I recently found myself browsing an article that I came across on my Twitter feed from Pro Football Focus, which purported to list the most consistent players in the NFL over the course of the past five seasons. Eight players were listed, and I could not help but notice that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown was not among them.
Surely, if the list were reserved solely for the past three seasons only, then Brown might well head the list, short of perhaps the two players that actually made the top of their list, the Browns’ Joe Thomas and the Texans’ J.J. Watt, whose inclusions I should certainly think nobody could object to.
Third on the list, however, was the lone wide receiver from the group, Arizona’ Larry Fitzgerald. I was given to the impression that his productivity had dropped off some, and I noted that he failed to record even 1000 yards receiving in three of the past five seasons, and had less than five touchdowns in two of them. He only missed two games in that span.
And so I am left to puzzle over why the list purports to suggest that Fitzgerald has been a more consistently productive and consistently available player over the span of the past five years than has Brown, even though the latter had not even entered the starting lineup until four years ago, and yet he made the Pro Bowl, and NFL history, in 2011.
That year, his second in the league, it seemed his talent alone, and his ability to get open, of course, that forced Ben Roethlisberger to continually throw him the ball, though he was alternately the third or fourth wide receiver earlier in the year. He was at the time the team’s return man, and he became the first player in NFL history to record over 1000 yards as a receiver and as a returner in the same year.
Brown’s first season as a starter was not spectacular, and was marked by a three-game stint in which he was sidelined with an ankle injury. He caught just 66 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns, but four of them came in the last four games after he returned from the injury.
It need not even be said what he has done since then. From 2013 to now, his receptions climbed from 110 to 129 to finally 136, the second-most in NFL history. His receiving yardage has thrice set a new club record, going from 1499 to 1698 to 1834, the final being the fourth-highest total ever. He has also recorded 31 touchdowns in that span, and even threw a touchdown pass.
All this he did while still serving as the team’s primary punt returner, averaging comfortably over 10 yards per punt return over the past three seasons with a touchdown in each season. In 2013 in particular, he recorded five returns of 40 yards or more. If this does not bear out as among the most consistent players in the league, then I don’t know what does. As much as PFF loves Brown, his absence from this list seems rather curious. But it gave me an opportunity to talk about his consistency all the same.