About a year ago, this comparison would’ve been laughable.
Thirteen months ago, Roddy White was a two-time Pro Bowler leading the league with 37 receptions through five games. He had three 100-yard efforts in that same span as his Falcons started the season 4-1.
Thirteen months ago, Stevie Johnson was better known (if he was known at all) as Steve Johnson, the no-name third-string receiver on a winless Bills team. Five weeks into the season, he had yet to register more than five catches or 66 yards in a game…in his entire career.
Johnson broke out in Week 7 of last year, when he caught eight passes for 158 yards in a thrilling loss to the Ravens. Of course, that very same week, White caught 11 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling win over the Bengals.
From that point on, Johnson has been as effective as White, and their numbers are nearly identical this season. White has all the accolades and is a former first-round pick, while Johnson came out of nowhere as a seventh-round pick. But Johnson is significantly younger, which makes it a very intriguing debate. At least we hope it does.
Who would you rather have on your team?
Experience: 7th season
Career stats: 469 REC, 6,503 YDS, 13.9 AVG, 40 TD
Last 16 games: 100 REC, 1,067 YDS, 10.7 AVG, 8 TD
This season: 39 REC, 425 YDS, 10.9 AVG, 3 TD
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 133 REC, 1,624 YDS, 12.2 AVG, 16 TD
Last 16 games: 91 REC, 1,103 YDS, 12.1 AVG, 8 TD
This season: 39 REC, 439 YDS, 11.3 AVG, 4 TD
Those numbers are eerily similar since October of last year. But it should be noted that there are some significant differences. For instance, Johnson had seven dropped passes in 2010, which ranked in the top 10 in the league. But this year, Johnson has kicked his drop problem (meaning you can probably chalk it up to inexperience) while White has suddenly become a drop machine. He’s tied for the league lead with seven dropped passes in as many games.
Look at the game logs and it becomes obvious that Johnson is less consistent than White. He had a tendency to disappear last year, more often than White did, but White also played in a much more consistent offense in 2010. This year, neither player has been more or less consistent than the other, which makes sense considering that the Bills have been much more productive offensively (Atlanta scored eight more points per game than the Bills did last year, but those numbers have been reversed this season). But it also favors Johnson because he’s put up similar numbers despite being hampered by a groin injury.
Neither really has a significant advantage in terms of home-run ability, at least according to the numbers. White’s production as a deep threat has mysteriously faded in recent seasons, and his yards-per-reception average has dropped consistently since 2008. Dating to the start of last season, he has 18 catches of 20-plus yards and three catches of 40-plus yards. Johnson’s average isn’t much better, but he’s had 14 20-plus-yard receptions and three catches of 40 yards or more during the same span, despite being targeted less often.
Sean Tomlinson’s take: White will soon begin to approach Reggie Wayne territory at his advanced age, and we’re already beginning to see a bit of a regression with his drops this year. Aside from the drops they’re both very similar in terms of speed and overall talent, but White has peaked while Johnson hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Give me Johnson.
Gagnon’s take: I get the feeling White is in a bit of a rut and I’m still not 100 percent sure Johnson isn’t a flash in the pan, so I’m a bit worried I’ll regret this, but I’m also taking Johnson.
So, who would you rather?
Last week’s Would You Rather: DeMarcus Ware or Jared Allen?