Replacing Calvin Johnson could add pressure for possible Lions rookie WRs

"It wouldn't be any pressure on me," Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell said of replacing Calvin Johnson. Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Detroit Lions insist there is no deadline for Calvin Johnson to make his retire-or-return decision, even if it leaks into the new league year next week.

While there are a lot of ramifications for the Lions the longer Johnson waits, the biggest one might be an increased reliance on the draft to try and replace the legendary receiver should he wait and then decide to hang it up.

Replacing Johnson, though, is not a new conversation.

The question of who would follow the NFL's single-season receiving yards record holder has been around the past few years. As Johnson began to get closer to age 30 and his body started to break down a little bit, it began to be more serious.

With it could come more pressure if the Lions took a receiver early in the draft.

"That would be a lot of pressure coming from the fans," Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller said. "Losing Calvin Johnson and drafting a receiver, all of the things that you're going to have to live up to coming in there with a legend like that leaving."

Fuller, like most top receivers, believes he could handle it.

The Lions could have avoided this by taking a receiver to groom behind Johnson sometime during the past two seasons. Instead, the Lions used late round picks on Corey Fuller, who has not done much in his first three seasons, and TJ Jones, who has potential but is likely a better option on the inside.

The Lions passed on taking a wide receiver early during the past two drafts, although the franchise did invest a first round pick in 2014 in tight end Eric Ebron. It's worth noting, though, that Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin were all still on the board when the Lions took Ebron.

With Johnson now heavily contemplating retirement, how prospects would handle it is a more relevant question.

"He's one of the best to ever do it," Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd said. "That's going to be tough to fill in his shoes and keep on doing what he previously did. But with me, I never shy away from competition or competing. I would still try to excel at that position."

That was a common theme among receivers at last week's NFL combine. Pay deference to one of the best receivers ever but also express confidence they could handle the job if Johnson retired and the Lions drafted them in April.

Of course, when a player is selected would play into how much they would be compared to Johnson. If a prospect were taken in the first round, there would be higher expectations. The possible top receiver in the draft is fine with that.

"It wouldn't be any pressure on me," Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell said. "I just feel like if I hold myself to a higher standard I would get to the spot he was. It's something you've got to work on daily. It's something you got to commit to being great and there's only a certain few that commit to that level.

"That's something I want to do, go to the next level and learn from the vets and commit myself to the system and continue to get better."

Any young receiver, including Treadwell, would benefit from learning behind Johnson for a season or two before taking over the top spot. Treadwell, though, "would love" to be a No. 1 receiver immediately if the opportunity showed up.

Scouts Inc. has Treadwell as the top receiver in the draft, followed by Fuller, Ohio State's Michael Thomas, TCU's Josh Doctson, Baylor's Corey Coleman, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Boyd.

But if those options aren't available, most receivers have the confidence they could one day reach the level Johnson did. Or at least close to it. And those same receivers recognize how special Johnson's career has been.

He's caught 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in nine seasons. He was the fastest receiver to 10,000 yards in NFL history and holds almost every significant Lions receiving record.

"Shucks, man, Calvin Johnson is Calvin Johnson," Notre Dame receiver Chris Brown said. "Of course, I have my own expectations myself. Obviously Calvin Johnson was an amazing player.

"Of course, I would hope that I would be able to at least do 75 percent of the things he could and hopefully, that would set me up for a nice career."