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Mailbag: Is Lions' Calvin Johnson still NFL's top receiver?

The NFL offseason -- the true, actual, get-ready-for-camp offseason -- is finally here. Players, coaches and the media are resting before training camp begins next month.

That doesn't mean you don't have questions. So we'll take them in this week's Lions Mailbag. To ask questions for future mailbags, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter, email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com or shoot me a Facebook message here.

As a clerical note, the Lions mailbag will go away for the next couple of weeks as I'll be on vacation, but we'll do this again in the middle of July. So get your questions ready for them. For now, let's open this week's mailbag.

@mikerothstein: This is a tough question because it depends on his health. If Calvin Johnson is healthy, then he still has a strong case for being the top receiver in the game and could easily be considered the No. 1 receiver overall. Right now, however, I think it is a legitimate conversation between two guys, and arguments could be made for a handful of guys. In my opinion, the guy most in the conversation with Johnson is Dallas' Dez Bryant. The guy is special and has game-breaking ability. While he isn't the matchup nightmare Johnson is, his skills might be better than anyone else other than Johnson.

If I were starting a team, I would take Bryant over Johnson and here's why. He's younger, durable and is coming off three straight 1,200-yard-plus seasons. But it's close between the two of them, and right now it is a healthy Johnson narrowly edging Bryant. My other three? Denver's Demaryius Thomas, Atlanta's Julio Jones and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. Right behind those guys are three other NFC North receivers in Jordy Nelson, Alshon Jeffery and Randall Cobb. But Johnson and Bryant, in my opinion, are above any of those other guys.


@mikerothstein: It will depend on a lot of factors, starting with his health. Joseph Fauria only participated in individual workouts during the spring as he continues to recover from his ankle injuries suffered last year. If he's healthy, he'll have a role because he's a tall target with reliable hands who can run a little bit. He isn't the athlete Eric Ebron is or the blocker Brandon Pettigrew is, but Fauria can do both things, and that makes him valuable as a No. 3 combo tight end. Make no mistake, this is a big year for him in terms of showing what he can do and his future in Detroit.

@mikerothstein: Unlike the past couple of seasons, there are no clear-cut guys who are going to make the 53-man roster for the Lions that went undrafted in 2014. Detroit had Jerome Couplin and Cornelius Lucas last season and LaAdrian Waddle and Fauria in 2013. Because of depth, that potential lock just isn't there this year. If I were to pick guys who have a legitimate shot, I'd start at safety with Isaiah Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Brian Suite. Both were pretty good during the spring and made some plays. If either guy can make some standout plays on special teams in the preseason, that player could force Detroit to consider keeping five safeties. The other place I'd look is running back, where Desmond Martin and Zach Zenner could at least have a shot at a roster spot. Either guy would be the No. 4 back and would have to beat out George Winn, but special teams will be the key here. Of course, injuries could change this immensely, so keep an eye on things there once camp starts.

@mikerothstein: Kellen Moore is fighting for the No. 2 quarterback position behind Stafford with Dan Orlovsky. It will likely depend on what happens during the preseason and training camp practices, but it is a legitimate competition this season. Expect both Orlovsky and Moore to be on the roster backing up Stafford. The only question is the order.


Kevin from San Diego asks: Joe Lombardi found a lot of use for a second blocking tight end once Kellen Davis was active (he played 20 snaps a game on offense). Wouldn't it make sense to have a blocking tight end in reserve on the roster? All their reserves are in the Eric Ebron pass-catcher mode.

Rothstein: That's a completely fair question and something I wondered about as well. The easiest answer I could come up with is this: Brandon Pettigrew is going to be used as the blocking tight end as long as Eric Ebron or Joseph Fauria are healthy. The Lions can only carry so many tight ends and Pettigrew fits what they are doing there as a blocking tight end who can also catch passes. While the Lions likely won't say this, I will -- blocking tight ends will be out there during training camp and they'll be out there to sign in case of injury. You saw that in Kellen Davis last season. The other option for Detroit could be using a sixth offensive lineman as a blocking tight end in some sets. Detroit did that a little bit last year with Travis Swanson (and this year would be Manny Ramirez or Michael Williams, a converted tight end, if he makes the club). So those are the reasons, in my opinion, they won't go that way.