A few days ago, a series of NFL.com analysts picked their most explosive players in the league on the fourth of July, because, you know, fireworks and stuff. Four of the five picked a wide receiver. One of them—former quarterback David Carr—picked Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Antonio Brown is so quick out of his breaks, and that’s what makes the best receivers in my opinion”, he said. “I would take him over anybody, including Julio Jones. Brown’s ability to separate is bar none, and that’s the definition of explosiveness for me as a former NFL quarterback”.
That is a key take coming from a quarterback, even one who failed to amount to all that much on the NFL level. Odell Beckham, Jr.—picked by Marc Sessler as the most explosive player in the league—may have the statistical edge in terms of producing yards after the catch, but one has to consider a few things.
For one thing, Brown was targeted pretty heavily—without looking at the numbers, more heavily than normal I believe—on deep targets, and I’m willing to bet that wasn’t the case for Beckham. Deeper targets produce less likely opportunities to gain yards after the catch, since defenders have a longer opportunity to rally around the catch point.
The other, more important thing when it comes to this discussion is that there is simply no more important aspect of being a wide receiver—aside from literally catching the ball—than being able to get open. And Brown is really at least as good, if not better, than anybody else in the league in doing that, which is what Carr was talking about.
If that is how you want to define explosiveness—one might use short-area quickness as a synonym here—then I am fully on board with the notion that Brown is the most explosive player in the NFL right now.
Another factor to consider is that he has the longevity to back it up. That is obviously something that Tyreek Hill can’t say. Let’s see how defenses handle him in 2017 before we start to talk. The Steelers played him twice and did an awfully good job against him.
What is most impressive about Brown is that he does everything that any other wide receiver does. He catches the screen passes as well as the go routes, in contrast to a slot receiver or a speedster like DeSean Jackson—another one of the choices on this list.
But would you consider Antonio Brown “the most explosive player in the NFL today”, as the question asks? I suppose it will inevitably come down at least in part to how you define explosiveness. Homer glasses off, is he your pick? If not, who?