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Is Calvin Johnson the second-best WR in NFL history?

Did ya hear Randy Moss is the best wide receiver in NFL history? It's true ... so long as you're willing to take the word of Randy Moss.

If you're grounded in this reality, though, you probably know Jerry Rice is inarguably the best to ever play the position. That said, Moss' silly statement, which he made Tuesday during Super Bowl Media Day at the Superdome, does bring up a more reasonable debate:

Who is the second-best wide receiver of the Super Bowl era?

I'm glad I asked, because someone -- me -- has the answer, plus a string of other names worthy of consideration.

Be forewarned, rather than just looking at the stats (which decisively favor receivers who've played in the more pass-heavy NFL of the 21st century), my primary analytic tools were my left and right eyeballs. Numbers aren't liars ... but neither are my eyes, which tell me Steve Largent was better than Tim Brown no matter what their respective stats would have you believe. Deep down, you know it, too. In other words, I've limited this list to those guys who had one simple but rare trait: They were unstoppable.

16. Lynn Swann

We might as well start with a controversial one. Lots of people will argue his pedestrian numbers should've kept him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but those people either didn't see or have forgotten his acrobatic dominance in the Pittsburgh Steelers' biggest games, which happen to have been played against the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders (aka some of the NFL's best and nastiest defenses ever).

For too long, he was marginalized as the Robin to Marvin Harrison's Batman on the Indianapolis Colts. But as he reminded everyone in 2012, he's every bit as uncoverable -- and definitely more physical -- than his old partner-in-crime.

14. Sterling Sharpe

Remarkable production from a guy whose career didn't end in Canton simply because a neck injury didn't allow him to stick around long enough.

I've never seen a clear-cut No. 1 WR catch so many passes with no one within 15 yards of him than Smith has over his career with the Carolina Panthers, most of which was played catching passes from Jake Delhomme. Just think if he had played with a guy like Peyton Manning.

12. Cris Carter

C'mon, Canton, give him a gold jacket already. Failure to do so will make you look almost as silly as the Baseball Hall of Fame. Almost.

11. Don Maynard

Youngsters should follow my lead and find a few broadcasts of New York Jets' games from the Joe Namath era. Maynard never drops a pass, and -- in spite of the lack of sprinters' speed -- he always seems open.

10. James Lofton

Long, lean and fast, Lofton's qualities would translate well to today's game. In the early part of his career, he made Green Bay Packers QB Lynn Dickey look like a Pro Bowl player; in the latter part of his career, he helped make Jim Kelly a Hall of Famer.

9. Lance Alworth

Full disclosure: I've never seen game film of Bambi, but the highlights speak for themselves. Plus, in his first seven seasons, he averaged roughly 20 yards per catch! (Hey, I didn't say the numbers were completely irrelevant).

8. Marvin Harrison

All right, another stat: 143 catches in one season. That's 20 better than the second-place guy! Steady as a Rolex, tough for a slight guy and nifty in tight spaces.

7. Terrell Owens

Kooky, sure, but here's hoping history remembers his insistence of returning from a late December ankle injury to play (and play well) for the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. We've devoted the last four months praising Adrian Peterson for his comeback; whether or not you like him, T.O. deserves praise, too. His QBs didn't like him, but they had to love how helpless defenses were to stop him in his prime. The only reason he's not higher is a nasty recurring case of the dropsies.

6. Steve Largent

When he retired, he was the NFL's all-time receiving leader. Out of the mainstream on mostly mediocre-to-crummy Seattle Seahawks teams, Largent still was always good for a couple highlights in the early days of "Inside The NFL" with Len Dawson and Nick Buoniconti.

The best red-zone WR ever. But like Barry Sanders before him, Fitzgerald has been hamstrung by the lack of a quality quarterback for the vast majority of his career. He's not done yet, though, and oughta benefit from new Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians' offense.

4. Michael Irvin

Yes, he benefitted from the unusually accurate arm of Troy Aikman and the running of Emmitt Smith to keep the defense honest, but the Playmaker more than returned the favor. His showdowns against Deion Sanders rank among the best one-on-one rivalries ever. (Ooh, a new list!)

"The Freak" nickname was perfect in more ways than one, but -- as it applied to his early career in Minnesota -- he was unlike anything the NFL had seen. Whether it was Randall Cunningham or Daunte Culpepper throwing it, the result of a deep ball to Moss essentially was indefensible. The Oakland Raiders years were lousy, but his resurgence with the New England Patriots brought him back into the conversation of (second-)best ever.

Yes, this depends on how the next half-dozen years go, but if we assume he can stay on the field, Johnson will take a run at most of Rice's records. He's got a big-armed young QB in Matt Stafford throwing him the ball and there are just enough other pieces in the Detroit Lions' offense to keep the other team from putting a nickel's-worth of DBs on him.

Follow Dave Dameshek on Twitter @Dameshek

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