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Kerryon Johnson
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Lions Fantasy Preview

by Raymond Summerlin
Updated On: August 15, 2019, 7:06 pm ET

2018 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 5,236 (24th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 33 (23rd)
Offensive Plays: 1019 (12th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 615 (10th)
Rush Attempts: 404 (18th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 192 (6th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 162 (7th)

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Coaching Staff
Jim Bob Cooter, the best name in coaching, saw his run with the Lions end following a disappointing first season under Matt Patricia. The “mutual” divorce freed up Detroit to bring in Darrell Bevell, a coach who should mesh well with Patricia’s run-first ideology. In his 12 seasons as a coordinator, Bevell’s offenses have finished top-12 in rushing attempts eight times including five top-three finishes. Of course, he coached Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch in Seattle and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, but Bevell’s history along with offseason chatter suggests the Lions are going to lean more on the run moving forward – assuming game script allows it.

Passing Game
QB: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage
WR: Kenny Golladay, Jermaine Kearse
WR: Marvin Jones, Travis Fulgham
WR: Danny Amendola, Brandon Powell
TE: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James

Matthew Stafford’s career resurgence under Cooter hit the skids a bit last season. Part of the statistical decline came down to him attempting 555 passes, his lowest total since playing just three games in 2010, but his rate stats were also down across the board. Of course, losing Golden Tate after seven games, Marvin Jones after nine, and reportedly playing with broken bones in his back did not help matters. Stafford and Jones should return healthy, but it is difficult to predict a bounce back for the quarterback. Detroit was already near the bottom of the league in pace – 29th situation-neutral pace last season according to Football Outsiders – and both their actions and quotes this offseason suggest they will try to run the ball and control the clock even more moving forward. It is likely Stafford’s downward trend in pass attempts will continue this year, and that makes it difficult to get excited about him in a crowded quarterback group.

That is also a concern for Kenny Golladay even coming off a breakout season. From Week 10 on, Golladay averaged 10 targets while hauling in 37 passes for 540 yards and two touchdowns in seven games, an 85-1,234-5 pace. All but six of those targets came after Jones was injured, however, the Lions added Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson over the offseason, and they might not throw as much moving forward. Golladay should remain the No. 1 option in the passing game after showing well in the role last year and has posted a quality 9.2 yards-per-target average thus far in his career, but the target totals he saw down the stretch simply might not be there, making him a bit of a risk as a top-20 receiver pick.

As mentioned above, Jones is expected to return healthy after playing just nine games a season ago. He understandably took a step back from his exceptional 2017 efficiency numbers, but he still managed 508 yards and five touchdowns on 35 catches before going down. Moving forward, his concerns are essentially the same as Golladay’s except it seems less likely he gets a No. 1 target share. Jones has proven in the past he can produce fantasy points on somewhat limited targets, but he is probably a bit over-drafted at this point.

The big addition at receiver was Amendola, who caught 59 passes for 575 yards and a score in his one season with the Dolphins. There are some slot targets available after Tate was traded midway through last season, but Hockenson could take on some of that role – the Lions reportedly used three-TE formations during offseason practices – and Amendola simply does not carry that much fantasy upside. He can be avoided in all but deep PPR formats.

Speaking of tight ends, the Lions added Jesse James on a four-year, $25 million contract before spending the No. 8 overall pick on Hockenson. James did surprise with some big plays last season, but he has been an underwhelming receiving option to this point in his career and should mostly contribute as a blocker. Hockenson can also help out in that department, but he is also a good athlete with reliable hands who could contribute immediately in the passing game. He is a fine TE2 flier.

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Running Game
RB: Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Theo Riddick
OL (L-R): Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Ricky Wagner

It is tough to argue with what Kerryon Johnson did on a per-carry basis as a rookie. He turned his 118 carries in 641 yards (5.4 YPC) and three touchdowns despite missing the final six games and the coaching staff hilariously giving LeGarrette Blount carries. Healthy now, Johnson figures to be the focal point of the Lions’ new offense, although Patricia did hint they would manage the sophomore’s workload before adding C.J. Anderson on a one-year deal. While that is a bit of a concern, Johnson can make up some of those carries in the passing game. He was targeted 3.9 times per game as a rookie, and the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett predicted Johnson will catch at least 60 passes this season while questioning if Theo Riddick will make the team. The RB18 in per-game scoring last season and potentially headed toward a bigger workload, Johnson carries some upside in the third round.

As for Anderson, he is being slept on despite his rampaging run with the Rams late last season and into the playoffs. That is somewhat understandable with Johnson seemingly entrenched atop the depth chart, but there are reasons to take a shot on Anderson in the double-digit rounds. There are going to be carries available behind Johnson if the Lions are able to execute their offensive vision, especially given Patricia’s comments about not wanting to use him as a workhorse, and Anderson looks like the clear option to take over if Johnson is again forced to miss time. It is possible Anderson ends up being just a handcuff, but there are worse ways to spend a 14th-round pick.

Finally, it is difficult to get excited about Riddick, especially if the concern about his roster spot ends up being warranted. He did catch 61 passes in 14 games last season, but he ended up as the RB42 in PPR formats and outside the top-50 in per-game scoring while failing to find the end zone or top 60 yards from scrimmage in any game. Especially if Johnson ends up being a bigger factor in the passing game, it is tough to see much more than deep PPR value for Riddick.

Win Total
The Lions check in with one of the lower win totals in the league at 6.5 after finishing 6-10 a season ago, but there is reason to believe they could be a bit better this year. They made some big improvements on defense by adding Damon Harrison at the deadline last season and signing Trey Flowers and Justin Coleman in free agency. Assuming Harrison and Darius Slay do not hold out, the defense could take a step forward, especially if their low takeaway total (14, second-worst in the league) naturally improves. They do have a bit of a tough schedule, especially early in the season, but there are several winnable games on the docket as well. 6.5 feels like the right number, so staying away is the best call. If forced to take a side, I would lean over.

Raymond Summerlin
Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.