Detroit's Calvin Johnson had some (very) good seasons going into the 2011 season. With elite size (6'5", 235 pounds) and athleticism, however, Megatron seemed capable of even more, especially with improved quarterback play (i.e., a more durable Matthew Stafford).
Not only did Stafford, the top overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, stay healthy for a full 16 games, he became one of only four quarterbacks in league history to throw for 5,000-plus yards.
Meanwhile, Johnson blew away his previous career highs. In 2011 (previous highs in parentheses), Johnson had 96 receptions (78) for a league-high 1,681 yards (1,331) and 16 touchdowns (12).
Only six players in NFL history had more receiving yards in a single season, and the only other player to ever finish with 1,600-plus yards and 16-plus touchdowns in the same season was Randy Moss (2003).
Johnson had a little bit of dry spell from Weeks 10 to 14—no 100-yard games and only one touchdown in those five games.
In his next (and final) four games counting the Lions' playoff loss, however, Megatron had three 200-yard games. During that four-game span, he had 36 receptions for 771 yards and six touchdowns!
As a comparison, Tampa Bay's Mike Williams had 771 yards and three touchdowns in the entire season.
Counting postseason games, there were only five 200-yard receiving games in all of last season. New England's Wes Welker (217 yards in Week 3) and Denver's Demaryius Thomas (204 yards in playoffs) were the other two players to have one 200-yard game.
Both Welker and Johnson had the most 100-yard regular-season games (eight), and Giants receiver Victor Cruz had seven of them. Going into 2012, Johnson expects more, many more, 100-yard games for himself.
"They're my personal goals, but it's always to do better than the year before. I feel like I can put up 100 yards every game. That's kind of a benchmark for me," Johnson said (via Brad Galli of WXYZ 7).
In addition to drafting Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles in the second round of this year's draft, the Lions have some other solid options at receiver, such as Titus Young and Nate Burleson. That said, Megatron is clearly the player that will be the target of all of the opposition's double coverage.
Hands down, Megatron goes into 2012 season as the clear No. 1 fantasy wide receiver, and it's not close. If Stafford stays healthy for a full season again, Johnson just may approach some of the league's single-season receiving records.
Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last year by all of the Lions opponents this year, Johnson and Lions receivers have one of the eighth-most favorable schedules from a fantasy perspective and the fourth-most favorable schedule in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
Johnson has set lofty goals for himself in 2012, but if there is a receiver in the league that can dominate week in and week out, it's him. Clearly the league's top receiver and with one of the league's top quarterbacks, Johnson has the potential for a record-breaking campaign.
The main question with Megatron is how early to draft him considering wide receiver is so deep. I would consider Megatron after the top three RBs (Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy) are off the board in standard-scoring formats and select him in point-per-reception (PPR) formats after those three backs if you are in a 12-team (or less) league.
Projection: (Receiving) 90 Receptions, 1,465 Yards, 13 TDs; (Rushing) 15 Yards
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