Cosell Talks: The Top 5 Wide Receivers If one thing has become clear in this age of social media, it’s this: everybody likes lists and rankings. For those who have followed me on Twitter or read my columns on TCIPF, you know that my personal inclination is to take lists for what they really are: a functional means by which to collate detailed and comprehensive material, and present it in an overly simplistic manner. You can’t argue that they are fun, and there’s no question they generate vigorous and energetic debate. In that spirit, I have relented. I will rank my top five wide receivers entering the 2012 season. Again, and I know it’s become my mantra, please read my reasoning, and the substance behind my choices. As always, this is more a discussion of the players than a strict list. Here my top five: 5. A.J. Green 4. Steve Smith 3. Larry Fitzgerald 2. Calvin Johnson 1. Andre Johnson excerpted, read complete article here: http://nflfilms.nfl.com/2012/07/12/cosell-talks-the-top-5-wide-receivers/ ...I’m splitting hairs here, but here’s why I give a healthy Andre Johnson the slight edge over Calvin Johnson. Andre Johnson is more purely athletic and explosive. When you watch him on film, you see the quickness, lateral agility and short-area burst of a much smaller man. You forget that he’s 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. He’s built like a linebacker. Talk to many receivers and defensive backs in the league, and they will tell you that his combination of size, speed and sheer athleticism is off the charts. They have never seen another receiver like him. What you immediately notice on film is how explosive he is off the line of scrimmage, whether it’s against press or off coverage. He puts instant pressure on the defense. His ability to stop and start, change direction and get in and out of breaks with instant acceleration is extraordinary. His play speed is the best of any receiver in the NFL. He can blow the top off of any coverage. I have felt that Andre Johnson has been the best receiver in the NFL for a number of years. Playing in Houston, for a team that only made the playoffs for the first time last season, has not enhanced his national recognition. Calvin Johnson is a bigger man than Andre Johnson, and looks it on film. At 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, he has unique size, which helps in a number of ways. First, it creates an unusually wide catching radius. As a corollary, you could make the argument that Calvin Johnson has better and more consistent hands than Andre Johnson. He snatches the ball with very strong and powerful hands. The second way in which Calvin Johnson’s size is a major factor is stride length. That’s what allows him to be such an imposing vertical threat. If he has free access off the line of scrimmage, he eats up ground incredibly quickly. Sometimes he looks like he has taken two steps, and he’s covered 15 yards. I remember that 73-yard touchdown he caught against the Bears on “Monday Night Football” last season. It came against Cover 2 defense, a coverage specifically designed to prevent deep passes over the top. Calvin Johnson exploded past safety Chris Harris on his corner/post route. There’s a vertically explosive element to his game that is not the result of a timed 40 speed, but rather size and stride. Like Andre Johnson, who has been doing it for years, Calvin Johnson has now become an effective slot receiver. I saw that more last year than in previous years. What Calvin Johnson also has is great body control and flexibility. He can make difficult and contested catches, which also augments his deep ability. He can both outmaneuver and outreach defensive backs. As I said, the difference between Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson is microscopic. In the what-have-you-done-lately world in which we live, it’s easier to visually access Calvin Johnson’s greatness. It’s more recent and immediate. ...I think Cosell is pretty much spot on with his rankings, although I might put CJ over AJ.