San Francisco 49ers: Comparing Antonio Brown to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice

With the recent speculation that Antonio Brown is interested in playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Niner Noise breaks down the stats of both Antonio Brown and Hall of Fame legend Jerry Rice.

Since it became apparent that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown wants to part ways with the Steelers before the 2019 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers are one team that has been at the top of everyone’s list for Brown to land.

Brown has appeared to have cut ties with the Steelers for the moment, voicing his opinions through social media and making it no secret he would like to play elsewhere next season. Brown has also gone as far as to remove the Steelers from his Twitter bio.

Steelers President Art Rooney joined the conversation, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it would be “hard to envision” Brown as part of the team moving forward into the 2019 season.

With all the rumors and commotion surrounding Brown’s current situation, we’re going to have to wait a little longer to find out if the Steelers trading Brown is a real possibility. However, if the Steelers are open to a trade, Brown isn’t going to come cheap.

With the 49ers in desperate need of a No. 1 wide receiver, Brown is someone who could fill that role. He has been one of the best receivers in the league for some time and has the stats to back it up.

However, Brown does come with some baggage. This isn’t the first time so-called locker room issues or disagreements involving Brown have been made public. Couple that with his age, as Brown will be 31 at the start of next season, and you have some serious issues to consider.

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Newly appointed Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians stated while on ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s Podcast he believes Brown to be a “diva” and he wouldn’t consider trading for him. Brown has since refuted Arians’ statement, turning to Twitter to hit back:

Someone who has been in Brown’s corner is former 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice. Rice has been quite vocal in recent weeks expressing his opinion that the 49ers should and need to trade for Brown.

Rice appeared on 95.7 The Game and said that during a Facetime conversation he had with Brown on Sunday, Brown informed him that, “He wants to come here really badly,” referencing the San Francisco 49ers.

Does Antonio Brown want to play for the 49ers?”Yeah, he wants to come here really bad.”@JerryRice on his Facetime conversation yesterday w/ Antonio Brown.

The Hall of Famer continued. “This guy, man, he’s a totally, complete team player,” Rice said. “I don’t know what happened in Pittsburgh but I know that this guy, if he comes here to San Francisco, he’s going to do everything possible to help this team to win.”

Rice’s endorsement of Brown is not something to shy away from. Linked with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme, there should be no reason why Brown couldn’t continue to be an elite receiver.

Both Rice and Brown are two of the NFL’s greatest wide receivers, hands down. After a whopping 21 years, Rice retired after playing 303 games where he chalked up 1,549 receptions totalling 22,895 yards. He averaged 14.8 yards per reception and had 197 touchdowns. Rice also had 11 back-to-back seasons where he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards.

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He was selected to the Pro Bowl on 13 occasions and named first-team All-Pro 13 times. You just have to look to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to see the extensive accolades that Rice retired with, including the most career touchdowns, most career pass receptions and most career receiving touchdowns. Some of his records will likely never be broken.

As his records show, Rice was a rare receiver who possessed every ability you could want in a wideout, from his pass-catching skills to his ability to separate from defenders. He was an ever-present threat for the deep ball and in the red zone, as he knew when to make his break and could simply outplay defenders.

During his nine years in the NFL, Brown has amassed 130 games for 837 receptions totalling 11,207 yards. He has averaged 13.4 yards per reception and has 74 touchdowns to his name. In his last six seasons, Brown has managed to surpass 1,000 receiving yards each year, with 2018 being his biggest year for touchdowns, finishing the season with 15.

Brown has been selected to the Pro Bowl seven times, including in 2018. However, he has since pulled out due to “injury.” He has also been named first-team All-Pro on four occasions.

While unlikely, if Brown is able to remain in the league into his late 30’s, he could potentially exceed Rice in both career receptions and receiving yards. This will ultimately come down to numerous factors, including most importantly his health, along with his ability to maintain his current level of production.

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Much like Rice, Brown possesses the skillset to separate from defenders, dominating against both man and zone coverages. He has great hands and the ability to contest for the ball, making him both a deep and red-zone threat.

He is truly someone who could help the 49ers in the receiving game. When and if the Niners decide to pursue him, we’ll just have to wait and see. How much the Steelers ask for will likely play a large part in the 49ers’ decision, along with Shanahan’s assessment of Brown and whether he believes the risks are acceptable.

In any case, if not Brown, the 49ers will need to find a wide receiver in either free agency or the 2019 NFL Draft where there are numerous top young receivers available.

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