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Instant Debate

Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant or Antonio Brown: Best receiver in the NFL?

We're getting down to the nitty-gritty in NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2015," with the countdown revealing Nos. 20 to 11 on Wednesday night. Here's a spoiler alert: When it comes to the top 20 players on the entire list, wide receiver is the most well-represented position of all.

Yes, it's a golden age for wideouts in today's pass-happy NFL. This leads us to a simple question: Who is the best receiver in the NFL heading into the 2015 campaign?

Throw up the "X" because Dez Bryant is the best receiver in the game. He is the most explosive playmaker on the perimeter, possessing all of the tools scouts covet in a premier WR1. Bryant is a big-bodied pass catcher with strong hands and remarkable ball skills. He routinely comes down with 50-50 balls in traffic and has a knack for making spectacular grabs in the red zone with defenders holding on for dear life. Bryant is an exceptional runner with the ball in his hands; he blows through arm tackles on quick throws, but also shows the wiggle and burst to make defenders miss in space.

From a statistical standpoint, Bryant's dominance is reflected by the 56 touchdown receptions in his five-year career, including 41 over the past three seasons. Considering the fact that he has also posted three straight 1,000-yard campaigns during that span, Bryant has been the anchor of a Cowboys offense that routinely makes fireworks.

Given Dez's impact and production leading up to 2015, I can't imagine a better WR to build around going forward. Call it football blasphemy, but I would take Antonio Brown over any other receiver today. He is the best wideout in the league after the catch, productive, consistent, and I thought he was the fourth-most valuable player in all of football last year -- behind just Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt and Tony Romo.

The other thing that's worth mentioning about Brown -- besides his 129 catches and 1,698 receiving yards (both league highs in 2014) -- is the fact he can still take a punt to the house for ya. There is no overrating the kind of value he brings to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Calvin Johnson is still the best receiver in the NFL, at least in my opinion. He had a "down year" in 2014 ... and still racked up 71 catches for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns (in just 13 games, to boot).

Johnson is still at an age (29) where he can be a top receiver. When healthy, he still will force double-coverage because of his size and wingspan (which help on the deep ball and in the red zone), as well as his exceptional hands. This is a tough one. ... But combining talent, body, hands, play-making ability and scoring savvy, I am going with Dez Bryant, just ahead of Jordy Nelson, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. Since entering the NFL in 2010, Bryant's racked up 56 touchdown catches -- the most in the NFL during that span -- including a league-leading 16 in 2014.

I still think Calvin Johnson can bounce back and crack that list in 2015, but at the moment, I see the aforementioned four guys as the leading contenders for top-dog status. Calvin Johnson ceded part of the spotlight in Detroit last season to Golden Tate, who proved capable of carrying the load while Megatron dealt with injury. But if Johnson is fully healthy this season, no one can match his combination of ability, speed and size. He has everything you need to be a successful receiver in the NFL.

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