If youíve been reading my player outlooks for any stretch
of time you will notice I enjoy breaking down the quarterbacks,
with Stafford being one of my favorites to examine. While his play
on the field hasnít equated to many wins for Detroit, heís
always been an overlooked fantasy asset. Unfortunately I took little
pleasure in watching the Lions offense last year, and preparing
for this breakdown has been equally rough.
Breakdown is a great word to describe Stafford. Despite being one
of the toughest sonova-guns in the NFL (he essentially played several
games with a broken back last year), the constant beatings heís
taken have begun to take their toll. He played much of the season
with lingering back and upper body injuries and it showed in his
play. He accounted for his fewest total touchdowns (21) since his
second year in the league, and he simply couldnít overcome
the myriad of injuries suffered by the line, backs, and receivers.
Losing the reliable Golden Tate via in-season trade seemed to be
the death knell on Staffordís season, as his post trade numbers
were significantly worse without his slot-security blanket. The
dysfunction on offense was enough for the Lions to make a change,
going with the well-traveled Darrell Bevell as the new OC. Bevell
comes to the Lions after a highly successful seven-year stint with
the Seahawks. Bevell is a safe, unexciting hire for the Lions, and
someone who will work to transform this offense into a run-first,
pass later philosophy.
I canít really argue with what the Lions are trying to do
on offense. Sure, it seems like a backward philosophy in todayís
NFL, but what has the high flying, throw the football 600 times
strategy really gotten the Lions anyway? While the Lions woes
have been great for Staffordís fantasy football value, heís
been beaten down. With the signing of C.J. Anderson, and the healthy
return of second year back Kerryon Johnson, I can see Staffordís
pass attempts come down, perhaps to some of the lowest in his
career. The reality is the days of top-7 value are gone, and the
best we can hope from Stafford is as a decent QB2.
Despite a knee injury that cost him seven games, Johnson did something
not seen from a Lions player in 5 years. He rushed for 100 yards
in a game, 101 in Week 3 to be exact! Johnson went on to repeat
the feat in a dominant Week 7 performance against Miami and justify
the draft capital Detroit spent on him.
Injury aside, Johnson had a solid first season in the NFL. His 10.9
standard points per game would have made him an easy RB2, and his
5.4 yards per carry, and 32 receptions lived up to his pre-draft
scouting report of explosion and versatility. The one knock on his
game did come to fruition, and that was the durability. The health
of Johnson and the nature of the position lead straight to the biggest
red flag for Johnsonís 2019 value, and thatís workload.
The former Auburn Tiger has shown the ability to become a fantasy
stud, but under Matt Patrcia and new coordinator Darrell Bevell,
it's going to be a difficult reality. Patricia and Bevell have a
history of using multiple guys in the backfield, and I just donít
see them suddenly switching course and hitching their sled to one
lead dog, despite how capable he might be. Patricia has already
gone on record this offseason about his desire for a committee backfield,
and any hope that Johnson will make up the loss of rushes with more
receptions can just look back at the history of Bevell and how underused
his backs in Seattle were in the passing game.
Watch tape from last year and you will see that Johnson plays
the game with an effortless stride, and explosive first step.
Heís the best back the Lions have had in years, and in typical
Detroit fashion, he will cede work to lesser talented players.
Maybe he simply plays so well he becomes the alpha and the Lions
canít take him off the field, but Iím afraid that
while heíll have no problem leading this committee, there
is no way he approaches 18-20 carries a game, and likely tops
out as an RB2 with upside.
Other than taking on a little more of the rushing load late last
season after a spate of injuries, Riddick remained mostly a 3rd
down/two-minute drill player. His final numbers were solid, as
his 75 targets and 61 receptions were the most since 2015. Entering
the final year of his contract, Riddick should continue to be
a reliable outlet for Stafford, and do a nice job of siphoning
touches away from Kerryon Johnson. He offers nothing in standard
leagues, as he only had 40 rushing attempts and failed to score
a touchdown last season. With the way this backfield figures to
be split this season, and the fact Riddick doesnít seem
to be in the teamís future plants, it remains to be seen
if heíll even retain marginal PPR value.
Anderson is a tough nut to crack. After showing so little early
last season with the Panthers, he was cut after Week 10, only
to surface with the Rams and run like gangbusters over the final
regular season weeks and into the playoffs. Iím sure fresh
legs and an extremely favorable scheme helped, but Anderson looked
so dominant that surely he could parlay that into a new deal.
Well that never came to fruition, as Andersonís market was
cold, and he had to settle for a one-year deal with Detroit. What
makes things even more awkward is that the Lions preferred to
sign a different Rams running back, Malcom Brown, but L.A. matched
the offer. Despite the production last year, I donít believe
Anderson has much in the tank, and as the Lions ďPlan BĒ
at best, it doesnít sound like the rest of the NFL believes
heís return to his early career form either. I anticipate
Anderson as nothing more than a guy that will soak up just enough
carries to keep Johnson fresh. As he offers nothing in the passing
game, heís a two-down plodder that will likely vulture a
handful of touchdowns as well. In a nutshell, Anderson exists
to drive Johnson owners crazy, and really doesnít deserve
a non-handcuff slot on your roster.
After making a splash during his rookie season in 2017, Golladay
took over the whole pool as he broke out for a 70-1063-5 line during
his sophomore year. Taking full advantage of his 6í4íí
frame, ďBaby TronĒ showed elite ball skills and a penchant
for big plays. Thrust into the WR1 role after losing Marvin Jones
for the final seven weeks of the season and the trading of Golden
Tate at the deadline, Golladay showed he has the ability to be the
main cog in the Detroit passing game. Despite most of the offense
crumbling around him, he found a way to have some big production
weeks, and an overall consistent season for such a young player
from a small school.
Out of all the players on this offense, Iím most comfortable
with Golladayís potential production. Although the offense
should be more balanced and conservative, Offensive Coordinator
Darrell Bevell was never shy about having Doug Baldwin be his
clear No.1, and this is the role Golladay steps into in his 3rd
season. Golladay has elite physical skills, and enters a year
in which receivers tend to really break out. With a few more scores
easily achievable, and a season of his own health and those around
him, Golladay is WR2 that has a good of a shot as any to outperform
his draft slot and find himself as a WR1 by the end of the season.
Currently coming off the board as around the 18th receiver in
standard leagues, his ADP has actually dropped this summer with
owners likely scared by the return of Marvin Jones, and the increased
emphasis on the run game. Iím willing to gamble on the monster
upside Golladay has and Iíll be happy to take him in as
many leagues as I can.
Despite missing a good chunk of the season due to a knee injury,
Jonesí PPG average would have put him into near WR2 territory
in standard leagues. Although itís clear Jones is about to
take a backseat to Golladay in the passing game and he struggled
to connect with Stafford consistently last season, Jones is only
a year removed from a breakout 2017 season where he finished as
a WR1. The offense coming over to the Lions this year is based on
multi-receiver sets, and Jones should have enough chances to return
value in 2019.
A big play threat when heís on the field, Jones should see
a decent chunk of target share, with enough to approach 45 receptions.
The loss of Golden Tate leaves a huge void, and Golladay and Jones
should form an effective duo. Jones has typically been familiar
with the end zone (he had 5 touchdowns in only nine games last year,
and led the team with 9 in 2017), so it would seem his standard
league value is much better than his PPR.
Jones has a history of being a productive fantasy receiver on
a moderate volume, so donít overlook Jones. His shortened
2018 season and ascendance of Golladay is sure to make many owners
forget about Jones, but donít hesitate to add him as a depth
Unceremoniously cut after leading the Dolphins in catches and
yards, Amendola joins some familiar faces in Detroit on a one-year
deal. Added to provide some stability and professionalism to the
locker room Matt Patricia is trying to build, Amendola also gives
the Lions a solid, if unspectacular slot replacement for Golden
Tate. With a 60-catch, 600-yard floor in recent healthy seasons,
Amendola is a warm body you can add to your roster. He wonít
score or do much with the ball, but he will be places where heís
supposed to be, and generally be a reliable target. He was somehow
productive in Miami despite abysmal quarterback play, but at age
33 is nothing more than a bridge player. Worth a look-see in PPR
leagues, heís pretty far from relevant fantasy value in
The most complete tight end to come into the NFL in some years,
ďHockĒ was the 8th overall selection of the 2018 draft,
and should instantly become an important piece of the Lions offense.
Coming from a pro-style system at Iowa, Hockenson is a highly gifted
athlete well versed in a varied route tree. More than just a move
tight end, Hockenson drew raves for his blocking and tenacity in
college. Hockenson was a deep threat, but also displayed the savvy
to run drag routes and get open in tight spaces. He plays fast in
his 6í5íí 251 pound frame, and gives the Lions
some stability at a position they havenít been able to figure
out in a long time.
Measurables and college production aside, understand that rookie
tight ends rarely are fantasy relevant. Most of the current elite
tight ends were nearly invisible their rookie seasons, but few
of them had the talent and polish to be top-10 picks. With the
addition of former Steeler Jesse James, the Lions will likely
employ a decent amount of ď12Ē personnel, or 2-tight
end sets, with T.J. being the ďmoveĒ. Hockensonís
ability as a pass catcher and the shallow depth at the position
should definitely earn him a look as a TE2.