Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice was the best who ever played the position and there probably isn't a knowledgeable person anywhere who would argue the point.
From his rookie season through 1996, Rice was magnificent and a top-five fantasy selection for most of those seasons as he averaged 87.5 receptions for 1,364 yards and 12.8 touchdowns. He also was reliable, missing just four games out of his first 192 contests.
Rice was still a solid receiver for the San Francisco 49ers through 2000 and had two more 1,100 yard-plus seasons in Oakland for the Raiders.
However, over the past three seasons, it can be argued that Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson has been just as good, or better, than Rice during the same periods of their careers.
Johnson's rookie season in Detroit (48-756-4) was similar to Rice's start in San Francisco (49-927-3). Both exploded in season No. 2 with Rice getting the edge after a stunning 86-catch, 1,570-yard, 15-touchdown effort. Rice was also better in Year 3.
But it's seasons No. 4-6 that get interesting. Rice posted 246 receptions for 4,291 yards and 39 scores while Johnson has produced 295 catches for 4,765 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Converting the total yards and touchdowns to fantasy points and including bonus points for 100-yards receiving days, Johnson has posted 755.1 fantasy points over the three-year period, while Rice put up 740.1 points.
And it should be noted that Rice played on a team with Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, John Taylor, Dwight Clark and Roger Craig to force defenses to play him honestly.
Johnson put up a record 1,964 receiving yards last season with quarterback Matthew Stafford, wideouts Nate Burleson and Titus Young, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, and running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell.
If you were a defensive coordinator, where would you concentrate your efforts?
Now if only Johnson can perform at this level for about a dozen more years, he might realistically be able to join the conversation for all-time best receiver.
In the meantime, he'll have to settle for being the best receiver in today's game and the first fantasy receiver off the board (current fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP 8.2).