Williamson: Ranking true No. 1 pass-catchers

Which receivers are truly deserving of the distinction? We stack them up

Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesAmong pass-catchers, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is in a league of his own.
The term “No. 1 receiver” is often thrown around loosely, but to me, there certainly are not 32 No. 1 receivers in the league just because every team has a favorite target. (In fact, the Chicago Bears have two No. 1 receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.) This came up during the DeSean Jackson trade and free-agency discussions; as good a player as Jackson is, I don’t consider him to be a No. 1 pass-catcher.
Defining this term isn’t a cut-and-dry thing. But I look at it this way — a No. 1 receiver needs to be able to do everything well in the passing game:
• They need to have the ability to separate from man coverage, understand how to find the soft spots in zones and have very strong athletic traits.• They need to be strong, fast and play big, which often — but not always — can eliminate shorter wide receivers from this equation.• They must be productive, even when opposing defenses are scheming to take them out of the equation; No. 1 receivers can be uncoverable and never come off the field.• They must display the above traits with consistency.
Below is my list of players that I consider to be No. 1 pass-catchers (there are a couple of tight ends on the list), ranked in order from 1-14.

Stands alone at the top

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

This is just a special player in all areas of his immense game. Already an all-time great, Johnson is the epitome of what a No. 1 receiver truly is. He is one of a kind.

Who can match up with these two?

To read Matt Williamson’s full story on which NFL pass-catchers are true No. 1 receivers — and how he ranks the current group — sign up for Insider today.

Joined ESPN in 2005
Was an NFL and college scout for the Cleveland Browns

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