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Insider Headline on ESPN.com: R. White has become a top-3 NFL WR


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Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends

1. Roddy White ATL

White started off with an incomplete pass, but then he went to work. His next seven targets were all complete, for a total of 200 yards, five first downs and two scores. While 80 yards of his 90-yard touchdown came after the catch, everything else was downfield, as he had only 4 yards after the catch on the other six targets in that stretch. He doesn't get the hype that Larry Fitzgerald or even Andre Johnson does, but he's absolutely of their caliber. Sure, he gets to play with Matt Ryan -- but Matt Ryan gets to play with Roddy White.

2. Miles Austin DAL

We highlighted Austin as a potential star by naming him Football Outsiders' top professional prospect in our yearly Top 25 Prospects list (which includes players on their rookie contracts selected after the second round). A small-school prospect out of Monmouth, Austin has the ideal size and speed for a receiver, and has worked hard on his routes and his hands. He has momentary lapses of concentration, but as you can see from those numbers, he's capable of special things if given the opportunity. The difference between Austin and Roy Williams certainly isn't worth the difference in their paychecks.

3. Jeremy Maclin PHI

Maclin took over for an injured Kevin Curtis and showed Philly fans what they can look forward to for the next three years or so, as Maclin worked across from DeSean Jackson and made a mockery of Tampa's attempt to move away from the Cover 2 scheme that bears its name leaguewide. With a lone deep safety on most plays, Maclin abused whichever corner he was up against and made big plays downfield. It's scary to think what the Eagles will be able to do downfield by this time next year.

4. Kellen Winslow TB

If there's one potential weakness for the Eagles, though, it's defending against tight ends. After the injury to Stewart Bradley in the preseason, the team turned to the benched Omar Gaither in the middle before benching him again and giving a fair share of his playing time to Jeremiah Trotter. Neither Gaither nor Trotter can handle speedy tight ends like Winslow, though, and he took advantage of his opportunities Sunday.

5. Larry Fitzgerald ARI

Fitzgerald's normal role in the red zone is more to occupy defenders than actually make plays himself -- Anquan Boldin's red-zone DVOA far surpasses Fitzgerald's over the past few seasons -- but he picked up a touchdown from the 9-yard line Sunday and added another one from the 26. Teams will look to see what Houston did to neutralize him in the second half; as Warner's numbers dropped, so did Fitzgerald's. The star had only a lone incomplete pass thrown in his direction.

The rankings are based on Sunday's games but the accompanying comments carry a broader implication.

BTW, the same article ranked Ryan's Sunday performance as number 1, too. Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre were 8 through 12, respectively.

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Sure Roddy was a top 5 receiver last Sunday, but that does not make him a top 5 receiver overall. Top 10 I buy, but he still has to show improved mental toughness before I would rank him higher.

It is interesting to note that most of Roddy's problems with focus are wrapped up in esteem issues. Accordingly I was very pleased with his interview on Monday. The guy was loose, confident and thoughtful while still coming across as a little bit humble. In that vein the big contract has got to help even though at first it had the effect of making Roddy press too hard and lose focus. At this juncture it is entirely possible that success on the field will beget even more success for Roddy and that positive feedback loop could easily thrust him into the upper echelon of NFL receivers in short order.

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