81 or 86, Splitting Hairs

A recent conversation came about between me and a former NFL player as to who was the better “non-prototypical” wide receiver in the NFL at the top of his game: Arizona Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin or Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward.

Taking a look at both players here are the facts:

Career

 

Boldin

 

Ward

Height

 

6 ft. 1in

 

6 ft. 0 in.

Weight

 

217

 

205

Season

 

7

 

12

Receptions

 

502

 

829

Receiving Yards

 

6,496

 

10,135

TDs

 

40

 

72

Super Bowls

 

0

 

2

Pro Bowls

 

3

 

4

Awards

 

NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year

 

Super Bowl MVP

Boldin is a playmaker. He is able to take a short play and make into a much bigger play than originally designed. His strengths are his hands, physical play, blocking, passion for the game, smart football instincts, quickness, route technique, and ability to track the football in-flight. His weaknesses include: overall height, long-speed, jumping ability.

Ward is not as much of a playmaker with the ball in his hands as Boldin, but a true workhorse who is solid and steady in his play with outstanding production. His strengths are soft hands, physical player, smart, physical, toughness, route-running, play away from the ball (blocking) and short area quickness. His weaknesses include: top-end speed and height.

In summary, Boldin is a great competitor who, when at the top of his game, is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He would be a starter on any team and brings instant credibility to a receiving corp. Ward is a solid veteran who has mastered his craft over course of his career and tenure in the NFL and after 12 seasons of play is still one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. The most glaring differences between the two are the number of Super Bowl and Pro Bowls each has attained. This cannot solely be attributed to the individual player, because football is the ultimate team sport (neither player gets a chance to play defense).

Another debate that arises is whether Boldin would have had the same success as Ward if the two players switched teams. This argument is similar to that of former Detroit Lions RB Barry Sanders and former Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith. Many have often argued that Sanders would have obtained the NFL rushing record if he had the offensive line similar to that of Smith with the Cowboys.

While both Boldin and Ward are players of the same “non-prototypical” mold, it is like splitting hairs when debating who the better overall player is at the top of his game, but for now, I take Boldin due to better playmaking ability (by the slimmest of margins).

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