Wide Receivers: The Playmaker Edition

Joe FortenbaughCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 10:  Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers reacts to a play during the game against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 10, 2009 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Introducing the National Football Post’s 2009 top five big-play wide receivers: five guys who make their living making big-time plays.

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Top Five Big-Play Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith   Carolina Panthers

The only thing little about Steve Smith is his height, but don’t get it twisted—this guy is lethal. Since 2006, he leads the NFL in receptions of 25-plus yards (37), posted a ridiculous 18.2 yards per reception average in 2008 and has racked up 33 touchdowns over the past four years.

The speedy wideout from Utah has found the end zone from 65-plus yards in each of the past four seasons. He’s what makes the Carolina offense work. The Panthers live and die by the big play, and Smith has provided many of them during his eight-year career.


2. Calvin Johnson   Detroit Lions

Put this guy with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning and it’s lights out for opposing defenses. Johnson has posted some gaudy receiving numbers in his two-year career despite a rotating door of stiffs lining up at the quarterback position.

Over the past two seasons, Megatron has caught 23 passes for 25 or more yards, scored 16 touchdowns, averaged 16.6 yards per reception and has a very impressive 96-yard touchdown on his resume. If rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford turns out to be even halfway decent, look for Johnson to possibly become the game’s best wide receiver.


3. Roddy White   Atlanta Falcons

Whether you drafted him or not, Hot Rod is taking the next step this season into the elite tier of NFL wide receivers. Much like Calvin Johnson, he’s been wreaking havoc on opposing cornerbacks with mediocre talent throwing him the football.

Now that rookie sensation Matt Ryan is ready to take the next step and free agent tight end Tony Gonzalez will help lighten the coverage, White is going to explode. Over the past three seasons combined, he ranks fourth in receptions of 25 or more yards (33), 14th in YPR (15.4) and 14th in yards after the catch (939). He’s a little older, a little wiser and has the best supporting cast of his career. Look out.


4. Larry Fitzgerald   Arizona Cardinals

I’m sure the comments section is going to light up over the fact Fitz is ranked fourth, but I’m a big boy, so fire away. Larry Long Ball has been extremely dangerous over the past three seasons. He’s caught 30 passes for 25-plus yards (fifth), scored 28 touchdowns (third) and is averaging a lethal 86.0 yards per game (second).

In addition, you know Fitzgerald is going to get opportunities as he’s averaging 9.79 targets for his career and has caught at least 14 passes of 25 or more yards in four of the past five seasons. Whew. What can I say? The guy makes plays.


5. Reggie Wayne   Indianapolis Colts

Wayne has been one of the most productive big-play receivers in the NFL over the past three years. He ranks third in receptions of 25-plus yards (34), has racked up 423 targets (fifth), ranks fourth in receiving yards per game (82.6) and has found the end zone from 50-plus yards in five of the past six years.

Marvin Harrison is now gone, making Wayne the official No. 1 receiver in Indy for all-world quarterback Peyton Manning. If wideout Anthony Gonzalez can step up in 2009 (and we think he will) and force opposing defenses to respect his talent, Wayne will post another monster season.


Honorable Mention

1. Terrell Owens   Buffalo Bills

Over the past three years, T.O. ranks second in receptions of 25 or more yards (35) and first in touchdowns (38). Unfortunately, he’s got a young quarterback in Trent Edwards throwing him the rock this year behind a very suspect offensive line.

2. Vincent Jackson   San Diego Chargers

A 6'5", 230-pound beast, V-Jax is going to become a household name by the end of 2009. He averaged 18.6 yards per reception last season en route to seven touchdowns and the outright No. 1 receiving spot on an offense with a big-time quarterback in Philip Rivers.

V-Jax ranks 11th in receptions of 25 or more yards (18) over the past two years and is poised to inject some juice into that number in 2009. He may not catch as many passes as some of the other names on this list, but trust us, the ones he does haul in will make a big impact.

3. Randy Moss   New England Patriots

No stats needed. We all know how the original “Straight Cash Homie” does it. He made quarterback Matt Cassel $63 million this offseason. That speaks volumes.


Before you decide to blow up my inbox…

Andre Johnson did not make the list because he doesn’t even rank in the top 25 in receptions of 25-plus yards over the past two years. Sorry, A.J. Better luck next time.


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