In his first four seasons in the league, Antonio Brown has already gone to the Pro Bowl twice. Last season, he was named to the All-Pro team after storming past the Pittsburgh Steelers’ single-season record for receiving yards, and nearly tying the franchise single-season record for receptions in the process.
The only reason, perhaps, that he missed the Pro Bowl in 2012 was because he missed three games with an ankle injury that impacted his effectiveness later on.
He has emerged as one of the top wideouts in the league, and through the first two games of the 2014 season already has 12 receptions for 206 yards and one touchdown.
He has certainly proven, and then some, that his effectiveness was not simply due to Mike Wallace stretching the field for him. He has been the team’s unquestioned number one threat for the past two seasons, and it is obvious why that is.
This year, they have promoted second-year receiver Markus Wheaton to serve as the starting receiver opposite Brown. Wheaton caught six passes for 64 yards during his rookie season, but he’s surpassed those marks handily in just two games.
On the season, he has caught 11 passes (on just 14 targets, with no drops) for 135 yards, and has also contributed as a runner, a blocker, and a returner.
While it’s still quite early, just watching the way that Wheaton plays suggests that he has the potential to be the best pairing that Brown has yet had in his career as the two continue to develop, both separately and together.
The two have complementary skill sets, with strong vision and elusiveness with the ball in their hands, and could develop into a lethal combination with more playing time.
Outside observers have noticed this as well, as Pro Football Focus yesterday published a list of their top-10 ranked wide receivers through the first two weeks of the season. Both Brown and Wheaton made the list.
Coming in at the fifth spot (with an overall grade of +3.3, for those curious), PFF writes about Brown that he is “sure-handed”, citing zero drops on 18 targets, and “elusive”, noting that he has broken four tackles, adding that “he continues to excite whenever he has the ball”.
Wheaton (+1.8) came in eighth on the list, with the Steelers as the only team with multiple representatives in the top 10, with a minimum of 100 snaps. About Wheaton, the site wrote simply that “if this form continues, [he] could link with Brown to form one of the better WR combinations” in the league.
Now, I don’t have to caution most readers here to take PFF’s data with a grain of salt. Many are opposed to their data, or at least their grades. However, I cite this merely as a corroborating example of what we are already seeing on the field, and will hopefully continue to see going forward.