We’ve talked a lot this year about the top receivers in the NFL, with Cris Carter getting the conversation started by sticking his foot in his mouth about Calvin Johnson, only to backtrack later. More recently, Mike Florio and Peter King agreed that Johnson is the best in the league, but sharply disagreed about where to rank Wes Welker.
Now we have an opinion from the greatest receiver of them all.
Jerry Rice said on ESPN Radio this morning that he would be glad to see Welker break his record for receiving yards in a season this year. But he added that he doesn’t think Welker is as good as Johnson.
“I wouldn’t say he’s the best because I’m leaning a little bit more toward Megatron or even Larry Fitzgerald,” Rice said. “But you would have to put him somewhere in the top five.”
Rice suggested that the difference between Welker and Johnson is that Welker is the perfect fit for the role he plays in the Patriots’ offense, while Johnson would be a major playmaker in any offense.
“He’s a slot guy and it’s more difficult to try to double a guy inside,” Rice said of Welker. “He’s not the guy that’s going to be lined up outside because then you can put a guy like Revis on him and make it just a little bit easier to cover him. You put him in the slot receiver and you’ve got Tom Brady who’s going to stand there and deliver the football, that’s just potent.”
Rice went old-school when searching for a historical comparison with Johnson: He likened Megatron to a 1950s 49ers receiver named R.C. Owens, whose famous scoring play was the alley-oop in the end zone. (The term “alley-oop” was applied to Owens’ catches in football before it was used in basketball.)
“I look at him more like R.C. Owens [because] of the plays where he just went up and took it out of the air,” Rice said. “They used to tell R.C. Owens, ‘Just go to the end zone and jump.’ And that’s what you see from Calvin Johnson.”
And the player who scored more touchdowns than anyone else in NFL history likes what he sees from Johnson.