The debate as to who is the best wide receiver in the NFL is not an easy one to resolve. There are so many elite wideouts these days, it’s difficult to pick one that’s superior to all others. However, there are two men that have joined new teams and are looking to dominate the NFL.
Nobody can debate that Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown are two of the most elite players. OBJ may have the best hands in the NFL and Antonio Brown is probably the league’s best route runner and hardest worker. OBJ finds himself as a member of the Cleveland Browns after getting traded away from the New York Giants. Baker Mayfield is a huge upgrade at quarterback over the aged Eli Manning. Just by that fact alone, Beckham could be poised for his biggest year yet.
Antonio Brown’s situation is a bit different. He left one of the best QBs in the NFL in Ben Roethlisberger and will now be catching passes from Raiders starting QB Derek Carr. A couple of years ago, this could’ve been considered a pretty even switch, but Carr is coming off a down year and it’s hard to know what exactly the team is going to get from him. Carr certainly has the talent and adding Brown will do nothing but help. However, the Steelers offense was loaded with talent so it was easier for Brown to get open.
The thing that connects both OBJ and Brown is that they’ve both expressed the desire to break Jerry Rice’s receiving records. Rice’s receiving records are almost otherworldly. Longtime Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald is second all-time in receiving yards and he’s over 6,000 yards behind him. Rice accumulated 22,895 over his career, which is just an absurd amount. He also had an incredibly long career that wasn’t hampered by many injuries. If either OBJ or Antonio Brown are going to get close to Rice, they’re going to have to play a lot for a really long time. Below we’re going to go through each receivers chances to catch the legendary Rice.
Jerry Rice’s Career Stats: 1,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards, 197 receiving touchdowns
The Case for Antonio Brown to Pass Jerry Rice
Career Stats: 837 receptions, 11,207 receiving yards, 74 receiving touchdowns
Antonio Brown has been the model of consistency since breaking out in his sophomore season back in 2011. He’s only had two seasons where he didn’t break 1,100 yards in his nine-year career and he’s averaged 1,524 receiving yards a season over the last six seasons. If can keep that same pace, he could pass Rice up in a little less than eight seasons.
While Brown is an incredible worker and takes care of his body like no other, father time catches up to everybody and it’s really hard to imagine anybody could be putting up those types of numbers when they’re 38 years old. Rice put up decent numbers well into his 30s, but they weren’t nearly as good as they were when he was in his 20s.
What works in Brown’s favor is that he doesn’t have a significant injury history. He’s only missed four games in the last six seasons. Injuries are typically the undoing of a skill players career, so if he can continue to stay healthy, it’s possible he could play into his 40s. That’s probably the only way he has any chance of catching Rice in yardage. Brown’s 11,688 yards away from catching Rice.
If Brown could hit 1,168 yards over the course of 10 more seasons, he’ll tie Rice. Now, if we’re talking about career receptions, Brown has a slightly better chance. He’s averaged 114 receptions per season over the last six years. If he can average that number over less than seven seasons, the record is his. If he plays nine more seasons, he’ll only need 79 receptions a season to tie Rice. Brown has had two of the five best seasons reception-wise in NFL history. This is a record that may be attainable for Brown.
Receiving touchdowns is another thing entirely. Brown is 123 touchdowns from tying Rice. He’d need more than 12 touchdowns a season for the next 10 season if he’s going to catch up to Rice. While it’s safe to assume that Brown wants all the records, his best chance is to own the receptions record.
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Odell Beckham Jr.’s Case to Pass Jerry Rice
Career Stats: 390 receptions, 5,476 receiving yards, 44 career receiving touchdowns.
After a blazing hot start to his career, Odell Beckham Jr. has somewhat slowed down over the last two years due to injuries and drama with his former team. That being said, OBJ is just 26 years old and has a lot of time left before he’s done making his mark in the NFL. In just five seasons, OBJ has already accumulated 5,476 receiving yards.
Over Jerry Rice’s first five seasons, he had 6,364 receiving yards. That’s a bit of a gap, but OBJ will now have one of the most exciting young QBs in the league throwing to him. To get to Rice’s daunting career yards number, OBJ will need to average 1,452 over 12 seasons. That’s a big average for a player that has had trouble staying healthy in the past. It will be hard to say if that’s the kind of production he’s going to be able to put up until he gets a season in Cleveland under his belt.
If he averages 116 receptions a year for the next 10 years, he’ll be able to pass Rice. However, OBJ isn’t a big receptions guys, even in his best years. He’s only cracked 100 receptions once, so he probably won’t sniff that record. Also, similar to Brown’s situation, it’s almost impossible to imagine either of these guys can top Rice’s touchdown record. Beckham would need over 15 touchdowns a year over the next 10 seasons to catch Rice. His best chance is trying to catch Rice’s yard record, but even that seems very improbable.
Who Has Better Chance of Catching Jerry Rice?
Odell Beckham Jr. is younger than Antonio Brown and had a much more productive start to his career. That being said, Brown doesn’t have the same injury history as OBJ and works like a fiend to stay healthy. If there’s any player that could play into their 40s, it’s Brown. The biggest thing working against OBJ is that he has another pro bowl receiver across from him in Jarvis Landry.
While this bodes extremely well for the Browns, it probably won’t help their individual statistics. Brown has Tyrell Williams across from him, who is a talented WR, but everybody knows who’s getting the bulk of the looks. Many will point out that the Browns have a better QB situation than the Raiders, but people need to slow down and see if Mayfield can put up consistent numbers for more than one season before we start putting him in the upper echelon of NFL QBs.
Both OBJ’s and Brown’s paths to catching Rice are similar. They both need to put up ridiculous numbers for a long time if they’re going to catch him. The only one of Rice’s records that seems attainable is for Brown and that’s the reception record. It seems hard to imagine that either player could catch Rice’s yardage or touchdowns. That being said, due to how dedicated Brown is to keeping healthy and staying fit, he has the best chance out of these two to catch any or all of Rice’s records.