Stevie Johnson is not a true No. 1 receiver—yet. I don’t know if he ever will be. You know what? That’s totally fine with me. Yes, he’s one of my favorite Bills because of his new-age swag, engaging nature with fans, flowing rap skills and most importantly, back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in a Buffalo Bills uniform.
However, based on what I’ve seen from him during his time in the Queen City, he’s not a true No. 1.
I’m not going to attempt to give an intricate description of what makes a true No.1, but I’d consider the following wideouts legitimate No. 1′s right now; Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Roddy White, Steve Smith, Dez Bryant, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Kenny Britt, Reggie Wayne, Vincent Jackson and a few others.
Is Stevie in that category?
The point of this column isn’t to bash Johnson, just hear me out.
I understand that there might not be a clear-cut “No. 1″ receiver within Chan Gailey’s spread system that predicates itself on distributing the football to all possible pass-catchers—but if you don’t get what I mean when I say No. 1, just look back at that list.
Johnson’s the epitome of a possession receiver—a guy who institutes street ball-like jukes at the line of scrimmage to beat press coverage and catches those short to intermediate passes to move the chains. There’s no questioning that he’s a vital commodity.
A T.J. Houshmandzadeh-type wideout.
Housh and Johnson’s first four years in the league are eerily similar. Housh struggled to acclimate himself to the NFL during 2001 and 2002, his first two years in the league. He totalled 62 catches for 720 and one receiving touchdown. In 2004, he caught 73 passes for 978 yards with four touchdowns. After that, he was well on his way. In 2007, he reeled in a whopping 112 passes for 1,143 yards with 12 scores. During his entire career, he never averaged more than 13.4 yards per catch.
As we know, Johnson didn’t make his name known until 2010, his third year in the league, when he caught 82 passes for 1,073 yards with 10 trips to the endzone. He averaged 13.1 yards per catch two years ago, and 13.2 last year. They’re both 6’2”, between 205-210 pounds and were seventh-round picks who had some physical shortcomings but made their mark by finding their niche, and mastering it.
What did Housh always have during his most prolific years in Cincinnati?
A bona fide, stretch-the-field playmaker in Chad Johnson.
Was Housh a No. 1? No. But boy was he productive, and the Bengals were a pretty good club during his best seasons.
Though burning down the field isn’t his specialty, Michael Floyd has the tools to be Stevie’s Chad Johnson. It’s the reason why I’ve been so adamant about Buffalo drafting Floyd since the moment they signed Mario Williams.
His imposing size, deceptive speed and tremendous ability to come down with the ball in traffic is precisely what the Bills need. He’s a supremely gifted wideout prospect who’s worth a first-round selection. I’m certainly glad Stevie’s an consummate overachiever, but there’s a reason why he was picked in the seventh round.
With Floyd across the field, Johnson will be put in a situation to flourish. He’d absolutely terrorize teams underneath on those rapid-fire slants, sideline comebacks and jerk routes across the middle. Teams wouldn’t have the defensive luxury to double-team him.
Floyd would ideally have fewer receptions but make more “big” plays. Each receiver would have his own role on the team, one that ideally fits his skill set.
Actually, as a “No. 2″, Stevie Johnson would probably be a better, more productive wide receiver. That’d be totally fine with me.