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Shutdown Corner

Calvin Johnson didn’t get a unanimous All-Pro nomination. Why? Not enough ‘wins’

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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The process of voting for any sort of All-Star or All-Pro team is subjective at best, and that's generally what makes it so interesting. People bring different opinions and biases to the table, arguments ensue and discussion of the games we love is forwarded. However, there are times when nominations for such teams are so patently ... well, weird ... they certainly come into question.

When we wrote up the 2012 All-Pro team yesterday, we wondered who on earth would refuse to vote for Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who set the NFL's single-season receiving yardage record for a Detroit Lions team that finished 4-12 in a very disappointing season. Johnson finished with 49 votes, one short of the same unanimous status given to Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Thanks to the SportsXchange, we now know who didn't vote for Megatron, and we know why: It was Tim Ryan of FOX Sports and SIRIUS NFL Radio. Ryan's logic seems somewhat sound on first look, we suppose, but the math really doesn't add up.

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"Of course he had a great year and he is a great receiver, but I look at more than statistics and I thought a couple of other receivers had a better season, Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green," Ryan said.

"Johnson was targeted a lot and was often the only thing the Lions had going, but he also dropped a lot of passes and they did lose 12 games. I felt Marshall helped Chicago win games and Green helped Cincinnati win games. I think that is more important than statistics."

Hmmm. Well, let's look at this. Johnson caught 122 passes on 203 targets for 1,927 yards and finished first overall in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics. That number of targets was the most in the league, and given the fact that Detroit didn't have anything even remotely resembling a mid-tier second receiver, Johnson was the primary focus of every opposing defense. Per Pro Football Focus' charting, Johnson dropped 14 passes in the season, while Marshall dropped 13 and Green dropped 10 -- both on fewer targets. If you look as the percentage of drops on what PFF calls catch-able passes, Johnson's 10.29% Drop Rate isn't much more offensive than Marshall's 9.92, or Green's 9.35.

And while we're on the subject of catch-able passes, let's add the fact that Megatron had a historic season without a run game to speak of, and a quarterback in Matthew Stafford whose mechanical issues led to some major brain-freezes in the 2012 season. Stafford had more than his share of raging dumpster fires in 2012 -- three-pick games against the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals, and 11 games in which he threw either one or no touchdown passes.

Well, isn't that partially Johnson's fault that Stafford didn't have more scores? Not really. Johnson caught just eight -- EIGHT! -- passes inside the opposing 20-yard line all season. He wasn't targeted 50 times, let's put it that way.

On to the subject of "receiver wins." How about the overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans, when the Lions game up 44 points and Johnson caught 10 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown? Or the loss to the Colts, in which that same Lions team gave up 35 points, and Johnson caught 13 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown? Johnson caught 10 or more passes in six different games in the 2012 NFL season, and the Lions lost every single one.

Perhaps Marshall and Green were better able to "help" their teams win because their teams had defenses and special teams units that weren't getting killed every single week. Just a thought. Perhaps that is also more important than statistics.

Again, the voting process is subjective. But when you get the feeling a guy is voting against just to vote against, that's a problem that should also be discussed. Whether you're using stats or not, denying Calvin Johnson a unanimous All-Pro nomination should be based on more than how a receiver -- or any single player in the ultimate team sport -- helps a team win games.

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