I don't think there can be any argument that over the past three seasons, the best receiver in the NFL has been Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. For 2016, he is given a receiving yardage total of 1,710.5, with the 'under' a slight favorite on NFL odds.
Best Draft Pick Of Decade?
Most likely the best sixth-round pick in NFL history was in 2000 when the New England Patriots took Michigan quarterback Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick. How'd that workout? Brady might go down as the best quarterback in NFL history -- by the way, his appeal of his four-game Deflategate suspension was denied by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Wednesday, meaning Brady's now going to serve that. As an aside, Pittsburgh does play New England, still, the Super Bowl favorite on NFL odds this year but not until Week 7.
I mention Brady because almost unquestionably the best sixth-round pick this decade -- if not the best value overall -- has to be a guy who was a little-known receiver out of Mid-American Conference school Central Michigan named Antonio Brown at No. 195 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010
Brown wasn't a top prospect because he played at a small school and didn't have a ton of size. He's listed at 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, but those are generous numbers. And he barely saw any action as a rookie. But Brown showed signs of stardom by catching 69 passes for 1,108 yards and two scores in his second year.
Now he's on a level all himself, although it obviously has helped that the Steelers have morphed from the run-heavy franchise they always used to be to a more pass-heavy team behind Ben Roethlisberger and Brown.
In 2013, Brown caught 110 passes for 1,499 yards and eight scores. The next year, he grabbed 129 balls for 1,698 yards 13 touchdowns, all franchise records. Brown nearly won the receiving Triple Crown, leading the NFL in catches and yards but tying for second in touchdowns. The Cowboys' Dez Bryant led with 16 scores.
Then last year, Brown had 136 catches, tying Atlanta's Julio Jones for the NFL lead and for the second-most in history, 1,834 yards, second to Jones, and 10 scores. Brown is the first player in NFL history with at least 125 receptions in two straight seasons. He also set the franchise record for most 100-yard games in a single season with nine and became the first player in NFL history to record four games with at least 180 receiving yards in any single season. Brown and since-retired Lions legend Calvin Johnson are the only receivers in history to have 1,600 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. Brown had two games with at least 16 catches in 2015 (vs. Raiders and Broncos). No player had multiple 16-catch games in a season before.
Recently two stellar cornerbacks, Arizona's Patrick Peterson and Denver's Chris Harris Jr., said Brown was definitely the best receiver in the league. Harris knows first-hand. Brown had 16 grabs for 189 yards and two scores with Harris guarding him in that Broncos game last year. No other receiver was credited with a TD catch against Harris in 2015. The NFL Network ranked Brown as the top receiver and No. 4 overall player in its recent Top 100 list. Last year, Brown was No. 8 and was the second-highest-rated receiver behind the Lions' Johnson.
Who knows what might have happened when Pittsburgh visited Denver in the AFC's divisional round last year with a healthy Brown? He suffered a brutal and illegal hit the previous week against Cincinnati and was out with a concussion. The Steelers lost the game in Denver 23-16.
So is there any reason that Brown won't have another huge season? He is a +10000 long shot on NFL picks to win an NFL MVP Award. The Steelers offense should be the best in the NFL with Brown, Big Ben, and Le'Veon Bell. However, the team's No. 2 receiver, Martavis Bryant, already has been suspended for the year for violating the NFL's drug policy. He missed the first four games of 2015 due to another suspension for the same reason but finished with 50 catches for 765 yards and six scores. So will that mean more double-teams for Brown? The team still has pretty good depth at the position with Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coats, and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Brown's a stud, but that's a huge number of yards and if he misses even one game it would be tough to reach it. Plus the Steelers might actually run a bit more this year with a healthy Bell and solid DeAngelo Williams behind him.
Pittsburgh opens the season Sept. 12 at Washington. The Steelers are -3 on NFL odds.
Free NFL Pick: 'Under' the 1,710.5 yardage total