Pro Football Focus finished its list of the top 50 players in the NFL for the 2018 season, and as you would imagine, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown finished very high on the list. The ninth-year veteran has established himself as one of the best players in the entire league, let alone at his own position.
But PFF doesn’t expect him to be the top wide receiver in 2018. While they ranked Brown fourth, they placed the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones—who skipped OTAs—just ahead of him at three, behind only New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the latter being on top.
“Julio Jones and Brown are incredibly different receivers but are virtually inseparable in terms of performance and ability”, Brown’s entry reads. “Brown had an overall PFF grade of 93.7 in 2017 – the best mark in the league – and has had four seasons in the last five years above that elite 90.0 threshold. Only Landry Jones prevented his 2016 season from making it five straight, dragging him down to an overall 89.6 grade that year. Brown gained 2.87 yards per route run last season, trailing only Jones (3.08)”.
The Steelers receiver, limited to 13 and a half games in 2017 due to injury, caught 101 passes for 1533 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He returned for the post season and caught seven more passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He led the league in receiving yards by nearly 100, was fifth in receptions, and tied for fourth in touchdowns.
As for Julio Jones, he finished second to Brown in receiving yards with 1444, doing so on 88 receptions, but he had just three touchdowns on the season.
“Marshon Lattimore wasn’t beaten for more than 38 yards in a game last season outside of when he had to cover Jones”, his blurb reads. “In two games against Atlanta, he surrendered 220 yards. That’s the kind of impact Jones can have as a truly game-changing weapon. He is coming off his third straight overall PFF grade above 90.0, and while you can argue the merits of other receivers being better in 2017, none have been able to match his three-year stretch of production and grading”.
It’s worth noting that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not even make the list, though five quarterbacks did. Aside from Brady at two, Aaron Rodgers placed 11, while Matt Ryan and Drew Brees went 28 and 29. Russell Wilson was 34th, but there were not quarterbacks between 50 and 35. So PFF believes that Jones plays with a better quarterback.