Another day, another list. You know what time of the year it is. This time, NFL Network contributor Chris Wesseling has a list out that seeks to give positions other than the quarterback their due by listing the best non-quarterback players in the league, as that position is naturally heavily favored due to its central importance in the team-building process.
After taking away the quarterback position, Wesseling’s top 10 list is comprised of only four defensive players, which is not too surprising considering that fact. Only tight end Rob Gronkowski cracks the top five as the offensive player widely regarded as the most important non-quarterback offensive player in the league.
But Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is the next offensive player on the list, sixth overall, and the first of three wide receivers to make the list ahead of Julio Jones and Odell Beckham, Jr., who are listed right behind him as seventh and eighth on the list.
To tout Brown’s value, he cites Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who had the misfortune of drawing the All-Pro wide receiver not once but twice last season—or at least he would have had Brown not missed the second meeting between the two teams following a concussion that he suffered as a byproduct of an illegal hit as a defenseless receiver the week prior.
That one experience trying to cover Brown, however, proved to be enough for Harris to realize that he wanted no more. A Pro Bowler and All-Pro the past two seasons himself, he had quite a day going against the Steelers’ seventh-year wideout.
Wesseling writes that Brown caught 13 of 15 targets in Harris’ coverage that game for 147 yards and two touchdowns. In total, he caught 16 passes for 189 yards and the two touchdowns as he punished what was touted to be the best defense, and the best secondary, in the game, and he did most of his damage against their top cornerback.
“It was the best versus the best, and he won”, Harris said after that game. “I haven’t given up a touchdown in two years”, he added, following the two scores he allowed to Brown, in a testament to the impact that the wide receiver has on the Steelers’ offense.
The ability to have such success against a team’s top cornerback with pretty fair regularity—with the admitted exception of the Seahawks game last season—is indeed what makes Brown not just one of the best offensive players in the game, but also one of the most important, and the most valuable.
There are many very game wide receivers in the game right now, but many of them can be game-planned and neutralized, often by sticking a shutdown corner on him. That is not the case with Brown, and that is why he very much deserves to be on this value list of Wesseling’s, and why he deserves every single accolade that he is getting, and will continue to get, throughout this offseason.