Larry Fitzgerald is still the best wide receiver in the NFL because of his athletic ability, speed, playoff resume, and route running abilities. There are about 10 “great” wide receivers in the NFL but only three “elite” receivers.
The three elite receivers in the NFL are Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, and Andre Johnson.
First let’s dissect and compare, Calvin Johnson aka, “Megatron” to Fitzgerald. Megatron is a great nickname because of Johnson’s large stature. He’s two inches and 15 pounds bigger than Fitzgerald. Recently he has been putting up more impressive numbers than Fitzgerald, but that doesn’t mean he’s better.
Fitzgerald’s numbers have been dropping lately. He only had 798 receiving yards(1) last season compared to Megatron’s 1,964(2). But The Detroit Lions passed the football last season more than any other team in NFL history, largely in part due to Matthew Stafford. Stafford isn’t an elite quarterback but he’s still good and that’s who Megatron has throwing him the ball, about twenty times a game. Fitzgerald on the other hand has gone through dismal quarterbacks since Kurt Warner. Quarterbacks such as Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer, Derek Anderson, Matt Leinart, and Max Hall. If the quarterbacks were switched, Fitzgerald would thrive (as he did with Warner) and Megatron would be wondering where are his usual 20 pass attempts per game that come his way went.
Megatron had 122 receptions last season, 51 more than Fitzgerald. And yet touchdowns were about even five to four.
So let’s think about that for a second. Even though Calvin Johnson had 51 more catches and opportunities to put the ball into the endzone he only scored one more touchdown? Sorry that’s just inexcusable, especially in the most “pass happy” offense in the entire NFL. Fitzgerald only had four touchdowns, but he went through four different quarterbacks last season that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. And, yes, I know Megatron had a lot more yards, but yards don’t win games, points do. Hence why the Lions went 4-12.
Then there’s Andre Johnson. He’s every bit as physical as Megatron and more. He doesn’t have the hands as “sticky fingers” Fitzgerald but he doesn’t have a dropping problem or any route running issues. He also makes significantly less money than both Fitzgerald and Megatron.
However, Andre Johnson is the oldest of the three and he has lost a little bit of his burst with the deep ball. Unlike Fitzgerald and Megatron, Andre hasn’t found the endzone at the same rate. Andre Johnson has never once recorded double digit touchdowns in a season (3). Andre Jonson also benefits from a balanced attack with Arian Foster running the ball.
The biggest factor that separates Fitzgerald from everyone else is his playoff resume. In 2008 Fitzgerald had the greatest postseason by a receiver ever. In four playoff games, Fitzgerald scored seven touchdowns(NFL playoff record) including two in the Super Bowl (4). He scored what would have been the Super Bowl winning touchdown against the Steelers with a 64 yard score with less than three minutes to play. Megatron or Andre Johnson ever do that?
In the end, there are three elite wide receivers in the NFL. In order 1. Larry Fitzgerald 2. Calvin Johnson 3. Andre Jonson. There are great wide receivers such as Brandon Marshall, who has never played a single playoff game, Dez Bryant, who still has to work on his route running in Dallas, A.J. Green who is still young, Welker who isn’t a threat past 10 yards, and Victor Cruz who’s only played two seasons. But they’re great, not elite.