XN Sports February Mock Draft: The Fall of Megatron

The Lions forcefed him in a desperate and ultimately meaningless push for the NFL receiving record, Matthew Stafford’s mechanics make him a mediocre signal caller, and, well, 2012 was a whole lot of luck: These are the reasons Calvin Johnson is inexplicably trickling out of the first rounds of fantasy football’s earliest mock drafts.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson 81 during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field Mandatory Credit Tim Fuller USA TODAY Sports

Call these reasons misinformed, misguided, or downright dirty lies. Whatever they are, they’re wrong, and it’s made the best receiver of a generation a fantasy football bargain, a phenomenon that’s altogether infuriating and welcomed.

It’s early – way too early, maybe – but countless thousands of mock drafts have been held over these two dark weeks since the end of meaningful football, giving owners at least a hazy picture of where player values stand six full months until fantasy drafts kick off in earnest.

I hosted a mock draft Feb. 13 for the ruthless, whip-wielding overlords who rule the Sports Jerks Network, and found that while the draft positions of soon-to-be free agents like Reggie Bush, Dwayne Bowe, and Steven Jackson were meaningless, it was important to take note of emerging trends in the first couple rounds. All but a few of those players have steady fantasy value that likely won’t jump or dip in the spring and summer, barring catastrophic injury or blockbuster deals, of course.

More than owners’ tepidness on Jamaal Charles or bullishness on Arian Foster or insistence on taking quarterbacks in the first 20 picks, the selection of Calvin Johnson with the 15th overall pick was the most perplexing, comical, informative part of the mock draft.

Owner after owner passed on the only guy who has claim to his very own fake football rankings tier.

Here were the first two rounds of the Sports Jerks Network mock – the first of many this winter and spring.

Round 1

1 – Adrian Peterson
2 – Arian Foster
3 – LeSean McCoy
4 – Marshawn Lynch
5 – Ray Rice
6 – Chris Johnson
7 – Doug Martin
8 – Matt Forte
9 – Aaron Rodgers
10 – C.J. Spiller
11 – Jamaal Charles
12 – Tom Brady

Round 2

1 – Trent Richardson
2 – Rob Gronkowski
3 – Calvin Johnson
4 – Darren McFadden
5 – Frank Gore
6 – Alfred Morris
7 – DeMarco Murray
8 – Jimmy Graham
9 – Maurice Jones-Drew
10 – Drew Brees
11 – Lamar Miller
12 – Stevan Ridley

My corporate masters at Sports Jerks agreed to invite readers to participate in our monthly mock drafts because documenting how they value (and devalue) players is more important than how fantasy writers make their judgments. Unless you’re in a league brimming with fantasy nerds who dispatch 500 tweets about fake football in the middle of February, these sort of mocks will be far more indicative of how your arch nemeses are preparing for draft day. Keep reading your favorite fantasy scribblers, of course, but remember that writers-only mock drafts aren’t reflective of how most drafts will go in 2013.

Megatron’s fall down the draft board in our first mock of 2013 wasn’t an anomaly. The guy who caught 122 balls for 1,964 yards has an average draft position of 2.02.

Try not to tear open your shirt in a fit of Biblical rage here: Calvin Johnson is currently the third wide receiver off the board, three picks behind A.J. Green and four picks behind Demaryius Thomas, according to Fantasy Football Calculator’s 2013 ADP report.

I mentioned Megatron’s plunge into the second round on Twitter last week, and outside a few indignant responses (saying, correctly, that he should’ve gone in the middle or late first round), tweeps sort of shrugged their collective shoulders. Let’s address the three most common excuses for passing on Megatron in the first round.

  • The Lions forcefed Johnson the football late in the season as he pursued Jerry Rice’s yardage record. Sure, that happened, but that doesn’t explain these early season target numbers: 12 targets at Tennessee in Week 3, 12 targets at Philadelphia in Week 6, and 12 targets at Chicago in Week 7. Johnson will always gets the ball by the bushel full because he’s the most dangerous weapon in football, and his coaches (and quarterback) recognize as much. There’s no reason to think the chase for Rice’s record artificially inflated his 2012 numbers.
  • Matthew Stafford sucks. It’s true: Stafford didn’t throw for 7,000 yards and 67 touchdowns like you had projected in August. Oh, and he throws sidearm sometimes, which makes him the worst quarterback ever, according to the TV. Here’s what should matter to you, as a soulless fantasy owner who dehumanizes players by viewing them as commodities to be bought and sold: Stafford threw 663 passes in 2011 and 727 passes in 2012 (57 more than any other QB), he can make any throw on the field, and he’s ready and willing to toss up jump balls for Megatron if he gets even a whiff of single coverage. This argument against Johnson makes me want to punch myself in the face much more than the others.
  • Calvin Johnson was lucky in 2012: Wrong. Again. Megatron was incredibly unlucky in his record-shattering campaign. You know how I know? One hundred and ninety-nine passes came his way in 2012 and he came down with five touchdowns. Megatron was tackled inside the two yard line six times last season. Do you realize what this means? Do you? Because I think you might not. It means Johnson is, yes, a regression candidate in 2013, meaning he’s due to regress toward the touchdown-scoring mean, meaning you’re the utter opposite of correct when you say Johnson was lucky in 2012, and that you’re making a monumental mistake by letting him plunge into the second round of fantasy drafts.
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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.