Eight-time Pro Bowl receiver Cris Carter was asked on ESPN Radio this morning to list the elite wide receivers in the NFL. Lions receiver Calvin Johnson did not make his list.
Instead, Carter said, the top receivers in football are Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson and Roddy White.
“Calvin Johnson, he’s very, very good at Madden and Tecmo Bowl or whatever they’re playing now,” Carter said. “But on film, when I watch film, and I break down the film, he’s not to the point of these guys yet.”
ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg pointed out that Johnson has played with lousy quarterbacks, but Carter wasn’t buying it.
“I made eight Pro Bowls,” Carter said. “I made it with five different quarterbacks. They weren’t always great. So I don’t want to hear the excuse that I’m not playing with a great quarterback.”
Frankly, for Carter to compare the quarterbacks he played with to the quarterbacks Johnson has been saddled with is absurd. In Carter’s best years he was catching passes from Jim McMahon, Sean Salisbury, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George and a prime Daunte Culpepper. Johnson has caught passes from Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, Drew Stanton and a past-his-prime Culpepper. Carter’s quarterbacks were far better than Johnson’s.
Carter also downgraded Johnson, he said, because “right now you don’t have to double team him to take him out of the game.” But Tom Kowalski writes at MLive.com that opposing defenses don’t seem to think that’s true: Even with Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis, the Packers and Jets doubled Johnson last season.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that Carter is simply wrong with his assessment of who the elite receivers in the NFL are, since judging the greatness of a wide receiver is a subjective exercise — as Carter himself has found out when getting passed over for the Hall of Fame. But I will say that Carter’s analysis was weak. Johnson has been held back by the quarterbacks he’s played with, and he hasn’t been shut down by single coverage. And he’s great in more than just video games.