EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Leading up to the announcement of the Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2021 Saturday, Gosselin will resurrect the college scouting reports of some of the top candidates. Up first, former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, a first-ballot candidate.
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Johnson played three seasons at Georgia Tech, leaving after his junior season as the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,927), touchdowns (28) and 100-yard games (13). He won the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football in 2006. Then he went to the NFL combine and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at 6-5, 239 pounds. Gosselin ranked him No. 1 on his Top 100 board for the 2007 NFL Draft and considered him one of the few "perfect prospects" in the 20 years he spent working drafts. Johnson was drafted by the Detroit Lions second overall. The Oakland Raiders took LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell at 1.
Here are comments on Johnson from 11 talent evaluators leading up to the 2007 NFL draft:
General manager I: best pure talent in the draft in terms of size for the position, skills, instincts, work ethic and ability to dominate at his position.
WR coach: #1 player in the draft. A giant. Knows how to work the fades, maneuver the DBs, plays hard all the time. Good adjustments on routes. Blocks, turns up after he catches. Like Roy Williams coming out but bigger. Much bigger.
Head coach I: Freak. He has no comparison. Best I’ve ever seen coming out. He’s better than Roy Williams, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald. He blocked a West Virginia kid, stuck him in the ground and the kid’s lying there with broken ribs.
WR coach II: #1 player in draft. When I watched him as a true freshman, I thought this guy can play right now. Freak. Cross between Moss & Owens. Except he’s bigger & faster. Understands defenses. Maybe the comparison is Harold Carmichael, who was the big receiver but wasn’t as fast as this kid.
Scout: Better kid than he is a player. Off the charts. Intelligent…he’s everything. Great with kids, great with everyone. Eight steps faster than Harold Carmichael. I hope for the kid’s sake he’s not the first pick and goes to Oakland.
Offensive coordinator: Had an awful QB throwing to him. If he had guy shooting BBs at him every day he’d have really done something coming out. To pop up and run the 40 like he did (at the combine) in someone else’s shoes? Wow. Just a freak.
Personnel director I: You don’t see the 4.3 very often. But he’ll catch the quick screen and get 8-10 (yards). Doesn’t score on the 40-50-yard catches but he makes a lot of plays. Fabulous in red zone with that 42 ½-inch vertical. Don’t know how Detroit can trade out.
Personnel director II: Best player in draft.
Personnel director III: How much better will Johnson be statistically than Marques Colston? Does he have 30 TD capability? He’s a great player – but how much impact can he have?
Head coach II: He’s got everything and he’s clean.
General manager II: No DB in the Southeast in the last two years has been able to cover him – and we’ve judged every DB who’s come out in the last two years against this guy.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Johnson lived up to his scouting hype, picking up the nickname “Megatron” in his rookie year. He played only nine seasons (2007-2015) but went to the Pro Bowl in six of them and was a first-team all-pro in three of them. Despite playing only six seasons in the 2010 decade, he was voted first-team all-decade. Johnson led the NFL with 122 catches in 2012 and set the NFL record for yardage in a single season with 1,964 that year. He retired as Detroit’s all-time leader in catches (73), yards (11,619), touchdowns (83), 10-yard games (46) and 200-yard games (5).