Lions Select Calvin Johnson With 2nd Pick

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Another draft, another wide receiver for the Lions.
Detroit selected Georgia Tech junior Calvin Johnson on Saturday with the second overall pick, making it four out of five drafts in which the Lions took a wideout in the first round.
It's hard to argue with the choice of Johnson, though.
Known as "Spider-man" because of his height and amazing set of hands, many considered him the best prospect in this year's draft class. The Lions spurned trade offers from teams that coveted Johnson and wanted to move up to get him.
Team president Matt Millen said it would have taken "a lot of picks" to force him to trade out of the second slot.
Millen said he considered a number of others -- including Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas, Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson -- but they didn't measure up.
"None of them compared to Calvin Johnson," he said. "Calvin Johnson is in a class by himself."
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz went as far as to say that Johnson was the best wide receiver prospect he had seen coming out of college.
And Johnson had glowing things to say about Martz as well.
"He's ecstatic, just like me," Johnson said of Martz. "Like I said, I'm going to be in a good situation."
The Lions were the first team since the NFL and AFL merged drafts in 1967 to take a wide receiver in three straight first rounds. Charles Rogers (2003) and Mike Williams (2005), sandwiched around the skilled Roy Williams (2004), were busts.
Millen insisted in the days before the draft that the past wouldn't scare him away from taking another first-round receiver this year.
And he was quick to try and head off his critics when discussing the pick at the team's headquarters in Allen Park.
"Calvin Johnson is going to team with the rest of this offense and turn it into one of the most dynamic offenses in this league. I firmly believe that," Millen told reporters. "You can scoff at it if you like. I really don't care, because I think it's going to happen."
Johnson stands 6-foot-4 and weighs just under 240 pounds; that size, coupled with his strength, allows him to close off defenders in traffic. He ran a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He can defeat press coverage and outrun most defenders, and is tough to bring down after the catch.
"I told him when he was here (for a pre-draft visit) that he wouldn't get past (No.) 2," Millen said. "This guy is the real deal."
Last season, Johnson won the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation's top collegiate receiver. He finished 10th in balloting for the Heisman Trophy and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference's player of the year.
As a junior, he caught 76 passes for a school-record 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns. For his three-year career in Atlanta, Johnson had 178 receptions for 2,927 yards and 28 TDs.
Yellow Jackets coach Chan Gailey used Johnson as a flanker and as a slot receiver.
Martz said he expected Johnson would line up in some offensive sets as the "Z" receiver alongside established veteran Mike Furrey and opposite Williams.
Johnson's pre-draft visit to Detroit sealed the deal, Millen said. All of the players and team personnel who met with him were impressed by how he carried himself.
One of Johnson's only potential negatives going into the draft even turned into a positive.
A published report said Johnson, Adams and Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye acknowledged at the scouting combine that they previously had used marijuana. The reaction was largely positive, however, with some observers lauding the honesty of the trio.
Johnson, a 21-year-old resident of Tyrone, Ga., said Saturday that drug use no longer is an issue with him.
"That was when I was young in college, so I don't mess with it anymore," he said.
Thomas and Okoye also were top-10 selections on Saturday.
The Lions are an NFL-worst 24-72 since 2001, when Millen took over in Detroit -- a stretch of futility that compares only to Tampa Bay's 12 straight double-digit loss seasons from 1983-94 in league history.
After the Lions selected Johnson, they settled down to use their remaining picks to help fill their many holes. Detroit entered the weekend with four fifth-round picks, assets that could be used to add depth or to make moves for higher picks.
The team has lost 75 percent of its games since Millen began running the franchise, in large part because nearly half of his first-round picks have been busts.
Rogers and 2002 top pick Joey Harrington were cut and traded, respectively, last year. Mike Williams might not make it to a third season in Detroit.
"The last few years it may not have worked out, but I'm sure my situation will," Johnson said.


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