Friday, April 13, 2007

The Can’t Miss Kid…Right?

Anyone who is anyone, in the NFL-world, seems to be promoting Calvin Johnson as the ‘can’t miss kid’ of this draft. The prospect that is simply too good – even as a wide receiver – for any team to logically not select as a franchise-talent. No matter what you really need or what you already may have (or have recently drafted), the point is: you must draft Calvin Johnson. Right?

So in a little under three weeks, April 28th to be precise, it seems a done deal that whomever selects Calvin Johnson…has a stud for the next dozen-or-so years. And why wouldn’t you feel that way? Last season the junior wide receiver from Georgia Tech was nothing short of break-taking at times. Right?

Credit: CSTV

Junior Season: 76 receptions, 1202 yds, 15.8 yds/catch, and 15tds.

Pick-6 Marquee Games:

Notre Dame – 7 receptions, 111 yds, 1 TD [10-14 loss]
@ Va. Tech – 6 receptions, 165 yds, 2 TDs [38-27 win]

Miami – 5 receptions, 68 yards, 1 tD [30-23 win]
@Georgia – 2 receptions, 13 yds [12-15 loss]
ACC Title Game:
Wake Forest – 8 receptions, 117 yds [6-9 loss]
Gator Bowl:
West Virginia – 9 receptions, 186 yds, 2 TDs [35-38 loss]

Stats aren’t everything. Of course stats like these sure do help. Not to imagine a ridiculous combine. It’s all there it seems.

So it seems, according to all the real experts of note, this guy shouldn’t slip past the #1 draft pick. He is simply too fundamentally sound, too physically imposing, and too much of an amazing character-guy (I’ve even heard multiple sentiments reminiscent of, “TO’s talent without the attitude and the drops”) to even think about slipping through a team’s grasp. In fact, passing on him would be just as ridiculous as Houston not taking Vince Young or Reggie Bush. Right?

But before we anoint him the next #1, let’s take a closer look at the top 4 teams in the 2007 NFL Draft (as of now). We only stop at the 4th pick as it seems theoretically impossible that Coach John Gruden would ever dream of allowing Johnson to slip past him (if not trade up to select him earlier if he must). Right?

#1. Oakland Raiders
Current Wideouts on roster (of note): Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel and Alvis Whitted.
Why Draft Johnson: See those five above. Each has plenty to make you worry about, even before they step on the field. Moss is an enigma to himself, Porter wishes he was an enigma, Curry is off the field more than he’s on it, Gabriel lacks any separation, and Whitted is an overachiever as a #3-wideout (at best).
Why Don’t Draft Johnson: It’s time this team realized that stopgaps – Aaron Brooks – and prospects – Andrew Walter – aren’t the fix. Draft LSU’s Jamarcus Russell and then search for talent to surround him. You have Rhodes/Jordan and perhaps Moss can get behind the rookie. Don’t pretend that picking up Josh McCown or allowing Walter, who is sacked more than he throws the ball downfield, can automatically become playoff-ready QBs with the insertion of a freakishly talented wideout. Not unless you believe he can pancake three defenders before catching a 35-yard TD pass. Right?
Who Will They Draft: LSU’s Jamarcus Russell is who they should take. Fortunately, for once, the Raiders will do the correct thing. If they’re smart, they sit him a year and pick up another top pick.
Odds on Drafting Johnson: 15%. This number changes dramatically if the Raiders land a free-agent QB they like or trade for a young arm. While there has been a rise in second-tier QB talk as of late, the big guy from LSU is the best possible pick for a very, very bad team.

#2. Detroit Lions
Current Wideouts on roster (of note): Roy Williams, Mike Furrey, Mike Williams, and Shaun McDonald.
Why Draft Johnson: Forget about the past for a moment. Can you imagine what a lineup of Roy Williams & Calvin Johnson would mean for the Lions offense? Especially with an offensive guru, not genius, like Mike Martz calling the plays? Mike Williams can stay or go with that type of opening day duo. It’s hard to pass up that type of physical talent and incredible downfield-speed.
Why Don’t Draft Johnson: 3 straight 1st-round, top-tier wideout picks. Scorecard says the Lions are 1-2. That’s not a good track record to sell #4. Seriously, this team has zero reason to pick Johnson. Idiotically enough, they view John Kitna as the best option to move ahead…and win. Josh McCown couldn’t see a snap last year that meant a thing and it’s becoming more and more obvious the Lions enjoy being the laughing stock of the NFC.
Who Will They Draft: They’ll either trade down, as they don’t love anybody at #2, or take
Wisconsin all-world tackle Joe Thomas. Don’t let the experts fool you either, they loved Robert Galley (just about all of em) just as much as they love this Wisconsin Badger.
Odds on Drafting Johnson: 5%. Don’t fool out how moronic Matt Millen and the Ford Family truly are. Nevertheless, this seems like the perfect slot to trade down (let’s say with
Tampa or Denver) and wait to select Joe Thomas or Levi Brown later in the top-half of the first round. Although their flat-out denial of not drafting Brady Quinn doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take Russell, or I suppose…Johnson. Right?

#3. Cleveland Browns
Current Wideouts on roster (of note): Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, and ???
Why Draft Johnson: There is zero protection for teams quadruple-covering Braylon. That isn’t a good thing when your star wideout believes he’s twice as good as a twice-as-good-Jerry-Rice. Johnson and Edwards make an interesting pair who could be tandem Pro Bowlers for years to come. Even with Trent Green or Charlie Frye throwing them the ball.
Why Don’t Draft Johnson: Charlie Frye had his chance to impress…and didn’t. You take Brady Quinn, who for some reason wants to be a Brown, and hope for the best. Even if Russell slides, you can have fun picking one or the other. Either way, select a franchise QB. You haven’t had one since the middle ages.
Who Will They Draft: They may swap down a pick or two and get cute; however, the smart money is drafting hometown Ohioan Brady Quinn and appeasing the fans. This team has spent enough top picks on defensive people. Tim Couch’s memory can only be swept clear by drafting the Notre Dame all-world passer.
Odds on Drafting Johnson: 5%. I just don’t see this team passing up on Quinn or, if they couldn’t land either QB somehow, Adrian Peterson. Despite the talent, Johnson isn’t too good for them to pass up this season. If head coach Romeo Crenell and GM Phil Savage are absolutely desperate for their jobs, and thus avoid selecting a young QB, it still seems Peterson is the best fix over Johnson (at least in my opinion). Right?

#4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Current Wideouts on roster (of note): Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, Ike Hilliard, and Maurice Stovall.
Why Draft Johnson: He’s dynamic, a ticket-selling machine (or so everyone says), and Joey Galloway isn’t getting much younger. While Clayton has heavily regressed recently, a guy like Calvin Johnson would give this offense some much needed energy, speed, and playmaking ability. Jeff Garcia was brought in, for now I suppose, and Chris Simms has a two-year contract. A third QB might be too many cooks in one kitchen, while Gruden’s man-love for Johnson is far from hidden.
Tampa wants this guy. In fact, they appear to need him. Right?
Why Don’t Draft Johnson: The heart and soul of the
Tampa run to the Super Bowl was of course…their defense. Look at it now: sans-superstars and aging rapidly. It’s time to address that with some energy and some talent. Wouldn’t you know it: Gaines Adams of Clemson is a freakish talent who could become your next Simeon Rice for the next ten years. He has the speed and the size that makes him a gem at #4. Forget another wideout and rebuild the defense around a cornerstone pass-rushing end.
Who Will They Draft: Johnson. Simply put, they’ll run up to the podium, plant a kiss on his cheek, and start selling the jerseys as soon as they possibly can.
Odds on Drafting Johnson: 95%. The Bucs might not be able to pass up Russell, the only guy on their board that could potentially be ahead of Johnson, but most likely pass by Quinn. Ironically enough, with some work in front of them, they could miss out on the Big 3 of Russell, Quinn, and Johnson altogether. After the tears flow, I suppose they’d target trading down or Clemson’s Gaines Adams.

So there you have it. Perspective on the can’t-miss-kid.

But before I leave you, let’s take a brief look at the past 5 NFL Draft top-10 wideout selections. And yes, I know not all of them have the talent and freakish qualities that Johnson possesses; yet, remember that going top 10 – especially as a wideout – doesn’t make you chopped liver either. Right?

2006: None [Regarded as a wide receiver-depleted draft, Pittsburgh took Santonio Holmes with the 25th pick. Ironically enough, more wideouts – 33 – were drafted than any other position at the 2006 NFL Draft.]

2005: Three. [3rd Pick – Cleveland Browns selected the baby-enigma known as Braylon Edwards from Michigan. 7th Pick – Minnesota selected their “replacement” for Randy Moss in the form of Troy “Remember Me?” Williamson of South Carolina. 10th Pick – To nobody’s real surprise, remember it was Matt Millen, the Lions selected USC wideout Mike Williams. Detroit fans across the nation cheered this by the way. I wondered how DeMarcus Ware and Derrick Johnson didn’t punch a hole in their respective TVs. Oh yeah, they weren’t drafted by the Lions.]

2004: Three. [A tight end also was selected. K2, anyone? With the 3rd selection the Arizona Cardinals wisely selected Larry Fitzgerald out of Pitt. Detroit selected a wideout (shocker!), their only good one of the three, Roy Williams of Texas with the 7th pick. Jacksonville took perhaps the most panicked-reach of the young century by selecting Washington’s Reggie “No, not Roy” Williams.]

2003: Two. [The 2nd pick, belonging to your Detroit Lions, was used on can’t-miss-Spartan Charles Rodgers. What a steal! The 3rd pick, from the lowly Houston Texans, was spent on Andre Johnson out of the U. Which is also known as Miami to you non-experts and Nike shoe-salesman.]

2002: None. [I love remembering this draft, particularly for Kansas City sprinting past the late Vikings to draft Ryan Simms. Yeah, that Ryan Simms.]

Until next time…


Armin said...

Great analysis Clement.

With Pasquerelli and Mortenson both claiming that Calvin Johnson is well ahead of Jamarcus Russell on the Raiders draft chart, and Favre claiming that Moss will be a Packer in '07, there is legitimate doubt about who will be the #1 pick.

Johnson reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald, as he excites me THAT MUCH as a prospect. However, I fear there are many similarities (style?) to Charles Rogers. I think it all depends on where his head is at (probably the huge difference between Fitz and Rogers).

Let's say the Raiders go for Johnson. Do the Lions pass on Russell?

Anonymous said...

The Lions will pass on Russell should Oakland take Johnson. Quinn is probably graded higher by them and fits into their offense better.

Chris Clement said...

I doubt the Lions pass on Russell if he slips to #2, at least in favor of Quinn. Even with the money needed for a QB at #2 and their history with drafting Joey Heisman, Russell may be too good for them to pass up. Most experts, at least the dozen-or-so I read, seem to be in consensus that Detroit is NOT drafting Brady Quinn (whether or not Russell or CJ goes at #1). Of course, it's likely that Detroit tries to trade down, no matter what happens OR takes Clemson pass rushing specialist Gaines Adams or Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas with the second pick. Or so I suppose.