Pick-Six: Wide Receivers

I asked a handful of die-hard fans to give me their picks on each player comparison, with my picks included as well with reasons for it.

demaryius thomas broncos

A.J. Green or Demaryius Thomas?

Dillon: Demaryius Thomas

Orlando: Demaryius Thomas

Paul: Demaryius Thomas

Steven: Demaryius Thomas

West (Editor): A.J. Green

aj green bengals

A big factor is the health, or lack there of, that A.J. Green has faced in his young career. You can’t really prepare for turf toe like you can for a muscle by stretching and recovery, it just happens and it heals in time with rest. Of course, you have to pick at the little things and the specific situation each player is in when comparing the best receivers in the league. I strongly believe that injuries are the biggest reason that die-hard fans prefer Demaryius Thomas, and I totally understand that. What people may have forgotten, is that Thomas’ first two seasons were injury-riddled as well, and Green has played through a few different injuries.

The thing that I can’t ignore, is how pedestrian Thomas was at the beginning of his career, with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow under center. The great Peyton Manning makes his teammates better, I mean, I like Eric Decker but his stats dropped dramatically last season in the Big Apple. Thomas has been a big factor, scoring double-digit touchdowns with over 90 receptions in each of the past three seasons. The former first round pick grabbed 52 balls and 6 touchdowns in the first two seasons. Thomas is a stud, that’s why he is one of the receivers in these comparisons. Not many players can take a screen pass to the house like he does. Not too many wide outs can rack up over 100 yards with ease and even eclipse the 200-yard mark like he has.

I see Green as more of a team leader and face of the franchise with a weaker supporting cast, especially at quarterback. Green is another former first round pick that commands double-coverage and wins more battles than not, going up against stud cornerback Joe Haden twice per year. In his four seasons, he’s recorded over 90 catches twice and over 60 catches twice, due to injuries. He’s topped 1,000 yards in every season, hauling in double-digit touchdowns in both 90-catch seasons, with 6 and 7 scores in his 60-catch campaigns.

In 60 regular season games, Green has topped the century mark 20 times. Thomas has recorded 100+ yards in 25 of his 69 regular season games played. The AFC North has had better defenses than the AFC West since these dynamic targets came into the league. We can all agree, Denver features Thomas in a passing offense with multiple options, while Cincinnati features Green in a run-first offense. I love both players but if I were on the clock, I would choose the color Green.

torrey smith ravens

Mike Wallace or Torrey Smith?

Dillon: Torrey Smith

Orlando: Torrey Smith

Paul: Mike Wallace

Steven: Torrey Smith

West: Mike Wallace

mike wallace dolphins

These deep threats have had their moments, although somewhat inconsistent. My softer side realizes that Torrey Smith and his wife are close friends with Ray Rice and his wife, so the rough start in 2014, I can look past because he picked up his production a lot like in the previous season. Smith was featured in 2013, where he set career highs with 65 receptions for 1,128 yards. The addition of Steve Smith put him in the backseat a little bit, but his play picked up and he grabbed a career-high 11 touchdowns on the other side. The former second round pick will now make the schematic adjustment from a balanced offense to Marc Trestman’s passing offense, and that should boost his numbers even more if the free agent re-signs.

Mike Wallace can’t seem to stay out of controversy, so you never know if he’s going to stick around when each offseason comes and goes. As a talent, Wallace broke out in his final Pittsburgh years and landed in Miami as the go-to receiver. He’s eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark twice, the 900-yard mark once, and double-digit touchdowns twice, including last season. Wallace’s yards per catch were higher playing with Ben Roethlisberger, one of the better quarterbacks in the league that consistently connects downfield. Ryan Tannehill on the other hand, is still learning the position as a work in progress, and he hasn’t been able to hit Wallace as often. The former third round pick has been open, so to counteract the frustration, the Dolphins have been throwing more short passes to get him involved.

Wallace has three seasons with more catches than Smith’s career-high of 65, and another season where he finished with 64 receptions. He’s been more of a feature receiver and go-to guy in his six seasons, Smith has been played more of a complimentary role in his four seasons. The both average around 5 yards after the catch, but Wallace is more elusive as he gets a handful of carries per season, plus he’s one of the faster wide outs that has the speed to beat defenders. Considering the character issues displayed by Wallace, it’s probably a better idea for a franchise to forgo the headache and roll with the non-diva in Smith.

aj roddy

Andre Johnson or Roddy White?

Dillon: Andre Johnson

Orlando: Andre Johnson

Paul: Andre Johnson

Steven: Andre Johnson

West: Andre Johnson

Unanimous decision here. For the record, here are their career stat lines:

Andre Johnson: 1,012 receptions, 13,597 yards, 64 touchdowns, 13.4 yards per catch, 80.5 yards per game, 51 100-yard games

2014: 85 receptions, 936 yards, 3 touchdowns, 11 yards per catch, 62.4 yards per game, 1 100-yard game

Roddy White: 765 receptions, 10,357 yards, 62 touchdowns, 13.5 yards per catch, 66.8 yards per game, 39 100-yard games

2014: 80 receptions, 921 yards, 7 touchdowns, 11.5 yards per catch, 65.8 yards per game, 2 100-yard games

DeSean Jackson or T.Y. Hilton?

Dillon: T.Y. Hilton

Orlando: T.Y. Hilton

Paul: DeSean Jackson

Steven: T.Y. Hilton

West: DeSean Jackson

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T.Y. Hilton has stormed into the spotlight as the next young standout receiver. The speedster plays in the mold of DeSean Jackson. These Pro Bowlers burn through defenses and absolutely demand safety help over the top. They are the best vertical receivers in the game today, but far from one-trick ponies. Yes, they get featured for the occasional screen pass, but they deserve credit for being tough and reeling in low passes along the sidelines. I don’t think anyone creates more separation on a comeback route than Jackson. Lightening quick and elusive, it only takes 3 or 4 receptions for them to top 150 yards, flirting around 200 in any given game.

Their quarterbacks were picked back-to-back at the top of the 2012 draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin. Again, Jackson led the league with 20 yards per catch, doing so with three different quarterbacks in 2014. I watched the Redskins play last season and they didn’t get him involved nearly enough. Jackson instantly became the top playmaker, ahead of teammate Pierre Garcon, producing six 100-yard games and six touchdowns on the year. It only took him 56 catches to get 1,159 yards for a struggling offense, good for his 4th 1,000-yard season, with a couple of 900-yard seasons in his resume as well.

Hilton also had six 100-yard games, and had one more touchdown with seven. He’s been a playmaker since being drafted by the Colts in 2011, consisting of consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns after an 800-yard rookie year. You can say Hilton is a younger version of Jackson, but their ages are 25 and 28, respectively. As of right now, Jackson has 26 games over the century mark and Hilton has 16, just spectacular. Jackson is still doing it no matter who is under center, that even goes for his days with the Eagles and their QB carousel after Donovan McNabb retired. That’s why he’s my guy, absolutely nothing against Hilton, he’s just in a better situation and Jackson hasn’t started to decline quite yet.

Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham?

Dillon: Odell Beckham

Orlando: Antonio Brown

Paul: Antonio Brown

Steven: Antonio Brown

West: Odell Beckham

Antonio Brown has consistently played sensational in recent seasons. A tremendous find by the Steelers in the 6th round back in 2010, Brown’s development helped the team move on from Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. Not to be a prisoner of any moment in Odell Beckham’s rookie season, but these are my favorite two wide receivers to watch. They have similar abilities. No receiver has ever had the rookie impact Beckham just put on display for us, including a couple catches of the year that you immediately recall.

Brown was learning the ropes his rookie year, but he broke away from the pack in his second season for his first of three 1,000-yard campaigns. Just a yard shy of the 1,500-yard mark in 2013, Brown topped that last season by racking up 1,698 yards. This stud continues to improve. Before last season he scored 8 touchdowns, the amount he had alone in 2014. The guy was unstoppable and hardly containable, scoring a career-high 13 touchdowns averaging 106 yards per contest. Phenomenal, but am I talking about Brown or Beckham when I say that?

Beckham missed the beginning of the season, but he sure made up for that by playing through lingering hamstring issues and showing no signs of it. He posted 108 yards per game, the only receiver slightly edging out Brown, scoring 12 touchdowns in as many games. Brown decimated defenses with 129 catches on the year. In four fewer games, Beckham recorded 91 receptions for 1,305 yards, helping Giants’ fans to move on from losing Victor Cruz to injury. Not only do you have to keep track of where they line up since they play outside and slot, you have to key in when they go in motion or start out of the backfield for a reverse, a hand-off, and even throw the football. Brown has had more attempts, throwing a touchdown and an interception.

I love everything about these two. I normally don’t watch the Giants play but I did because of Beckham. I would usually watch the Steelers for their defense, but not anymore because they are offensive-oriented now. Brown is a big part of that. They are very similar in their route running, Brown may very well be a little more polished. They both make one-handed catches and tough sideline grabs, I just really like the vertical that Beckham contains to play bigger than his size. That is the sole reason I give him the slight nod, in terms of production and upside.

Dez Bryant or Julio Jones?

Dillon: Dez Bryant

Orlando: Julio Jones

Paul: Julio Jones

Steven: Dez Bryant

West: Julio Jones

All I have to say about this one is, if I had to categorized these stars, Julio Jones is more explosive while Dez Bryant is more of the possession type. I say that because most of Bryant’s work comes between short and intermediate routes, so he plays physical. Jones flies by secondaries for the deep ball every week, along with doing damage in the other two levels. Similar to A.J. Green, Jones has had to shake off the injury bug for most of his young career. With a couple of 1,000-yard seasons, including a career-high 1,593 yards in 2014, Jones nearly missed the mark as a rookie and only played five games in 2013. The former first round pick has 19 triple-digit performances in 49 games.

Bryant was drafted a year earlier but only has 14 100-yard games. This former first round pick does have the edge in putting points on the scoreboard, with touchdowns in the double-digits in the past three seasons. Jones only has one season with 10 scores. In 2014, Bryant crossed the endzone a career-high 16 times. If Jones’ drawback is getting nicked up too often, Bryant’s would be his fiery personality that doesn’t always rub the team the right way. Jones has played nearly every game, he missed a few but there was only one season when he was out for the year.

Bryant was brought on board when Miles Austin was the number one receiver, so it took the first couple of seasons for Bryant to adjust, and eventually get featured as the number one. Jones joined the Falcons where Roddy White was established as the top target, forming arguably the best elite tandem in the league. White has six seasons over 1,000 yards, two coming with his teammate on the other side, so it also took Jones a couple of seasons to grab the torch. There’s no question that these two are elite, but the question is who would I take if both were on the draft board?

It’s apparent that Bryant has taken more of a leadership role, at least from what we see publicly. Are there any questions about either one of these guys and their ability to do something on the field? Both have had to block for 1,000-yard rushers, DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys (last season) and Michael Turner of the Falcons (previously). I’ve seen them take a screen for big yards and even broke away for scores. Their quarterback play is in the upper echelon, so they take advantage of opportunities to take slant and post routes the distance. I just prefer the big-play threat that Jones brings on any given play. They’re both big receivers that can shake tackles, but Jones has the upside with more elusiveness to make defenders miss and the speed to beat you deep too.