Two superstar wide receivers will demand early round love in 2010 drafts.
Larry Fitzgerald is considered one of the elite wide receivers in the NFL, but tight on his heels is a new wave of game-changing wide-outs. They are led by third-year stud Calvin Johnson, nicknamed "Megatron" for his freakish athletic attributes.
Is this the year that "Megatron" takes over the fantasy football world, or will Larry Fitzgerald continue to assume the role of "Optimus Prime" and thwart Johnson's attempts to assert himself as the new standard bearer of wide-outs?
Fantasy Football Trader's Jeremy Fischer (Fitzgerald) and Jon Rascon (Johnson) both present their cases in the following four-part slideshow. The case is presented with original arguments, as well as the opportunity for each person to respond to the other's statements in this debate over which wide receiver has more value in 2010.
When you're speaking of drafting studs at the top, you go with the surest thing you can get. In this year's draft, that would be Larry Fitzgerald.
Before you start your clamoring out there, yes, the quarterback change from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart will have an effect, but we have no idea what that effect will be.
Here is what is known about Fitzgerald: He's recorded over 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past three seasons (and four of the last five); he's still the No. 1 target in the Cardinals passing attack (no matter who is slinging the pigskin); and he's played in 15-16 games in all but one of the seasons he's been in the NFL (in 2003 he played in only 13).
That is as sure of a bet as you can get at the wide receiver position.
All successful teams know that in order to remain successful, they must evolve. Let me introduce you to "Megatron," the end result of the "WR evolution." Calvin Johnson is EVERYTHING you want in a wide receiver.
Size? 6'5" and 235 pounds. HUGE check.
Speed? He ran a 4.33 40. Another big time check.
Production? He's averaged 64 catches, 1024 yards and seven touchdowns over his first three years while missing time. Not many WRs out there that can trump that. Check.
Supporting cast? The strengths of last year's No. 1 pick, QB Matthew Stafford, play right into Calvin Johnson's strengths. This is a combination that will be as lethal as any in the league, bar none.
You want safe? How about a stud receiver entering his fourth year with a young, talented quarterback throwing him the rock on a team that is still experiencing growing pains elsewhere, thereby forcing them to air it out consistently? (Let me catch my breath here) Okay...Check!
His numbers point to something great on the horizon.
Over the second half of the season in 2009, Johnson garnered 87 targets from three different quarterbacks. There is no question that the passing game begins and ENDS with Calvin Johnson, regardless of who is throwing the ball.
But 2010 will be different, as Stafford will be back full-time, and more importantly, he'll already have his first year under his belt and his chemistry with “Megatron” will be much improved.
What this all means to you is that not only is Calvin Johnson ALREADY a safe top option, but he's still got upside like Fischer has "Crazy Train" takes.
So how can you possibly top that?
We're going to play that way? Alright.
First, I don't have "Crazy Train" takes. I have "Crazy Train Conductor" takes (i.e. Ochocinco). I have mad love for a human, not manufactured metal. If you're going to insult me, at least get the facts straight.
Secondly, manufactured metal reminds me that you need to look in the mirror. Did you see the insane amount of Transformers references you used in only five or six sentences in your intro? And you want to crack on me for too many repeated references? At least I have the decency to spread them out for the readers.
Now to the task at hand. While I grant you the numbers because, hey, numbers don't lie, we're talking about wide receivers here.
That means you have to take into account other players, i.e. quarterbacks that get them the ball, offensive lines protecting the quarterback long enough to throw the ball, running backs to help take pressure off the passing game, and fellow receivers that defenses need to concern themselves with.
Those last three are the problem.
I will concede that the difference between a second-year Matt Stafford and a crappy Matt Leinart is a wash. But Detroit's offensive line is awful and doesn't allow Stafford to get the ball to "Megatron." That won't change in 2010.
The Lions don't have another receiver, so defenses can double and triple-team Johnson as they did last season. And with Kevin Smith down for possibly all of 2010, there isn't a running game to take pressure off of the passing game. That is the main reason his receiving yards went from 1,331 in 2008 to 984 last year.
Here are some more numbers for you: 12 touchdowns in 2008, and only five last year. As you correctly noted, the Lions will have to pass a lot as they will be playing from behind again all season.
It sounds like a great situation for an aerial attack, but that just means pass-rushing defensive linemen, like Jared Allen, will constantly pin their ears back and come after Stafford, who could get hurt again this year.
Simply put, the Lions are going to have trouble getting your "Megatron" the ball.
There are no such problems in Arizona.
They have a good offensive line. The running game has Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. And Fitzgerald has Steve Breaston and Anquan Boldin, so defenses can't just gang up.
I'll take my chances with Fitzgerald and the Cardinals overcoming the "crap-tastic" Matt Leinart, before I'll chance it with the "black hole of problems" in Detroit.
What can I say, my sons both love them some Transformers, and yes, I’m kind of hoping they will vote for me based on me taking up for "Megatron."
That said, I can now focus my argument as to why EVERYBODY should vote for Calvin Johnson.
You alluded to the fact that Arizona has two decent, young running backs in Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. What you failed to mention is that Arizona is fast trending toward becoming a run-first team. And that has already begun to affect Fitzgerald.
I mentioned earlier that Johnson got 87 targets over the second half of the season last year. Fitzgerald had 66 targets during that same period after getting 87 targets over the first half of the season. Funny how that coincided with Wells’ emergence over the last part of the season, eh?
And that was with Kurt Warner at quarterback. Can you imagine how much more run-oriented the Cards are going to become once the "frat boy" Leinart takes over?
Oh, and just to further drive this point home, the Cards are looking at moving right tackle Levi Brown over to the left side and having an open battle for the right tackle position. Do you really think Arizona Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt is going to feel comfortable calling pass plays if he doesn’t have to?
While the Lions have an offensive line that was well, offensive at times in 2009, you can be sure that the Lions are going to want to protect their franchise QB/WR investment by bringing in reinforcements for the line.
It started a couple of years ago with Gosder Cherilus, and I imagine that the Lions’ 2010 draft strategy will include bringing in at least one, if not two, new faces to help give Stafford more time than he had in 2009. And let’s be honest, Stafford and Johnson will only need a few more seconds. Johnson is that freaky.
As far as Johnson’s 2009 numbers, he did miss three games, and yet still finished only 108 yards behind Fitz. In fact, if you compare stats over their first three years, you’ll see minimal difference between the two. MINIMAL!
Johnson accomplished everything with quarterbacks that some CFL teams wouldn’t touch. But now that Johnson has an emerging young quarterback by his side and an improving line, look for Johnson to really start utilizing his unlimited freakish natural abilities to the fullest. Even Fitzgerald won’t be able to keep up when this happens.
“Megatron” may have been a “Decepticon,” but there is no deception here. Simply stated, Calvin Johnson will outperform Larry Fitzgerald in 2010. Roll out!