Without a doubt, Calvin Johnson is one of the best wide receivers in NFL history, and definitely recent history. The Georgia-born, Georgia Tech product totaled 11,619 yards, 83 touchdowns and had three First-team All-Pro selections with the Detroit Lions.
The future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver recently joined former Lions safety Glover Quin in a video interview via Quin’s YouTube channel, “The DB Room.” His teammate asked if he had a chip on his shoulder since he was selected No. 2 overall instead of No. 1.
“Sitting there leading up to the draft, I am like shoot — boy, I hope I go to Atlanta,” Johnson said. “Played my high school ball, played my college ball right here and then, playing in the NFL right here. That would be the best little thing ever. Atlanta got No. 7 — I might not be there. I hope they trade up to get me.”
Although it means nothing in the real world, it’s fun to consider the “what if” factor of the situation. What would have happened if the Falcons moved up and selected Johnson, as many Falcons fans hoped in 2007?
First we must look at the reality of the position the Falcons were in at the time. In 2006, the Falcons top receiving option was tight end Alge Crumpler and wide receiver Michael Jenkins. A young, still unproven Roddy White was on the roster but I imagine they didn’t know what they had at the time. The Falcons had the 8th overall selection, so a move-up wouldn’t have been out of the question.
That offseason, the Falcons received the Houston Texans’ 2007 first and second-round selections (8th and 39th) as well as their second-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft in exchange for the Falcons first-round pick in 2007 (10th) and quarterback Matt Schaub. Could they had sent those picks, and maybe more, to the Lions for a trade-up?
Well, they didn’t. The Falcons stood pat at 8th, selecting defensive end Jamaal Anderson and at 39th taking offensive guard Justin Blalock. Blalock went on to start 125 games in Atlanta and was one of the team’s better guards in recent memory, while Anderson went on to record just 4.5 sacks in 60 games with the Falcons and go down as one of the most disappointing draft picks of the past 20 years. It only adds to it that “Megatron” visited the Falcons last year on the final day of minicamp, and had many hoping he would unrealistically come out of retirement, which obviously never happened.
There’s little question that Johnson would’ve been everything in Atlanta that you would’ve hoped for, and he might have stuck around longer than he did in Detroit if the Falcons had been about as good as they were without him. Drafting him may have led to Roddy White having a smaller role and never fully breaking out, however, and may have meant no Julio Jones in Atlanta. That passing game undoubtedly still would’ve been very good, but it would’ve been different, too.
Overall, the thought of Calvin Johnson suiting up in Atlanta would’ve been fun, but it doesn’t matter now. We have our own future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver in Julio Jones that we have been blessed with these many years.