The New York Giants' Odell Beckham, Jr. or the Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown? If you could only choose one of these phenomenal wide receivers to headline your pass-catching corps, who would it be?
J.R. Gamble's Pick: OBJ
When Odell Beckham Jr. hit the scene in 2014, Antonio Brown was firmly entrenching himself as the premier wide receiver in the game. Brown and Ben Roethlisberger have been an all-time prolific combination, connecting on the majority of Brown’s 4,816 receiving yards, 371 catches and 35 TDs since OBJ arrived and started a one-hand-grab revolution that’s spread across the NFL and down through the Pop Warner ranks.
With a rookie season to rival any wide receiver in NFL history, and the advantage of playing on a major media stage such as New York, OBJ quickly became a contender for the league's best receiver.
Brown fans will say that he’s been doing it better and longer and without the extra on-and-off the field nonsense that OBJ captures the miniature minds of social media with. Those who liken Beckham Jr. to Jerry Rice with DeSean Jackson speed and Terrell Owens swag believe that the emotion, charisma and diva-like attitude OBJ displays is part of the package that makes him the NFL’s most electrifying and polarizing player.
He’s certainly more popular than Brown.
The cult-status that OBJ has gained in just three seasons is powerful, and to see which player the fans think is dopest we don’t have to look any further than jersey sales.
According to sales from April 1, 2016 to October 31, 2016 on NFLShop.com, the league's official online site, OBJ is No. 4 on the list of highest-selling NFL jerseys in 2016. Brown was nowhere to be found. In fact, OBJ was the only receiver in the Top 5, joining Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, Zeke Elliot and Dak Prescott on that list.
Of all the dynamic receivers in the league, Beckham is the one who has broken through the ranks and stands on equal popularity footing with guys who hold the most marketable and celebrated skill positions in football.
It’s hard for a wide receiver to become the face of a franchise, but Beckham Jr. has done it. The Giants used to be Eli’s team, but now they're Beckham’s. The Steelers remain undoubtedly Big Ben’s team.
Statistically speaking, these two guys are almost mirror images of each other. Brown has had more time to develop better chemistry with Roethlisberger, while Eli and OBJ are still developing a consistent rapport that will result in an even higher volume of catches per season.
I expect Beckham’s catch total to move beyond the already impressive 90-plus catch range and get up in the 120’s where Brown lives. With the exception of Brown being a bit more sure-handed on the short routes, Beckham Jr.'s future is the brightest as the NFL’s elite pigskin-snatcher.
Brown has had the advantage of playing with some decent receivers in the past, such as Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders, which made it difficult for opposing defenses to double team him. Beckham doesn't have any established wide receiver threats to take the pressure off of him.
While Brown is considered a good guy by the teams around the league, OBJ is hated in many circles for his demonstrative ways, flamboyant demeanor and aggressive posture on the field. Defensive backs and linebackers play against him with a bit more anger and incentive to knock his head off. He does his thing regardless.
The main skill separating these two receivers in my opinion is explosiveness.
Beckham owns a per catch career receiving average (14.4) that is a over a yard higher than Brown’s (13.3). Brown has two more TDs (12) through 15 games, but only three of them are for 40 or more yards. OBJ has six TD catches of 40 or more yards. He’s just instant offense and automatic excitement.
OBJ's catches are worth more to the NFL marketing machine than Brown’s. The difference between the two is like using 5-day standard shipping vs. overnight air mail. Beckham’s already had TD grabs of 87, 80 and 75 yards in 42 career games and Brown’s career-long grab is 79 and he's played 101 games.
This matchup would probably go to Brown at the beginning of the 2016 season, but this year was the OBJ takeover. With the Giants winning and OBJ exceeding Brown’s slightly diminished performance, it’s clear that OBJ is now the No. 1 receiver in the game. If you don’t believe me, just follow the lights, the cameras and the jersey sales.
Ricardo Hazell's Pick: Antonio Brown
To say that Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the National Football League might be blasphemy to some, especially when considering the number of high quality NFL receivers that are putting work in this season. However, AB blows the competition away. But before I even go into the stats, lets look at some other earmarks of an exceptional NFL wide receiver; speed, route running, fearlessness over the middle and, of course, hands.
Back in September, former NFL All-Pro Chad Johnson tweeted that he felt Brown was one of the best route running receivers in the NFL, along with Odell Beckham, Stephon Diggs and Amari Cooper. Interestingly enough, Johnson’s opinion on Brown was corroborated before the fact by Brown winning the gold for best wide receiver in the NFL Summer Games back in July.
Additionally, while Odell Beckham’s hands have been the stuff of highlight reels from the moment he came into the league, Brown is currently sporting a 68.8 catch percentage compared to Beckham’s catch percentage of 59.3 percent. Admittedly, numbers can be misleading on their own. Taking field conditions, quarterback play and defensive strategy into consideration, Brown’s catch percentage is nearly 10 percent higher than that of Beckham.
Even though Beckham has more yards from scrimmage on the season than Brown, 1,293 to 1,332, Brown has more touchdowns at 12 to 10. Brown also leads the league in receptions with 106, 10 more than Beckham. In addition, Brown hasn't fumbled this season while Beckham has 2. And while they both have returned punts both this season and in their careers, AB has a higher yards per return average (both this season and in his career) and has 4 career punt returns for touchdowns while Beckham has 0.
Being that football is the ultimate team sport, these numbers are greatly affected by each player’s team. The New York Giants offense has fewer playmakers than Pittsburgh and a subpar running game so the Steelers don’t have to lean on the passing game as much as the Giants. However, AB delivers when called upon, like he did last week when he reached across the goal line with three Ravens pulling him down for the winning touchdown against their hated rivals.
Beckham gets the slight nod on showmanship and straight ahead speed. Also, his yards after the catch are exceptional for a guy his size but only a percentage point higher than Brown's. But Brown is the better receiver in every other way.
Though there are other factors that cannot be quantified in words, the nod goes to Antonio Brown in my opinion.