You know you want this guy on your team. How high do you take him?
Players Only Play One Game at a Time
For a player to record a 2,000-yard season, he needs to average 125 yards per game. Johnson reached 125 yards five times in 2011 (including the playoffs).
But he also topped 200 yards in three of his final four games of the year.
In those four games, Johnson snatched 36 passes for 771 yards and seven touchdowns. That projects to 144 catches (which would also break an NFL record), 3,084 receiving yards and 28 scores.
Makes 2,000 sound a lot more attainable, doesn’t it?
The Opportunities are There and There’s Still Room for Them to Grow
Johnson is obviously a No. 1 NFL WR and a big play threat, but he didn’t lead the NFL in percentage of team targets.
He’s probably the league’s biggest mismatch, but he ranked just 11th in the NFL in percentage of team targets commanded during 2011. And he played 16 games.
Let’s say Johnson’s ratio climbs to third in the league, but the Lions regress to throwing 40 times a game (640 through the season). Assuming his catching rate and yards per reception stay the same, Megatron would collect 110 receptions for 1,926 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Also very close to 2,000.
His Quarterback Situation is Secure
In 2008, Johnson posted his second-best season as a pro. In what was his first 16-game campaign, he caught 78 passes for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns.
That was with a band of backups playing quarterback in Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, Drew Stanton, and a declining Daunte Culpepper.
The Lions went 0-16 that season.
Detroit drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford from Georgia with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. But Stafford and Johnson failed to create 16 games of magic as the Georgia product missed more games (19) than he played (13) through his first two seasons.
Stafford played in his first full 16-game slate in 2011.
He’s Getting Better
Remember the last four games of 2011 stat from earlier? That shows statistical improvement throughout the course of the season.
Calvin Johnson has also improved throughout the course of his career.
Since playing 14 games in 2009 (his first year with Stafford), Johnson has increased his games played, receptions, yards and touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.
That pattern continued despite a 2010 season in which Stafford played three games.
If Johnson continues to improve at the same rate, he’s in line for a regular season consisting of 115 catches, 2,197 receiving yards and a ridiculous 28 touchdowns.
Where to Draft Megatron
It’s clear that Calvin Johnson has first-round fantasy potential. Last season, he outscored the second-best WR in standard scoring (Jordy Nelson) by 2.75 fantasy points per game.
Where would you take Calvin Johnson in your fantasy draft?
Rob Gronkowski scored 2.88 fantasy points per game more than second-place tight end Jimmy Graham. However, he will have to compete with New England Patriots free-agent addition Brandon Lloyd for targets.
If we knew he was going to post a 2,000-yard season in 2012, Megatron would likely be the No. 1 overall pick.
In leagues that require owners to start three WRs, he might still be worth the No. 1 overall pick despite this year’s depth at wide receiver.
But with the uncertainty surrounding the running back position in this year’s drafts, a couple of rushers (LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster) may go ahead of him in leagues with a flex position.
I would expect Johnson to be off the board by the No. 4 or No. 5 overall pick in ten-team drafts this year, following McCoy, Foster, Rodgers and/or Ray Rice.