Johnson and Marshall incomparable

But wide receivers are alike only in size as they bring distinct gifts to their respective offenses

Forget Calvin Johnson versus Charles Tillman for a minute.

Let's pit Calvin Johnson against Brandon Marshall.

Viewed strictly on the field, who would you rather have?

Start here: Most teams in the NFL probably would love to have either.

"Either one is a 'reason you win' type of player," said one general manager who has studied both.

"Both are special," said Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was head coach of the Lions when the team picked Johnson. "They both like the ball. Both have great hands, size, and leaping ability. They have the whole package. And they both love football."

They have similar production this year. Marshall has just four fewer catches than Johnson, but is 426 yards off Johnson's record setting pace. Marshall also has six more touchdowns.

But they really aren't as similar as players as you might think.

"The only thing that is similar is their size," Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said of the 6-foot-41/2 Marshall and the 6-5 Johnson. "Calvin is the downfield guy. He's definitely going to outjump you. Brandon is the more complete receiver. He runs all the routes, the underneath routes, the slants, takes out defensive backs, runs over them. He's strong, and he has strong hands. Brandon is more physical."

Here is how Johnson and Marshall stack up in areas NFL scouts judge receivers.

Downfield playmaking ability

This is where Johnson separates himself from Marshall and every other receiver in the NFL, and why he is the best wide receiver in the NFL. You can't teach size and speed, and Johnson has a better combination of it than anyone.

If Marshall beats a cornerback deep, it's usually because he either deceives him or gets him off balance by being physical with him. Johnson routinely blows by corners.

Whereas Marshall is more likely to take the fight out of a defense with a series of body blows, Johnson can deliver a knockout punch more effectively.

"Calvin's faster," Winfield said. "You have to respect him and make sure he doesn't take the top off the defense. You have to make him catch the ball underneath and tackle him there. Anything over the top, you are in trouble."

Route running

Marshall presents more challenges to cornerbacks than Johnson because he runs every route in the tree with precision.

The general manager said Marshall has better feet, bend and balance in and out of his cuts.

Marshall is savvier in how he separates. He has to be because he isn't as explosive an athlete as Johnson.

Catching ability