- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

With the potential for off-the-field shenanigans, on-field incompetence and just plain bad luck, there are no sure things in the NFL Draft, never a player who receives the perfect grade on a team’s draft board.

Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson is the closest thing this year to a sure thing.

He’s that big (6-foot-5, 239 pounds), that fast (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the NFL Combine) and that productive (28 touchdowns in three seasons).

“Not many people have my size, speed and strength,” Johnson said in February.

Johnson is expected to have an immediate impact regardless of where he’s drafted, be it first to Oakland, second to Detroit or fourth to Tampa Bay. The Washington Redskins (at No. 6) would love to move into position to draft Johnson but are unlikely to have enough to offer to appease the Raiders or Lions.

“The difficulty in picking apart this kid’s game is two-fold,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “Number one, he didn’t have a quarterback in three years. Secondly, you really can’t find a hole. I can find a hole with just about every big-name wide receiver in the last five years — too small, too big, wasn’t quick enough, was quick enough but wasn’t tough, etc.

“When you watch all of his tape, you go, ‘Are you kidding me?’ … His ball skills are similar to Larry Fitzgerald, but Calvin has more separation speed. So then I said, ‘He can’t be a good blocker.’ And he kills people in the run game. I’m amazed. I would love to give you a reason why he’s going to fail, but I just don’t see one.”

Although Johnson appears to be a star-in-waiting, taking a receiver in the top 10 has been dicey. In the last seven drafts, 13 receivers have been top-10 picks.

The disasters: Charles Rogers (No. 2 in 2003), Peter Warrick (No. 4 in 2000), Travis Taylor (No. 10 in 2000) and David Terrell (No. 8 in 2001). Koren Robinson (No. 9 in 2001) is serving a drug suspension.

The wait-and-sees: The 2005 class — Braylon Edwards (No. 3), Troy Williamson (No. 7) and Mike Williams (No. 10) — along with Roy Williams and Reggie Williams, taken seventh and ninth, respectively, in 2004.

The stars: Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 in 2004), Andre Johnson (No. 3 in 2003) and, to a lesser extent, Plaxico Burress (No. 8 in 2000).

“When I’m sitting around with other general managers and coaches, that’s one of the topics that we talk about — the success and failure of the receivers that come out,” said Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who drafted Taylor. “If you take a junior wide receiver, you’re taking a chance. We’ve had our failures with that. If you take a guy who has been there four years, then you’ve got a chance to maybe get a steal. I don’t think there’s a true formula with that.”

Johnson is in the mold of Fitzgerald but might be better. For the Yellow Jackets, Johnson had seasons of 48, 54 and 76 catches. Last season, he had 15 touchdowns in 14 games.

After Johnson, there won’t be a run on receivers until the middle of the first round. Ted Ginn Jr., Dwayne Bowe, Dwayne Jarrett and Anthony Gonzalez could all go in the first 32 picks.

Jarrett’s stock has slipped because of below-average 40-yard times (4.67 and 4.62 seconds), but he had 91 catches in 2005. He could be a gem like Anquan Boldin, who has two 100-catch seasons after falling to Arizona in the second round in 2003 behind such unforgettable names as Bryant Johnson, Taylor Jacobs and Bethel Johnson.

“We’ve seen repeatedly throughout the league players that don’t meet the ideal standard for speed or size and yet they turn out to be great players,” Arizona vice president of football operations Rod Graves said. “The way they play the game compensates for any lack of speed or size they possess.”

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