NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions catches a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter against Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Pride of Detroit is counting down the top 10 Lions players of 2012, as voted on by readers of the site. More than 400 ballots were submitted, and today we are taking a look at the No. 1 player on the list.
No. 1 - WR Calvin Johnson - 4,370 points (281 first-place votes)
Considering Calvin Johnson is one of the best players in all of football right now, it's only fitting that he is ranked first in the top 10 Lions of 2012. Coming into this, I was thinking that Matthew Stafford might be able to squeeze ahead of Johnson for the top spot, but that did not end up happening. Stafford put up a worthy fight with 4,259 points, but Johnson pulled away by 111 points thanks mainly to receiving 113 more first-place votes. Despite being left off one of the 457 ballots (by accident, I'm hoping), Johnson was the clear choice for No. 1 on this list.
Selected second overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Johnson made a name for himself as a rookie by gaining 756 yards on 48 receptions and having four touchdowns. A season later, now known as Megatron, Johnson put up 78 catches for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns despite being on a team that went 0-16. It was clear in '08 that the Lions had a potential superstar in their receiving corps, and in the coming years the word potential was dropped from the description.
Before realizing his potential in 2010, Johnson's numbers did take a step back in 2009. He only played in 14 games, and he wasn't able to come close to matching his career 2008 season. He ended up having 67 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns in another rough season for the Lions as a whole.
The story on Johnson and the Lions in general has been much different in the two seasons since then. In 2010, Johnson was named to his first career Pro Bowl thanks to putting up 77 catches for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 15 games. He started to take his game to a new level, and that became the theme of 2011. With a healthy Matthew Stafford for a change, Johnson shattered his previous career highs. He recorded 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he was once again named to the Pro Bowl.
Entering 2012, Johnson is one of the most popular players in the NFL. He is on the cover of Madden NFL 13 and was voted third in the top 100 players of 2012 by his peers. To say the least, the football world is now very familiar with Megatron, especially since he helped lead the Lions to their first playoff appearance in more than a decade.
With the 2012 season fast approaching, expectations are very high for Johnson. There is a lot of talk about the "Madden Curse," but on the cover or not, living up to the expectations placed on him won't be easy. It's going to be tough to duplicate a season of nearly 100 catches, more than 1,600 yards and an average of one touchdown a game. Then again, if anybody can do it, it's Megatron. He's faster and stronger than last season, according to Nate Burleson, and Johnson is not the kind of person who will let success go to his head. That's just not the way he is, which is why more big things are expected next season from the No. 1 Lion of 2012.
|Top 10 Lions of 2012|
|1.||WR Calvin Johnson (281)||4,370 points|
|2.||QB Matthew Stafford (168)||4,259 points|
|3.||DT Ndamukong Suh (4)||2,981 points|
|4.||LB Stephen Tulloch||2,190 points|
|5.||DE Cliff Avril (1)||2,014 points|
|6.||TE Brandon Pettigrew||1,256 points|
|7.||S Louis Delmas||1,230 points|
|8.||WR Titus Young||1,024 points|
|9.||K Jason Hanson (1)||750 points|
|10.||RB Jahvid Best||747 points|
Note: In the coming days we will take a look beyond the top 10 and examine all of the players who received a vote in this series.