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Could Golden Tate finish his career as the best Lions receiver ever?

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The question isn’t as insane as it sounds when you say it.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have a reputation for futility given their postseason struggles during the Super Bowl era, but the team also has had some of the best players to ever lace up cleats and don a helmet. The team has three Hall of Fame corners who are often mentioned as the best to ever play in Lem Barney, Dick Lebeau, and Dick “Night Train” Lane. Likewise, the team boasts the best running back in history, Barry Sanders, and one of the best receivers to ever play in Calvin Johnson.

And yet, in 2017, we’re watching a player that few probably considered among the elite, setting himself on a historic pace that few will be able to match. Despite Hall of Famers like Herman Moore and Charlie Sanders, and a future hall of famer in Calvin Johnson, the Lions have a player in Golden Tate who is on pace to be very much in the conversation as the best pass catcher in Detroit Lions history.

I’ll pause momentarily while you scoff, lifting your nose to haughtily proclaim that none shall come close to matching the game-changing ability of Megatron! Herman Moore is a legend in Detroit, surely someone like Tate could never near such historic recognition among the best!

While it’s true that Golden Tate has not received the same accolades as the greats in Detroit history, he is only 29 and still seems to be getting better. Nine weeks into the 2017 season he is on pace for over 100 catches, and should he reach even 90, he would have done something that no receiver in Detroit has ever done: record four seasons of 90 or more receptions. It’s a historic pace that shouldn’t be ignored.

With his six catches against the Cleveland Browns, Golden Tate tied the great Charlie Sanders for all-time receptions with the team at 336. This puts Tate at sixth all time for receptions with the team, within striking distance of Barry Sanders at fifth if Tate can only get 17 more catches this season (He is averaging more than six catches per game).

With seven games to go, Tate is on pace to catch 100 passes, which would best his career high of 99. He is also on pace to nearly match his career high for touchdowns (7 in 2012 with the Seahawks, Tate is on pace for 6). He is on pace to have more than 1,100 yards, besting his 2016 mark and being less than only his Pro Bowl 2014 season. His catch rate of nearly 80 percent would mark a career high as well. The guy simply catches footballs and makes things happen.

Is it really too much to think Tate could finish his career as the best Lions receiver ever? At his current pace, he could beat Brett Perriman and Johnnie Morton in receptions as early as 2018, putting him behind only Herman Moore and Calvin Johnson. With a similar season to 2017, Tate could leap to sixth all time for yardage in 2018, and as high as fourth by 2019 if he stays with the team.

As mentioned, Golden Tate is 29 years old. Herman Moore was already declining at 29 and never recorded more than 40 catches or 500 yards past that point. Calvin Johnson retired at 30 due to injuries sustained in his prolific career. It’s certainly possible that Tate could similarly fall off at age 30, but considering his extremely efficient playing style, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him continue this outstanding production level. Tate is on pace to have the highest catch rate of any Lions WR in history with at least 100 targets, is already No. 1 all time in catches per game, and is currently fourth all time in yards per game.

This is a hypothetical, so obviously nobody is calling Tate the best ever. Looking at it objectively, it isn’t even far fetched to think it’s possible. With Matthew Stafford slinging the ball around and an offense that favors short passes and yards after the catch, Golden Tate is in a perfect spot to catch a ton of passes for a ton of yards and potentially put himself in some all time great company.


Will Golden Tate finish his career as the best Lions receiver of all time?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    He’s got a pretty good shot!
    (419 votes)
  • 40%
    Megatron will probably never be beaten.
    (437 votes)
  • 5%
    He’d be lucky to come close to Moore.
    (58 votes)
  • 5%
    Maybe, but only a placeholder until he’s beaten by Jace Billingsley.
    (64 votes)
  • 8%
    Of course not, 3rd best is his ceiling.
    (95 votes)
  • 0%
    Other, comment below
    (3 votes)
1076 votes total Vote Now