Despite catching 38 fewer passes for nearly 500 fewer yards than his record-breaking campaign in 2012, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson actually moved up a spot in the NFL players’ top 100 rankings. Johnson checked in at No. 2 on “The Top 100 Players of 2014,” which aired on the NFL Network yesterday. Johnson finished behind only Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the league’s reigning MVP, on the list. He was voted third the previous two seasons and landed at No. 27 in 2011. While Johnson deserved to be a top-5 player, I feel that he was not the second-best player of 2014.
To recap Johnson’s season, he battled through numerous injuries in 2013, which cost him two games, but still managed to haul in 84 balls for 1,492 yards and 12 scores. His most memorable performance from last season came in Week 7, when he recorded 14 receptions for 329 yards against the Dallas Cowboys, the second most in a single game in NFL history, but his inability to lead the Lions to the postseason should have led to a drop in the rankings instead of a move up.
With Detroit’s playoff lives up in the air, Johnson had three subpar games against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants, which led to Detroit’s 7-9 finish. He had no 100-yard receiving games, no touchdowns and his drops against Baltimore proved to be crucial in their Week 15 loss.
When I think of any player at the top of any list, I think of a player who was either able to lead their team to the postseason or overcome major circumstances around him in order to single-handedly carry his team, which players like New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 3) and Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 4) did. Brady led the Patriots to the AFC Championship game despite having marginal weapons at his disposal, while Peterson had another solid year for the Vikings despite poor quarterback play around him.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Johnson and how he plays the game, and he deserves to be a top-5 player. But I can’t rank him at No. 2 ahead of players like Brady, Peterson and even Eagles RB LeSean McCoy given what Johnson wasn’t able to do last year.