Unpopular Opinions  

 

Unpopular Opinions: Antonio Brown best WR of past 20 years

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Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.

In this space, I'll be articulating a handful of positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below are my unpopular opinions for Week 13.

UNPOPULAR OPINION: Antonio Brown is ... well, let's just go to the tweet.

A lot of people had some, uh, let's say, passionate opinions about this. Let me start off by saying Randy Moss is a great receiver. I've been saying he was the second-best receiver of the modern era long before it became cool. And I think we can safely deem Jerry Rice the best receiver of the modern era -- with extra emphasis on modern era. Because even as a Chicago Bears fan, I must recognize the greatness of Don Hutson (ugh, read a book). In fact, at some point; I would like to have the "Is Don Hutson the best receiver of all time?" discussion. Unfortunately, my hands are a little full at the moment with this -- and my mentions, which continue to spin like the reels on a slot machine.

Again: Moss is an excellent receiver. He had better be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot, just like Terrell Owens should have been. It's a joke that this is even a discussion. They are clearly two of the best receivers of all time. But in my humble opinion, Antonio Brown has passed both of them.

There is no doubt Brown is not as physically imposing as Moss -- but that just makes what Brown is doing all the more impressive. It's funny, I had a very similar discussion about why I thought A.J. Styles was better than Brock Lesnar during the main event of Survivor Series. Brock Lesnar is no doubt a beast. A rare, once-in-a-lifetime a phenomenon. A freak of nature. Like Ryan Fitzpatrick's beard. But Styles is the better all-around wrestler. And while Brock is very good and might be underrated at things (like the ability to sell A.J.'s offense), A.J. is still the best. If you've never heard of either of these men, that's cool. Ask your wrestling buddies; they will tell you this comparison is apt. APT!

I give Brown credit for being undersized, for being drafted in the sixth round and being a success story who has worked hard to be at the top of his profession. This stuff matters. He was considered the 37th-best wide receiver by NFLDraftScout.com, and now we are having a discussion about whether he is the best of his generation? Remarkable.

But let's take a look at the numbers. I was sent a tweet from Sports Stuff Hub LLC with a four-year look at dominance for some of the top receivers of the past 20 years, so hat tip to them for the idea to look at some of the big-name players of the past two decades that way. (We're excluding the Raiders version of Jerry Rice, who was great but, we can all agree, is not really in this conversation.) I did a double-check and looked at a few extra names, with an assist from NFL Research, and here is what we came up with, in terms of the best four-year stretches (by yardage) for each of these players from 1997 to 2016:

-- Randy Moss: 2000-03 (64 games), 376 receptions, 5,649 yards, 49 touchdowns.

-- Terrell Owens: 2000-03 (59 games), 370 receptions, 5,265 yards, 51 touchdowns.

-- Marvin Harrison: 1999-2002 (64 games), 469 receptions, 6,322 yards, 52 touchdowns.

-- Larry Fitzgerald: 2005-08 (60 games), 368 receptions, 5,195 yards, 38 touchdowns.

-- Calvin Johnson: 2010-13 (61 games), 379 receptions, 6,257 yards, 45 touchdowns.

-- Isaac Bruce: I'm just kidding. Come on, Isaac. I love you. But no.

And here is the best four-year stretch for Antonio Brown: 2013-16 (63 games), 481 receptions, 6,315 yards, 43 touchdowns.

Yes, Harrison had more yards than Brown. Moss had more touchdowns. But nobody has the all-around numbers Brown has. Brown currently has 80 receptions for 1,195 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Which puts him on pace to beat his 2013 numbers, which would make 2014-17 his best four-year span, and that would look even better. He's on pace to have his fifth consecutive season with over 100 receptions. He'd be the first player to accomplish that feat since, well, ever. Since EVER. Nobody has ever done that. Not Rice. Not Moss. Not Owens.

Although, to be fair, Moss had a pretty incredible six-year run to start his NFL career with the Vikings, collecting 525 receptions for 8,375 yards and 77 touchdowns from 1998 to 2003 (in 96 games). But here are Brown's numbers from his last six years (including 2017): 627 catches for 8,297 yards and 52 touchdowns (in 87 games). Brown, who still has five more games to go this season, has already eclipsed Moss on receptions in this six-year stretch, by more than 100. I'm confident he's going to pass Moss in yards. I'll be fair and say he's probably not going to touch the 77 touchdowns.

Look, people. I love Randy Moss. (I feel like Randy is the only one I'm really needing to convince you about). It was awesome to watch him "Moss" people. I could sit down and watch Moss on YouTube for hours. But are you not entertained by what Brown is doing out there on the field? Despite his frame, despite being bracketed and triple-teamed, he still goes out there and gives you monster production. He's got the toe-drag swag. He's got every route on the tree. It's pretty amazing to see.

I feel like it's pretty clear. Brown is the best receiver of the last 20 years. And if he keeps this up, we're going to have to stack him up against the best of all time.

Don Hutson, of course.

UNPOPULAR OPINION: The Redskins can still make a run!

All right, I'm calling my shot here. Turning this in ahead of the "Thursday Night Football" matchup between Washington and the Dallas Cowboys. That's how confident I am. I haven't been this confident in something since I walked through the doors to go see "Justice League," and you know how that turned out. (Spoiler alert: It was amazing.)

The Redskins are currently 5-6 at the time of this filing and own the 11th seed in the NFC, two games behind the Falcons in the race for a wild-card spot. But a team that started 5-6 has made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, with the Redskins pulling the feat off in 2015 and 2012. So they kind of know what they're doing. The Redskins also do not have another game this season against a team currently with a winning record, and they're tied for the easiest strength of schedule for the remainder of the season. They have the Cowboys on Thursday, are at the Chargers in Week 14, at home for the Cardinals and Broncos and then cap the season with a trip to visit the Geno Smith-led Giants. Going 10-6 is possible, and 9-7 is probable. Not sure if that's going to do it. But hey, like I said, they've done it before.

If the Cowboys somehow manage to beat Washington on Thursday, I'll check back in here with some sort of eat-my-own-words update. But that won't happen, right? Right?

POPULAR OPINION THAT IS ACTUALLY CORRECT: The Vikings made the right call at QB.

I bet Sean McDermott wishes he coached the Vikings so he could bench Case Keenum during this playoff run. But unfortunately, he can't.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @AdamRank.

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