Five reasons to draft Calvin Johnson

With their public interest in free-agent WR Kevin Curtis on the decline, and a rather pedestrian free-agency impact, the possibility of Detroit spending its No. 2 overall pick on Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson has become much, much more viable.

If they were sending 'smoke screens' earlier in the off-season to conceal their draft plans, consider the Detroit Lions' well-laid plot a bit less mysterious.

One that is getting weaker by the day.

With their public interest in free-agent WR Kevin Curtis on the decline, and a rather pedestrian free-agency impact, the possibility of Detroit spending its No. 2 overall pick on Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson has become much, much more viable.

Yes, Lions fans, the team could go 'wide receiver' with its first-round pick for the fourth time in five years, provided they do not trade it away. But the interest in Johnson wouldn't necessarily be without merit -- and has become centric to most debates involving the team, its fans, president Matt Millen and the future of the franchise.

Johnson is one of the most talented prospects to enter the league, compared by most as having the same athletic competence entering the draft as former USC standout Reggie Bush. Bush surprisingly slid to the Saints with the No. 2 overall pick in 2006 and New Orleans never looked back, tallying just its second playoff win in franchise history.

Many analysts have even suggested that Johnson's potential might even supersede that of Bush. And therein lies a word that has both defined and devastated Millen's reputation in Detroit: potential. Namely, at the wide receiver position.

The last Lions receiver drafted at No. 2 went up in smoke (both literally and figuratively) with the Armageddon-like bust of Charles Rogers. And on his heels is Millen's most recent bust-to-be, Mike Williams -- the last wide receiver picked by Detroit.

But while that could be one of many (flawed) excuses not to select a talent like Calvin Johnson, there are five solid reasons for the Detroit Lions to consider the 6'4, 225-pound phenom.

  • 1. Oh, the possibilities. Certainly, the thought of pairing Johnson across from Roy Williams (whom Johnson has been compared to in both size, talent, temperment and most notably, work ethic) is enticing.
    School: Georgia Tech
    Ht/Wt: 6-5, 239
    Compared To: Roy
    Williams (Lions) Rank: No. 1

    All too frequently last season quarterback Jon Kitna was unable to locate Williams, who was the target of double coverage or a secondary scheme specifically designed to limit his productivity.

    With Johnson in the fold, opposing teams would be forced to rely on a zone coverage, or worse, play man-to-man against Detroit's receivers. Kitna, a veteran, wouldn't have any troubles getting the ball out and spreading it around.

    While some fans might retort, "We've heard this before," let's make one thing very clear: Calvin Johnson is not Charles Rogers or Mike Williams. Those two players had character issues in addition to ability concerns. Johnson's only knock is his blocking ability, which has been deemed by his opponents as well above average.

  • 2. Receiver is a need, too. Unless Detroit makes a late signing of Curtis, the Lions have a need for another strong talent in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme. Martz was successful in St. Louis because of the athletic prowess and speed on the outside with Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, including a reliable and speedy talent inside.

    Johnson would give Martz exactly what he needs, and allow the productive Mike Furrey to slide into a more suitable 'slot' role. Martz tried and failed with lesser talents at WR last season. It's time to give him another weapon and open it up.

  • 3. See: New Orleans. The Saints didn't need a running back in 2006, but didn't complain when Reggie Bush fell to them in the draft, either. New Orleans was able to use Bush wisely, giving the Saints a nasty tandem in the offensive backfield with Deuce McCallister, and allowing the rest of the team's offense to operate effectively. The Lions would be in a similar situation, albeit at a different position.
  • 4. Because it makes sense. Again, barring a blockbuster trade, there is no other player worthy of being selected at No. 2 than Johnson. The Lions like Clemson DE Gaines Adams, but he is barely a top-5 caliber choice, and the team will have other chances in the draft to furnish the defense. Wisconsin's mammoth tackle Joe Thomas is the popular pick, but the Lions already acquired a potential starter in George Foster (Denver) and would still be able to pluck Central Michigan's athletic tackle Joe Staley in round two. The Lions simply cannot scrape up enough of an excuse not to select the most talented player to enter the draft in years. Which leads to reason No. 5 ...
  • 5. This isn't about repeating the past, it's about correcting the future. Ask yourself one question: if Charles Rogers and Mike Williams had never happened, would Calvin Johnson be a near consensus pick? Probably.

    Detroit cannot avoid a player that can single-handedly provide a game-breaking play; a receiver that, under the direction of a coordinator noted for his development of offensive skill players, could blossom into an All Pro threat beside Roy Williams. They cannot avoid that player on the rather steep crutch, 'been there, done that.' They cannot afford not to draft Calvin Johnson.

    If the Detroit Lions were any other team in the National Football League, and Johnson is available at No. 2, he does not slide to the third pick. Only the Lions, and primarily because of their past failures in the same scenario, would think twice and perhaps pass on a player that could push them to the next level.

    With one decision, Matt Millen can correct previous miscues in his reign, and lay the foundation for an exciting and promising future at the WR position in Detroit.

    Nate Caminata, publisher of the Roar Report, is an award-winning journalist and has written for numerous publications in both print and on the internet. He has covered the Detroit Lions for 10 years.

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