Freep: Top U-M receivers of past 15 years

Submitted by Jivas on August 16th, 2008 at 3:08 PM

The Free Press has compiled a list of the top U-M wide receivers of the past 15 years.  I have only minimal disagreement with their list, which is as follows:

1) Braylon Edwards

2) Amani Toomer

3) David Terrell

4) Mario Manningham

5) Tai Streets

6) Marquise Walker

7) Jason Avant

8) Adrian Arrington

9) Mercury Hayes

10) Steve Breaston

Disagreement #1: Since the Freep included Chris Webber on the basketball team's list of best players (CWebb played through '92-'93), I believe that Derrick Alexander should then qualify for the WR list, and I'd place him between Manningham and Streets above BUT CLEARLY IN THAT FIRST TIER of receivers with a clean break between Alexander and Streets.

Disagreement #2: Steve Breaston.  He was simply not an accomplished wide receiver - he'd be first on my list of special teams returners over this period - as he rarely made big plays on offense (averaging just 10.9 yards per catch; yes, many of those were glorified handoffs, but still) while receiving a grossly disproportionate share of attention from the offensive coordinator.

My replacement for Breaston would be Marcus Knight, who averaged 17.1 yards per catch and was within 200 yards of Breaston's career receiving yardage despite many, many fewer passing attempts aimed his way.  His jersey wasn't sold in stores the way Breaston's was, but he was a more effective wide receiver and shouldn't be buried behind the shiny, less effective toy.

The Breaston/Knight debate ends up being academic, however, as I've roped Alexander into the fray.  My final list:

1) Braylon Edwards

2) David Terrell

3) Mario Manningham

4) Amani Toomer

5) Derrick Alexander


6) Tai Streets

7) Marquise Walker

8) Jason Avant

9) Adrian Arrington

10) Mercury Hayes

Final thoughts: Terrell and Manningham get "credit" as they compiled their record in three years and would have posted silly career numbers given a fourth year...Toomer gets dinged a bit due to chronic and baffling underuse by the coaching staff...the top 5 includes four 1st-round picks, with only Manningham's baffling chronic use keeping from from earning the honor...despite consideration and much consternation, Terrell does *not* get extra credit for providing us with the phrase "Who got the bomb-ass dick?".




August 16th, 2008 at 3:31 PM ^

I remember Breaston's freshman year. The dude was explosive. Every time he touched the ball, you thought he was gone. He was hurt his Sophmore year and just never lived up to his potential. He had a good year for Arizona though, which is great.

At the next level, David Terrell was another under-achiever. Never did anything in the NFL. He had good size, soft hands, and speed. It's a shame since he was so good at Michigan.


August 16th, 2008 at 8:44 PM ^

His one handed, diving, endzone grab against Northwestern always stands in my mind as one of the finest catches I ever saw. I'm not saying it should make him higher on the list... just sayin' it was awesome.


August 16th, 2008 at 9:38 PM ^

Adrian Arrington needs to be higher on that list. If Terrell and Manningham get "credit" for what they would have done as seniors, Arrington should, too. He rarely dropped passes and he's more athletic than Avant. And you can't really say Avant had better hands, because Arrington made some awesome leaping catches and had that one-handed catch behind the DB against Florida in the Capital One Bowl. I'd put Arrington at #6 or #7 on that list.


August 17th, 2008 at 1:45 AM ^

Arrington is behind Avant because he never had a full season as the #1 guy, and I do agree that based on his talent/ability if he had a full season as The Guy he'd be more productive than Avant was (well, maybe not with Nick Sheridan passing to him, but you know what I mean).

I guess one thing that separates Arrington from Terrell and Manningham is that we're *speculating* that Arrington would be much more productive if he played an additional season, whereas with the former two we're only really projecting that they'd continue to perform at their previously demonstrated level.  It may be a fine line, but that's the designation that I made.

Nate Dawg - Ronald Bellamy's name actually did make an appearance while performing my "research" - sad as it may seem, he might have been #12 or so on the list!

Musket Rebellion

August 17th, 2008 at 1:20 AM ^

Personally I think Alexander should probably be no. 3 on this list. He was a man on an island while he was here, and was the perfect carrier of the 1. Toomer has been a pretty consistent pro, but if we're just talking about at UofM he should only be no. 5. Manningham was completely electric when he had his hands on he ball. How many Michigan receivers have 97 yard touchdowns? I'd say Braylon, Terrell, Alexander, Manningham then Toomer.

Then for that second tier category probably Walker, Avant, Streets, Hayes, Knight. Arrington was a one year guy, that one year was great but he needed to stay another year to get on the list of top 10 and he went pro. That seems to be working out for him so far because everything out of Saints camp is that he's been great, but for his college career he needed another year in the Maize and Blue.


August 17th, 2008 at 1:43 AM ^

Musket Rebellion: my personal opinion, prior to looking up the stats, was that Alexander would be #2 or #3 - off the top of my head, I had him and Terrell about even (I posted this fairly quickly and I thought I covered my Alexander thoughts in greater depth, which I didn't).  For one thing, Alexander had the misfortune of playing when the run/pass ratio was more heavily tilted on the "run" side, and his numbers suffered.  But he was outstanding, as I said, prior to looking at the stats I had him second or third.

After looking at the numbers, and considering where Terrell and Manningham's stats would be given one more year similar to their junior years, it was a tougher argument to make that the fewer opportunities available to Alexander were the full reason why his production was lower than the others'.  But based off my subjective opinion, which may be biased by nostalgia and 15 years of rust on my brain, Alexander was every bit as good as the others.

I suppose the Toomer rating might a little quixotic for me; I remember being furious at his underuse during his senior season.  He had the first ever 1,000-yard receiving season as a junior (Desmond came close twice, but nobody had broken the mark), but was largely ignored in the passing game as a senior.  (Perhaps because he was a douchebag that didn't have any friends on the team; Lloyd did have his peculariaties and was known to play favorites **COUGH** Massey **COUGH**).

Re-looking at the stats, Toomer is 3rd all-time behind Braylon and A.C. in receiving yards, in a similar run/pass era as Alexander (this is me speculating), so I am comfortable with his ranking.

We've had some great ones though, huh?  Who got the bomb-ass wideouts?

Blue in Seattle

August 17th, 2008 at 11:47 AM ^

I've never understood the fascination with numbers over the enjoyment and awe of watching the events themselves.

But to create projections of what "might have been" is just fantasy and has no place. Yes player X might have been awesome for Michigan if he had played, but he didn't.

It's like saying, "he would have scored a touchdown if he had crossed the endzone line". Well so would I.

In my opinion, football is such a team sport, that you can't use individual statistics at all to determine who was greatest. Afterall, Braylon had some of his best statistical days during a loss to the other team.

I much prefer counting the times a player did something spectacular that resulted in a win, than just the mass compiling of statistics.

Braylon clearly has it from such wins as MSU-2004.

But I think Tai Streets needs to be rated higher, if not #2. I kind of remember a time when we beat OSU quite a bit, and especially when we weren't supposed to win, that required Tai Streets.

1996 comes to mind, and so does a Rose bowl victory after the 1997 season.


August 17th, 2008 at 3:38 PM ^

I thought Streets was too high on the list, personally.  He was my era and outside of OSU '96 and the Rose Bowl performance what I remember the most about him was having the dropsies for most of '97 (turned out he had dislocated fingers or something).  I don't remember anything memorable about his senior year.  Looking back at his numbers, however, he had a big year with some long catches from Brady, but two of those big games were in losses to ND and OSU.  Streets didn't play against OSU in '97 and even his big play against OSU in '96 was a bit of a fluke as Shawn Springs slipped on the play.  I thought Marquis Walker and Jason Avant should've been ahead of Streets as I recall both of those guys repeatedly making all kinds of tough, clutch catches. 

Of course, Streets having his best game, in Michigan's greatest game and being in attendance for it are definitely fond memories.


August 17th, 2008 at 5:01 PM ^

That's why there are team win-loss records.  Tai Streets was a valuable member of the national championship team in 1997, but to say he's the second-best Michigan receiver in the past fifteen years is kind of ridiculous.  I think we all agree that Braylon deserves to be #1 for a number of plays.  But you're probably putting Tai Streets up there largely because he caught that long TD against OSU.

 You can't discount a guy his "greatness" because his team wasn't as good.  That's like saying Barry Sanders (1 playoff win) isn't as good of a running back as Kevin Faulk (3 Super Bowls).

Obviously, you can't make guarantees about this sort of thing, but you could probably have replaced Tai Streets with several other guys on this list and still won a national championship.  He doesn't deserve to be #2.

Ellipses Man

August 17th, 2008 at 12:36 PM ^

I know the article is about wide receivers from the last 15 years, but I wonder where Anthony Carter would stack up in stats and fan approval? In my mind he(Carter) was Michigan Football to me as much as Billy Sims was Detroit Lions football. Was Carter the guy who really brought the number one jersey into the light? I'm going to go look up and see if Anthony is a hall of fame guy or not real quick. I think he kicked some ass for the Vikings right?


August 17th, 2008 at 2:44 PM ^

Toomer is top 5 material. He was a superstar in 1994 as a junior (when we also had Wheatley/Biakabutuka at RB, a senior Todd Collins at QB and a good line - that offense was stacked). Then in '95 we had horrid quarterbacking and our overall passing numbers went downhill.

chitownblue (not verified)

August 18th, 2008 at 10:41 AM ^

I agree - Streets was worse than virtually every player on this list. He was miserable in '97 (I know he had a broken hand, but it's hard to play "what-if's" - he dropped more long balls than Breaston). His case comes down to the TD vs. OSU in '96 (which probably had more to do with Springs falling than Streets), and his performance in the '98 Rose Bowl, when his hand was healed.

He did have a solid senior year, but if we're comparing single-season peaks, it was worse than Marquise Walker's and Jason Avant's (in that Streets had 3 huge games and a bunch of mediocre ones, not to mention one additional game). And as I said, Streets had the worst 700+ yard season ever in '97.


August 19th, 2008 at 1:22 PM ^

Walker was an ok WR who got all of the throws the year after Terrell left. The drop he had against OSU in 2001 is almost reason enough to exclude him outright. (Ok, I'm a little bitter.)  Hayes was solid and productive as I recall. He never put up a big year like Walker, but he also had Toomer on the other side collecting a lot of passes.

While Manningham may have had as much potential as any of these guys and had some phenomenal games, his lack of consistency keeps me from putting him higher than 5. Braylon, Terrell, Toomer, and Alexander would all be ahead of him. With no clear order of 2-4.

I would put AC ahead of Braylon on this list. While not on par with Braylon's height, strength and leaping ability, AC never seemed to drop a ball.  As great at Braylon was at Michigan, he dropped a number of important passes.   An interception off of his hands in 2004 at ND and a dropped 4th down against OSU in 2004 come to mind quickly.  My memories of AC also benefit from only seeing highlights of him in the last 26 years. I witnessed Braylon, and I can remember the plays that he would want us to forget.

This is really a discussion of 1 and 1A. Both are clearly ahead of the rest. And in time, I wouldn't be surprised if the general consensus shifts towards Braylon as there is far more footage of his exploits and the goodwill he will gain from his contribution back to the University and the football team.