Who is the best wide receiver in the NFL?

A comparison between Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson to see which player is the best receiver in the NFL. Photo: Dez Bryant or Megatron, which one is the best?/AP

LOS ANGELES, October 30, 2013 — The phrase “best in the game” is a term fans have become obsessed with in the universal world of sports. It is something fans must know unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt. Even though arguments for and against players are subjective and most certainly biased, they are also highly controversial and entertaining. 

The recent hype between receivers Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant has been an intriguing one to say the least. Just who is the best in the game right now? It is a question that can be argued long after these two players have left the game. It seems like every four to five years this topic is re-ignited with a new generation of players and fans. 

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From Jerry Rice versus Michael Irvin and Randy Moss versus Terrell Owens to Larry Fitzgerald versus Andre Johnson and now, Megatron versus Dez represents the debate for this generation. Both receivers are playing at an extremely high level, and are in the prime of their careers. The frequent comparisons by the media and fans this year is simply unavoidable.

Megatron may have gotten the best of Bryant, so far, with a record setting performance in last Sunday’s match up versus Dallas, but the debate will still rage on. In this first round of analytical breakdown, both players will be looked at under the microscope, while focusing four key categories; height, speed, route running, and leaping ability.


Obviously Megatron should win this one by a landslide as Dez only stands at about 6‘2”. While the difference in size may seem marginal, at 6‘5 Calvin is the closest thing to an NBA shooting guard playing in a football uniform. You do not see too many receivers coming into the league with his height, and until he was drafted, no elite level receiver stood over 6‘4”.

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The average height for defensive backs now is 5‘10”, so Johnson’s height gives him a huge physical advantage over the opposition. It is simply something you cannot train for or teach. You either have it or you do not. Now, that is not to say Dez’s height is substandard by any means, but it is more along the league average for NFL receivers these days. Advantage Megatron


In just looking at the 40 times comparatively, one would have to give Calvin the nod here, but how many times in a game does a WR run 40 yards in a straight line? For the majority of receivers in the NFL, their game is played between the hash marks within 5-15 yards, so in terms of actual football speed, agility and quickness should be factored in there as well.

Aside from the occasional bomb or deep post route, making defenders miss in tight spaces and getting yards after the catch, YAC, is crucial to being a more consistent play maker. When you compare the two from that standpoint, Megatron may possess great top end speed, but he does not have the explosive lateral quickness like that of Dez. This makes Bryant a much tougher cover in the short to intermediate passing game, which in theory gives him more opportunities to make plays for his team. Looking at their YAC averages, Dez had been the better of the two through the first seven weeks, but after last week’s game, Bryant’s YAC, 6.3, is slightly less than Johnson’s 6.5 YAC.  Advantage Bryant

Route Running:

Dez wins this category, as well, as this has never been one of Johnson’s strengths. A great route runner is someone who is able to explode off the line, stop and start on a dime and break in and out of their routes crisply and cleanly. This is usually what creates the separation necessary for receivers to get open in tight press or man coverage. Now, Calvin has been somewhat of an exception to this rule due to his sheer size and overall abilities, but for the most part his route running has limited him.

Touching back on the YAC averages for second, in Johnson’s record shattering receiving year, surprisingly his YAC average was a mere 4.4 average . Before last week’s game it was even lower with a 3.7-yard average as compared to Dez’s average of 5.5 yards. What that may actually indicate is the majority of Johnson’s production came from more linear deep pass plays as opposed to complex short and intermediate routes.  Advantage Dez

Leaping Ability:

With a better vertical leap than most basketball players, Megatron definitely wins this match up. As an NFL QB having someone with a 43-inch vertical is huge in the red zone and jump ball situations. This is where Calvin simply cannot be guarded. The touchdown catch he made in week 7 against the Bengals in triple coverage is just one of the many examples of this. How does a 5‘10” -6‘1” defensive back defend against something like that? He does not because he cannot. No one will out jump Megatron. It is as plain and simple as that.  Advantage Megatron

After the first four categories, this round ends in a 2-2 tie. Next week Megatron and Dez will be broken down with more categories to find out just who is the best receiver in the NFL. Stay tuned.

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Luka Barnes

Luka Barnes is a Los Angeles native and fellow sports enthusiast who writes for the Washington Times Communities as an NFL and NBA contributor. He is also an avid follower of Collegiate and High School athletics.

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