The debate between Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles has been a popular one this summer. Whether you are arguing which receiver is the true No. 1 or who will have a better season, both receivers are Pro Bowl-caliber players who could easily overshadow the other in any given game or season.
But which player will have the better career?
Before you can predict which receiver will have the better career, you have to fully understand what makes these receivers great.
They are both great receivers in their own way and are capable of taking over a game through the air. They both also have a great deal of speed that is unmatched by just about everyone in the league.
Still, they are two very different types of players.
Maclin is fast. Jackson is on a whole other level, and it's not just straight-line speed. Jackson has quickness and great change-of-direction ability.
Simply put, you can't put one man on Jackson in man coverage without getting burned every time.
Jackson changes the way a defense plays the entire offense. When he is on the field, outside of the red zone, the safeties are forced to play 15 yards back. Before you can defend an offense with Jackson lined up on the outside, you first have to account for the deep ball. His speed is too great to line up your safeties 7-10 yards off the line—he has proven that 10 yards back isn't far enough.
That opens up everything for the rest of the offense. You can bring in your safeties for run support with Jackson on the field. Tight ends and slot receivers just have to beat slot corners and the linebackers on short-to-intermediate routes.
Jackson's big-play ability makes everyone better around him before he even catches a pass.
Maclin doesn't have the freak speed that Jackson has, but he does offer a lot more in the passing game in other areas. I like to think of him as a short-possession receiver with a lot of speed.
Maclin came out of college as a similar player to Jackson: a bit undersized, a lot of speed, but not a complete receiver.
Heading into the 2012 season, he is a complete receiver.
Maclin runs very crisp routes, has good hands and can make plays on the outside and over the middle. 2010 was his breakout season; Maclin had 70 receptions for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns. 2011 saw his numbers dip a little bit to just 63 catches for 859 yards and five touchdowns.
Jackson has already proven himself to the league that he is a big-time receiver. Maclin is right on the cusp of doing just that, as he had more than 600 yards and four touchdowns through his first eight games of 2011 before hamstring and shoulder injuries really derailed his second half. If he stays healthy this season, Maclin should lead the Eagles in receptions and touchdowns.
It's tough to say who will have the better career. Jackson sets everything up for the defense and makes the highlight-reel plays, while Maclin is just a consistent receiver who can make plays all over the field.
I would expect both of these players to rack up around 1,000 yards receiving every single season over the next five years.
After that, Maclin could really separate himself from Jackson.
In five years, Maclin will be 29, and Jackson will be 30. That's important to note because once Jackson starts to wear down and lose some of his speed, he will become a completely different player.
Jackson relies completely on his speed to be an elite receiver. Once that speed goes down just a little bit, his numbers are going to drop. Maclin won't have that same problem; even if his speed drops, his numbers shouldn't because he is a complete receiver.
This is why Maclin will have a better career than Jackson. He is going to put up about 1,000 yards per season for about the next eight or nine years, and possibly longer. Jackson's numbers will take a serious nosedive once he turns 30.
The fact that we are talking about which of these receivers is going to have a better career is a very positive thing. It's rare to have two receivers with this much speed and this much game on the same team.
This Philadelphia offense is going to be explosive for a long time thanks to two of the best young wide receivers in the NFL.