Sure, Atlanta’s Julio Jones topped him by 37 yards in 2015—both came within spitting distance of Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record. And yeah, New York’s Odell Beckham Jr. has incredible hands and turns in a circus catch from time to time. But no wideout offers anything close to the dynamic combination of skills Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown brings to the field.
Brown is the best receiver in the NFL. Period.
The Steelers’ top weapon is a pristine route runner, and his outstanding quickness allows him to consistently find holes in coverage. He can line up at any of the three receiver positions and remain productive—delivering with big plays or an ability to move the chains, depending on what the situation demands. And if you turn to the stats, Brown was the most valuable non-quarterback offensive contributor in the NFL last year.
No receiver accounted for a bigger portion of his team’s targets in 2015, and Brown managed to earn that distinction without sacrificing his trademark efficiency. Along with Larry Fitzgerald, the Steelers star was one of two players in the league’s top 15 in total yardage to catch 70 percent of his targets. He tied for the league lead in receptions (136), pulled down 10 receiving touchdowns and dropped just two passes all season. And he could be even more productive in 2016 given the year-long suspension of Pittsburgh’s No. 2 receiver, Martavis Bryant for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, and the fact that Brown was without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for four games in 2015.
Brown isn’t a one-season wonder, either. He has the most catches through six seasons of any player in NFL history. His 526 receptions are one more than Randy Moss pulled in from 1998 to 2003, and three more than Fitzgerald managed in his first six years—and both those men are first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Brown’s catch rate, total yards and touchdown numbers stack up with some of the league’s greats. When he’s finished—particularly since he plays in such a receiver-friendly era—he could end up as the NFL’s most productive player at his position since Jerry Rice, generally regarded as the top wideout in NFL history. And the scary part is that he’s still getting better.
Brown is the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy leagues this season across all formats for good reason: He’s the cream of the crop at a loaded position.
Forget Julio Jones, as amazing as he is. There’s no debate when it comes to the two.