Buy Or Sell: Diontae Johnson Is A Top-20 WR (Regardless Of Contract)

With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?

These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

Topic Statement: Diontae Johnson is a top-20 wide receiver (whether he takes over games or deserves $20 million a year or otherwise).

Explanation: Diontae Johnson was a Pro Bowler last season. Even as an alternate, that strongly suggests that he was within the 20 best wide receivers over the full course of the year in 2021. Regardless of discussions about what a ‘true number one’ receiver is, how many there are in the league right now, and what any of them—or what those right below them—should be paid, and by whom, Diontae Johnson has a case to make for being in that group.


First off, his statistics alone put him in that discussion. He ranked fifth in the NFL in receptions last season and was 10th in yardage (even disregarding positional distinctions). His eight receiving touchdowns placed him just outside the top 15, though technically four ahead of him are tight ends, so he would rank 12th in receiving touchdowns by wide receivers last year.

With those numbers, how could he not be in the top 20? Can you really name twenty wide receivers who are better than Diontae Johnson? Of course he has some warts, but you’re not going to find just about anybody who is purely clean, without blemish.


Cooper Kupp. Justin Jefferson. Davante Adams. Ja’Marr Chase. Deebo Samuel. Tyreek Hill. Stefon Diggs. Tyler Lockett. Mike Williams. D.J. Moore. Keenan Allen. Chris Godwin. CeeDee Lamb. Terry McLaurin. Hunter Renfrow. Tee Higgins. Mike Evans. D.K. Metcalf. Adam Thielen. DEANDRE HOPKINS. Amari Cooper. Mecole Hardman. Courtland Sutton. Antonio Brown. A.J. Brown. Jaylen Waddle. Brandon Aiyuk. Odell Beckham Jr. Christian Kirk. Marquise Brown. Allen Robinson. Will Fuller. Corey Davis.

I could go on. I’m not saying everybody on the list above is definitely better than Dointae Johnson, but you can sure put up a strong case that at least 20 of them are. That’s no slight on Johnson—this is the golden age of the wide receiver. We’re reaching a tipping point where some teams in the league are beginning to view the position as fungible because there are just that many good ones out there and they’re more and more coming in ready to contribute.

Like George Pickens will this year before becoming a full-time starter in 2023 while Johnson is playing somewhere else.

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