Three of football's best young wide receivers appeared on this week's edition of "Top 100 Players of 2011" -- DeSean Jackson (No. 29), Calvin Johnson (No. 27) and Roddy White (No. 24). Each are elite talents, but which playmaker would you choose to lead your receiving corps into the future?
Dynamic Johnson a 'freak of nature'I'll take Calvin Johnson. What's not to like?
There are few flaws and he's been very productive despite having nowhere near the quality of quarterback throwing the ball to him as the other two -- and if Matthew Stafford can finally stay healthy, that might change. The age differences between them are minimal.
Megatron can beat you deep and beat you short and beat you up high and beat you in very tight spaces and when the field is short. White has a similar skill-set but I am giving the nod to Johnson. I believe he will come to define how we look at his position.
One healthy quarterback away from greatnessThey all offer so much but I have to roll with Calvin Johnson. As good as he's been, he's yet to play at his highest level. He's still growing as a receiver and he's not had a full season with Matthew Stafford.
Once they get a steady diet of each other, Johnson could emerge as the top receiver in the NFL. With the Lions also piecing together parts to have a strong run game, Johnson should be able to hit more deep plays on double moves and play action.
Johnson built for the long runJohnson's size, strength and athleticism should allow his success to have a longer shelf life than that of the other two. His game relies mainly on his ability to out-jump and out-muscle most defenders.
Although speed is important to his game, it isn't quite as vital as it is to Jackson and White, who make their biggest impact on deep routes and with their run-after-catch ability. It's easy to see Johnson showing the same effectiveness late in his career as a receiver with a similar body type and skills, Terrell Owens.
That presumes, of course, that Johnson will continue to keep himself in top condition and that his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, will grow into a top-level passer.
White for now, Johnson for laterToday, give me Roddy White. Long-term, I'll take Calvin Johnson. White turns 30 this fall. Johnson turns 26, and DeSean Jackson turns 25. And while the latter two are similar in productivity and history of having lifted offenses up in situations of quarterback tumult, Johnson is more sturdily built and, as such, you'd have to say he'd be more likely to hold up.
Think about this: Johnson had 77 catches for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns. That despite playing with three different starting quarterbacks, and despite having the league's 23rd-ranked running game riding shotgun, and despite being the focal point of every defense the Lions came up against.
Now, imagine if Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew and Jahvid Best can stay healthy, and if Detroit hits on Mikel Leshoure and Titus Young. Johnson's numbers could well explode and, conversely, the attention he attracts will make each of the aforementioned that much better. Matt Millen didn't get many draft picks right. But he nailed this one, and Johnson figures to be at the center of what could be a football renaissance under Jim Schwartz.
White the most well-rounded of the trioWhen asked to choose between Roddy White, DeSean Jackson and Calvin Johnson, there is no wrong answer.
Jackson is a big play waiting to happen with his career yards-per-catch average of 18.3 and his penchant for big plays (with receptions over 25 yards once every 4.3 catches). He scores a touchdown to reception ratio stands at 1:10, which is solid but not as good as Johnson. The Lions star's touchdown-to-catch ratio is 1:8 and he's almost impossible to stop in the red zone. Johnson's dealt with a worse quarterback situation, too.
Jackson and Johnson are different ends of the spectrum, with Jackson succeeding with speed and quickness while Johnson wins with size and leaping ability. White, on the other hand, is a combination of both players and he's done it for a longer period of time. White has 160 more receptions and 1,887 more yards than Johnson.
Let's see if Jackson can hold up physically for six years like White has done. If he does, he will have great numbers, but for now I'll take White.
You just can't beat MegatronWhat young wide receiver would I like for long-term success? The obvious -- and easy -- answer is all three!
But, since the question asks for just one, I'll have to pick (not that I'm happy about it, and not that there is truly a definitive answer) Roddy White. He has shown in the last couple of seasons that he is a true No. 1 receiver. DeSean Jackson is definitely "Mr. Excitement," and if you are asking for the best combo guy out of the three, he's your choice as he can change a game both as a receiver, and as a returner.
But, in the end, I have to go with Megatron. His package of size, speed, hands, and desire has defenses searching for solutions every week ... if he ever gets consistent quarterback playâ¦.
Doing it without signal-caller stabilityCalvin Johnson. His physical tools allow him to be the most complete player of the group. Right now, it's hard to argue with Roddy White's productivity. But considering that Johnson has run a 4.33 40-yard dash, has great hands, and developed an ability to go over the middle and be a possession guy, it's hard to find too much fault in his game.
What puts him above Jackson and White is his ability to play well with unstable quarterbacks. Matt Stafford has missed 19 out of 32 possible starts. Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton were tossing Megatron footballs last year, and yet he still caught 77 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Jackson had Michael Vick (and Donovan McNabb prior), and White's quarterback is Matt Ryan.
Most with the leastCalvin Johnson would be my pick of the three. He has been outstanding as the Lions' No.1 receiver, with two 1,000-yard seasons over the past three years. In addition to providing consistent production from a yardage standpoint, he gets in the end zone, piling up 29 touchdown catches since 2008. Johnson's numbers are even more impressive when considering the host of double and triple coverage that is often sent in his direction.
While White and Jackson can boast similar arguments regarding their production, it is the overall impact of Johnson on the Lions' passing game that sets him apart. Unlike his counterparts who have been supported by talented complementary players, Johnson hasn't played with another legitimate threat, so he must deliver in a major way for the Lions to thrive. Given his production and dominance with little assistance, Johnson gets the nod over White and Jackson in this scenario.
Johnson will make the leap in 2011Once again, it seems the players might have missed the boat on the receivers (as mentioned in the bonus edition of the "Dave Dameshek Football Program"). Roddy White had a great season with 115 receptions and nearly 1,400 yards -- besting Calvin Johnson in those two categories.
But a couple of things stand out for me about Megatron. He had more touchdowns (12) and did not have Matt Ryan throwing him the football.
And that is why Johnson would by my receiver of these three. Johnson has the prototypical size and strength to make any quarterback seem credible. Johnson has been somewhat inconsistent at times and has had trouble staying healthy, but this is the year that the Lions are going to put it together.
When the 2011 season is over, there is going to be no doubt that Johnson is the top receiver in the NFL, passing some of the other great ones, and certainly distancing himself from this trio.
Bigger things ahead for Megatron?I rank them like this: 1. Calvin Johnson; 2. Roddy White; 3. DeSean Jackson. In order to avoid turning this into a novella, I won't waste space discussing Jackson, who's still undoubtedly one of the game's best playmakers (but mark my words: one of these days his backwards-splash-into-the-end zone routine is going to result in him getting Leon Lett'd).
I have Johnson ahead of White for one simple reason: Megatron is four years younger than Matty Ice's splendid security blanket. White's numbers the last three seasons have been terrific (115 catches in '10!), but he'll turn 30 during the (still hypothetical) 2011 season, and -- who knows -- maybe Ryan will have a wandering eye for the young-and-leggy Julio Jones moving forward.
Johnson, meanwhile, has been very productive the last few seasons himself, catching a dozen touchdowns in '08 and '10. And unlike White, he's done so without the benefit of playing with a top-tier QB. Johnson's big and strong enough to serve as a possession receiver, and he's gifted enough to make huge plays almost every time he touches the field. Just imagine what'll happen if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy and prove himself to be anywhere close to first overall pick the Lions used on him a couple years ago. I know, I know ... that's a big if.