What if Calvin Johnson is lost for the season?
By Matt Waldman
September 2nd, 2012

What if John Madden mistakes Calvin Johnson's thigh for a turducken?

Calvin Johnson is physically the most dominant receiver in football. He has the agility of a 200-pound receiver and the physicality of a power forward and tight end combined into a frame that makes most defensive backs feel a sudden urge to empty their bladders. If Johnson is lost for the season, the Lions have enough weapons to remain a productive fantasy offense, but dominant play is unlikely.


Titus Young, WR The third-year receiver from Boise State has been dominant in training camp. He's stylistically similar to DeSean Jackson, but more physical after the catch. Young has blinding quickness, excellent deep speed, and terrific skill in open space. He and Matt Stafford established a rapport during Young's rookie year and that connection demonstrated incremental development down the stretch. Young should see a lot of single coverage with Calvin Johnson on the field. And until Young can prove he's good enough to warrant bracket coverage, Young will continue to see these looks after Johnson is hurt. There will still be enough single coverage opportunities to acquire Young after Johnson goes down, especially off play action. Expect WR2 production from Young if his scenario happens.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE the lack of proven weaponry on the perimeter will make Pettigrew a more targeted player if Johnson gets hurt. Pettigrew is a consistent safety blanket with big-play upside as a seam player and red zone threat. This team could opt for more play action involving the tight end if Johnson is lost for the year. This could make Pettigrew a fantasy player closer to the top-tier starters than many may realize.


Kevin Smith, RB Jahvid Best is still an uncertainty to play this season, and certainly to see the field as a starter, so Smith is the most versatile and consistent threat this team has in the backfield. Without Calvin Johnson and before Titus Young proves his meddle, opposing defenses will make the Lions offense earn its yards on the ground. If that's the case, Smith is the player to own. He's a tough, agile runner with a style similar to Marcus Allen: stronger than you think, slippery, and capable of big plays once he's in the second level.

Nate Burleson, WR Burleson is an exceedingly frustrating player. He was known as a good route runner, reliable pass catcher, and good ball carrier in open space when he entered the league with the Vikings. However, he's been up and down his entire career. He tends to disappear and or disappoint for stretches every year. I wouldn't blame you for selling him if there's a buyer before you have to rely on him.


Jahvid Best, RB If you drafted Best as anything other than a late-round flier it will be difficult for us to convince you that he's not worth the patience your exhibiting with him. However, if you come to your senses that Best is like a pinball machine that goes tilt at the most inopportune and unlikely moments then maybe you can sell him to another owner with Pollyanna flights of the third-year Cal runner proving the doubters wrong. Of course, you'll need someone like me in league and there's usually only two of us, at most.

Ryan Broyles, WR The rookie from Oklahoma is a dynamic player and will probably become a popular waiver wire selection if Johnson is hurt midseason. Coming off an ACL tear and entering a new offense, Broyles will probably be two steps slower than he should. If you add him, sell him to the highest bidder and be glad you did. He's a nice dynasty stash, but a productive rookie year will be a major surprise.


Tony Scheffler, TE The Lions could opt for more two-tight end sets and use Scheffler as the slot player of choice. The former Broncos tight end seems to thrive in that role and Stafford trusts him enough to target in these situations, especially in the red zone.


Stefan Logan, RB/WR He's a good kick return specialist that many writers will recommend as a sneaky waiver wire pick. It's a glaring overstatement to say that he's overrated.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to waldman@footballguys.com.

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