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Breaking down Jarvis Landry's belief he is NFL's best receiver

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BEREA, Ohio – Jarvis Landry has a strong opinion about the identity of the NFL's top receiver.

"I consider myself the best," he said in a May interview at Cleveland Browns offseason practices.

The discussion started when Landry was informed that he was ranked as the NFL's 52nd-best player by NFL.com. He said his goal is to be ranked first.

Which led to his being asked where he feels he is among receivers.

"I consider myself the most complete receiver," he said. "If you turn on the film, I do everything -- I block, I play inside, I play outside and I come out of the backfield. My value is that much more to the team and to the offense. I consider myself the best receiver in the NFL."

Landry certainly has every right to believe in himself. His ability and his numbers allow that.

But in the minds of most observers, Landry probably wouldn't be considered the No. 1 receiver on the Browns. That honor would go to Josh Gordon.

Landry also would not be considered the best receiver in his division. Not with Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, Cincinnati's A.J. Green and Gordon catching passes.

There are very few analysts who do not believe Brown is the NFL's best receiver -- and perhaps its best player. In his four seasons, Landry has 400 catches for 4,038 yards and 22 touchdowns. In the same four seasons, Brown had 471 catches for 6,349 yards and 44 touchdowns. System and quarterback can affect a player's numbers, but it's hard to argue against Brown given his consistent production.

Landry's numbers also fall short of Julio Jones of Atlanta, who had 411 catches for 6,311 yards and 23 touchdowns. Green? He had fewer catches than Landry (296) but more yards (4,380) and one more touchdown (23). Odell Beckham Jr.'s numbers are thrown off by his injury last season, but Beckham will be in the discussion for the league's best.

That doesn't mean Landry didn't put up impressive numbers in his four seasons in Miami before he was traded to the Browns. Follow the money and the Browns clearly think highly of him. They gave him a five-year, $75.5 million contract extension, making him one of six receivers in the NFL to average $15 million or more per season. Landry, 25, will be a starter opposite Gordon, and given the Browns' plan to expand his role and his ability to work at different levels, Landry could have more targets (and catches) than Gordon.

However, follow the money leaguewide and Brown is the league's best based on his average salary of $17 million per season. Landry ranks fifth, behind Brown, Mike Evans of Tampa Bay, DeAndre Hopkins of Houston and Sammy Watkins of Kansas City.

In terms of total contract value and total guaranteed money, Landry ranks third.

In the $15 million group, Landry ranks second in career receptions, fifth in receiving yards and last in touchdowns; his numbers in 2017 put him first in receptions, fifth in yards and tied for second in touchdowns, according to NFL.com.

Landry thinks he can and will do better in Cleveland.

"I had less efficiency than a lot of other guys just because of the types of plays that we were running," Landry told Cleveland.com. "I think that gets missing when you see Antonio Brown scoring a 95-yard touchdown on a fade route or Odell catching a post, things like that. I think it gets missing.

"But if you watch our games in Miami, you see how the involvement of me made drives go. You see how the involvement of me making plays here and there or a block here and there made drives go. A lot of those drives that I was particularly involved in or targeted in, we scored or we at least got points."

Among his more impressive stats:

  • Landry's 400 receptions are the most by any player in his first four seasons in NFL history; Anquan Boldin is second with 342. The only players with more receptions since he entered the league are Brown and Jones.

  • He has been to three Pro Bowls, and he led the NFL with 112 receptions in 2017.

  • Last season he was the only player in the NFL with at least five catches in all 16 games.

  • ProFootballFocus.com reports he has broken 76 tackles after the catch in his career and has just 21 drops.

  • He is one of only 10 receivers since 2014 not to miss a regular-season game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

  • He has caught 71 percent of passes thrown to him in his career, eighth best in the NFL, per ESPN Stats & Info.

  • He's better in the red zone; there, he's fifth best in the NFL, catching 70.8 percent of passes thrown to him, per ESPN Stats & Info.

  • ProFootballFocus.com reports that quarterbacks had a 121.1 passer rating throwing to Landry against press coverage the past two seasons, fifth best in the league. His yards after catch (421) were best in the league, per PFF.

  • When lined up in the slot, he has been one of the best in the league. PFF reports that in the past two years Landry had 172 targets from the slot and caught 77.3 percent of them. He ranked first in yards (1,473) and tied for fifth in touchdowns (nine).

Those are all impressive numbers.

But there are other numbers that would argue Landry has work to do to become the NFL's best. Most have to do with yards per catch and the fact that Landry mainly has been used as a slot receiver and not a down-the-field guy. Among them (provided by NFL.com and ESPN Stats & Info):

  • The average route depth in his career is 6.3 yards; that is the third shortest among the 79 receivers with at least 200 targets the past four seasons.

  • His yards after catch is 5.41 yards, and last season it was 4.7, the lowest in his career.

  • On third down, he has converted 55.7 percent of his catches into first downs, better than only Eddie Royal and Robby Anderson (minimum 30 third-down receptions since 2014) in the NFL.

  • Last season Landry had 112 receptions and 987 yards, making him the first receiver in NFL history with 100 or more catches and less than 1,000 yards.

  • Also last season, his 8.8 yards per reception was the lowest in NFL history by a receiver with at least 100 catches.

Some of the numbers may be quibbling. The average per reception was 8.8 yards, but that average came on triple-digit catches, and no receiver in Browns history has ever had 100 catches in a season. Landry also scoffs at being labeled a "slot receiver," saying he can line up anywhere and that at some point every receiver either lines up in the slot or winds up there thanks to motion.

Landry feels that given more chances, he can get the ball downfield, especially if teams are forced to give extra attention to Gordon. Landry's combine time of 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash isn't elite, but he improved that number to 4.51 at his pro day.

He's clearly a giant upgrade over the receivers the Browns had last season, who as a group had 134 catches. Pairing him with Gordon gives the Browns, on paper, a potentially dangerous combination -- perhaps one that could total 160 catches and be the most dangerous they have had in years.

For Landry, it's about the pursuit.

"My goal is to eventually be No. 1 [in the league]," he said. "Honestly, it's an honor to be recognized among all of the top players in this league and to be recognized in the top 100, but I think for any competitor ... well, I can't speak for every competitor, but I know me -- I want to be first."