INDIANAPOLIS – The Detroit Lions have been busy over the first few days of the NFL Scouting Combine meeting with a number of different receivers who’ll be available in May’s NFL Draft.
Before it’s all said and done, the Lions just might meet with every receivers who’s down here in Indy.
It’s no secret general Manager Martin Mayhew is looking to reshape the Lions' receiving corps around
The process has already begun with the release of veteran Nate Burleson. Currently, the team has no other wide receiver besides Johnson under contract who had double-digit receptions in 2013. The team does plan to bring back exclusive right free agent
The unit needs reshaping and the Lions are doing a lot of homework down here in Indy.
They aren’t simply looking for a wide receiver to complement Megatron, either.
“We want guys that if, for whatever reason, Calvin’s getting doubled or he’s not playing in a particular game, can go out and make plays by himself,” Mayhew said.
“That was one of our things last year. I think when Calvin was injured, you know, we struggled offensively a lot of times to get off, the players to get off.”
The Lions scored just 22 points total in the two games that Johnson missed. He finished the year with more receiving yards than all the team’s other wide receivers combined.
“So, you know, we’re going to be looking for receivers that can win one-on-one battles, win one-on-one matchups and make plays down the field,” Mayhew said.
Any young receiver lucky enough to play along Johnson is going to see a lot of aforementioned single coverage. For some of the top receivers in the draft, playing alongside the best receiver in the game and seeing a lot of single coverage is a perfect situation.
“It would be very beneficial,” former Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans said.
Evans (6-5, 231) said it would be a good situation coming to a place like Detroit where he could help take the pressure of Johnson and he wouldn’t have as much pressure on himself.
A potential top-10 pick, Evans is working with Hall of Famer James Lofton on his route running and hopes to run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 to cement his status as a top pick.
Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery walked into a terrific situation in Chicago in 2012 as a second-round pick out of South Carolina. The Bears had Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, so the pressure wasn’t on Jeffery to carry the load right away.
Jeffery learned the ins and outs of the league his rookie season and got through some injuries. He then broke out in year two, catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns this past season and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Whoever the Lions add via the draft will be in a position to make a lot of plays as a rookie.
“It would be great working with the best guys,” Clemson’s Sammy Watkins said when asked about entering a situation like Detroit with a Pro Bowl-caliber player in Johnson. “You get that instant work ethic.
“I can get in the film room with him and he can break things down for me and help me out a lot and the transition would be much easier on me.”
Watkins is considered the best receiver available in the draft and definitely in play for the Lions with the No. 10 overall pick.
USC’s Marqise Lee, who, like Evans, is trying to prove he’s just the prospect Watkins is, said coming into a situation with an established receiver like Johnson would be an ideal scenario.
“Just try to help him out,” Lee said. “Calvin Johnson is an amazing receiver, as everyone knows. Just get a chance to get a little bit (of pressure) off him.
“Actually come in and actually do something when I first get in there. Take everybody’s eyes off him and really focus on me, so he can get what he’s got to get."