The Rise of Megatron: The Best Receiver They Don't Know

Kyle GibbonsAnalyst IIIMay 21, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Wide Receiver, Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions at the 2007 NFL Players Rookie Premiere on May 19, 2007 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Having only missed four games since being drafted second overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Calvin Johnson has become the beacon for a Lions organization fumbling through the darkness. 

Coming out of Georgia Tech, Calvin Johnson was hyped as the best wide receiver talent of all time.

Coupled with his team first demeanor, explosive big play ability, remarkable body control and exceptional hand eye coordination, Johnson was thought to step into Detroit with the similar impact that Randy Moss had in Minnesota his rookie year in ’98.

At nearly 6-foot-6 and 236 pounds, Calvin Johnson registered a 4.35 40-yard dash time, accompanied with a 44½-inch vertical jump.

In comparison, at 5-foot-9 and 169 pounds, Philadelphia Eagles superstar burner DeSean Jackson registered a similar 4.35 40 yard dash time, accompanied with a 34½ inch vertical jump.

It’s these attributes that led former first-round pick and teammate Roy Williams to nickname Johnson “Megatron” of Transformers lore in comparison to the Decepticons' towering size and power.

In only being selected to one Pro Bowl in his four-year career, Calvin Johnson has been largely overlooked, and vastly underrated by the media and casual fans alike. 

That thought has been lost on the NFL’s Defensive Coordinators who spend countless hours shifting coverage’s, and altering blitz packages in their defensive schemes to “manage” Calvin Johnson.

“Height, raw speed, jumping ability, that’s Calvin. People are seeing how good he is now, he’s a beast.”- Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator, Rod Marinelli.

In 2010 New England Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick said “He’s never covered. It’s like Shaquille O’Neal going up for a rebound against two point guards.”

As a rookie in 2007 Calvin Johnson was listed second on the Detroit Lions depth chart at wide receiver, behind 2004 1st round pick Roy Williams. Between 2003 and 2007, a span of five years, the Detroit Lions selected four wide receivers in the first round.

The Lions scoured the NCAA for collegiate superstar wide receivers gathering the likes of Charles Rogers in ’03, Roy Williams in ‘04, Mike Williams in ‘05, and Calvin Johnson in ’07. It didn’t take Detroit Lions brass long to realize after drafting Calvin Johnson that they had finally found their guy.

Injuries, drugs, and a pair of bad work ethics attributed to the departure of Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, and in 2008 an expendable Roy Williams was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a 1st, 3rd and 7th-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Since 2007, a span of four NFL seasons Calvin Johnson has caught passes from six different Detroit Lions quarterbacks. Whether it was due to injuries or just plain lack of talent, Johnson has spent the majority of those four seasons as the Detroit Lions only real threat on offense.

In a division that features the NFL powerhouse Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears, and the Minnesota Vikings, Calvin Johnson has held his own. Through four NFL seasons "Megatron" has compiled nearly 4,200 yards receiving and 33 touchdowns.

In his last 31 games alone, Johnson has scored and/or had 100 yards in nearly half of them (10 of 16 in 2010.) He is the number one option in a Lions offense in which he has produced big stats regardless of who is under center.

Former NFL Defensive Player of The Year Charles Woodson is one elite defensive back that has been left helpless in trying to solve the “Calvin Effect.”  Johnson scored twice against the Packers with Woodson in man coverage in the 2008 regular season affair in which Johnson ended the afternoon with 129 yards receiving.  

Since 2007, Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions have hosted or traveled to Green Bay for a total of eight regular season games. Of those eight games against the likes of elite talents Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, and Nick Collins, due to injuries Johnson has played in just over six.

Facing double coverages and shorted quarterback drops, amazingly Calvin Johnson has amassed over 500 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns.  

Detroit’s young gun Matthew Stafford has developed a great chemistry with Calvin Johnson. Unfortunately in 2010, for the second year in a row, Detroit’s promising young quarterback had his year cut short due to injury.

This time, however, he was taken out in the first game of the season and would wind up seeing the field just two more times during the course of the year.

It’s no coincidence that “Megatron” would have his best game of 2010 during one of those two weeks as the rapport between the two was on par with the best in the league.

If Stafford can stay healthy there is no doubt in my mind that Calvin Johnson will finish the 2011 in being recognized as the premier receiving talent in the league.

It isn’t too far off to believe that “Megatron” ends the season with at least 1500 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns. 

Regardless of statistics, wins, or losses, 2011 is the year that Calvin Johnson becomes a household name.