The Detroit Lions will certainly look different in 2016 after their most dominant and popular player over nearly a decade, Calvin Johnson, will no longer be suiting up on Sundays. That doesn’t mean that the Lions are a fantasy wasteland. In fact, Johnson shined so brightly in Detroit that his retirement will give way to a plethora of high upside fantasy options. Can the likes of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron and Ameer Abdullah deliver?
QB Matthew Stafford
I know the loss of Calvin Johnson to retirement is a huge blow to the fantasy prospects of Matt Stafford particularly in terms of red zone offense. However, Stafford’s current ADP between the 11th and 13th rounds of 12 team drafts is music to my ears. I’m not taking anything away from Megatron but Stafford isn’t exactly a slouch. In fact, 2015, a year the Lions struggled tremendously to protect their quarterback and stop the opposition was Stafford’s best season as a pro from an efficiency perspective. For fantasy purposes we don’t care about a given player’s win-loss record, we care about production. And his production was akin to that of Derek Carr (32 TDs) who is going anywhere from 2-4 round earlier than Stafford. The Lions should be better along the offensive line which should improve a non-existent running game from a season ago as well as stabilize the pass protection to some degree. Not to mention Stafford gets another offseason in offensive coordinator’s Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. It may not completely mitigate the loss of Johnson but Stafford should retain low-end QB1 value at a bargain rate late in drafts.
WR Golden Tate
In the handful of games that the aforementioned Megatron has missed Golden Tate has looked like a #1 receiver. Obviously, he hasn’t proved that he can do that over the full course of a season and 2015 was a bit of a disappointment but you cannot hold fantasy value without opportunity and his opportunities will be plentiful this season. In 2014, Tate had the best season of his career despite meager TD totals (not a big TD guy) 99/1331/4 on 142 targets. Stafford didn’t exactly shy away from throwing the football to Tate last season but his line of 90/813/6 really spoke to the fact that the offensive line could not afford Tate/Stafford an opportunity to work the ball down the field. In 2015, Tate averaged 9.0 yards per catch. His career mark is 12.3 yards per catch. I’d wager he finishes much closer if not exceeds his career average in 2016 which should put him in the WR3 maybe even WR2 discussion; although I lean towards WR3 because I believe Stafford is going to spread the football around. Keep in mind there have been multiple reports from beat reporters that free agent acquisition Marvin Jones has been the Lions’ best receiver during camp and Anquan Boldin was recently acquired.
RB Ameer Abdullah
2015 was really a season to forget for Ameer Abdullah. Rather he played like a rookie. Ball-security was an issue, the offensive line got no push in the running game and despite Ameer’s prowess as a receiver out of the backfield he couldn’t over take Theo Riddick as the primary receiving back. Still his 4.2 yards per carry average was respectable and he’s as explosive as they come. Ideally you can draft Abdullah as your third or fourth running back and see if he breaks out. But I wouldn’t put too many eggs in that basket because the Lions may ultimately continue to struggle to run the football consistently and I can’t imagine their defense being much better in 2016 compared to last season so they may very well end up trailing quite a bit which means more Theo Riddick. The talent is tantalizing but buyer beware.
Others of note:
- WR Marvin Jones
- WR Anquan Boldin
- TE Eric Ebron
- RB Theo Riddick