reel off six 1,000 yard seasons, while becoming Brett Favre's favorite target, and a reliable option for Aaron Rodgers.