NFLN survey/franchise player: Lions

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
10:00
AM ET
When you look at the Detroit Lions, Calvin Johnson would probably be the one player whom you'd consider starting an NFL franchise with.

Johnson
He is not, though, the choice I'd make in any circumstance. The NFL is a quarterbacks league. Coaches are successes or failures based off of how good their quarterbacks are.

And while Johnson is a special talent, a once-in-a-lifetime talent on many levels, at this point he just wouldn't be a player with which to start a franchise. His age, 28, for a wide receiver is in the middle of a prime, which means you're probably only getting him for a few years at his top level.

There's also Johnson's health. He was hampered by knee injuries all season long, leading to at least a little bit of a concern about how long he'll be able to continue to play at the level he has been at over the past seven years. He had minor knee surgery last week and surgery on his finger this week, according to the Lions' official team reporter.

With 37 votes of the over 300 players polled for the NFL Nation Confidential survey, Johnson was the first non-quarterback on the list. He is one of two non-quarterbacks, joining Adrian Peterson, so that says something as well.

But Johnson, like Peterson, would be a risk. Receivers and running backs just don't have the shelf life of other positions, and that makes them more questionable to go with in this sort of poll.

It might change if everything were equal and everyone was the same age starting out. Then Johnson becomes more attractive and viable because you can pick up a quarterback in the second or third round of a hypothetical draft and be fine. He might even be the fourth or fifth person I'd pick behind Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

But he wouldn't be my first choice. Not in this NFL, where quarterbacks are the most important thing overall.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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