Since 2016, the year I started doing the NFC North Outlooks,
this is the first time a name other than Matt Stafford is in this
section. Say what you will about his inability to get the team
a playoff victory, but during his time in the Motor City he played
with guts and heart week in and week out, and even had a few dominant
fantasy seasons. With Stafford given an opportunity to restart
in LA, perennial punching bag Jared Goff steps in to lead the
moribund Lions in 2021.
In a stunning offseason trade that saw two 1st overall quarterbacks
get swapped (with a few draft picks thrown in for good measure),
Goff gets freed from the glitzy expectations of a team trying
to get back to the Super Bowl, to a Detroit team in the infant
stages of yet another rebuild. It’s not that Goff has been a bad
quarterback, but he simply hasn’t lived up to the price the Rams
paid in the 2016 draft. To his credit, he did lead the team to
a Super Bowl and a few playoff wins, but there just wasn’t confidence
he could get the team further. Goff’s lack of field stretching
physical ability, both at runner and thrower, means his production
is largely dependent on what the defense gives him, and what his
players do with the ball after they catch it. Despite the likelihood
of many 2nd half deficits to take advantage of, Detroit replaced
Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones with castoffs Tyrell Williams
and Breshad Perriman, and the team’s most reliable receivers are
a tight end and a running back.
Goff couldn’t get it done and was run out of L.A., and despite
what the Lions might say, he’s a bridge quarterback at best. Those
long Michigan winter nights are going to be a far cry from the
sunshine and bright lights of Los Angeles. A combination of limited
talent and subpar weapons is not a recipe for fantasy success.
Swift put it all on display in an oddly frustrating rookie year.
It started with an inauspicious debut in Week 1 against the Bears,
when despite scoring on the ground, tallied only 23 total yards
and dropped the winning touchdown in the endzone with only seconds
left. This minimal role continued over the first quarter of the
season, but a breakout in Week 6 really showed how Swift could
function and succeed in this offense. From Week 9 on the Lions
finally gave their rookie back a consistent featured role as Swift
rattled off four double digit scoring games over his last five
A big roadblock to Swift’s playing time in 2020 was the presence
of the grizzled vet Adrian Peterson. His offseason release is
certainly good news for Swift, but the signing of Jamaal Williams
isn’t. While I expect Swift to be the focal point of the offense,
this is a bad football team that is likely to have very few 4th
quarter leads to salt away with the running game. With few real
threats in the passing game, defenses will be able to load the
box on early downs, and the presence of Williams and his all-around
game is sure to cap Swift’s upside. Despite the negativity, I
do think Swift has a 50 reception floor and as the best playmaker
on the team has double digit touchdown upside. Just be aware that
Williams is going to be a weekly wet blanket to Swift’s yardage,
and be satisfied with RB2 production.
Interested in 800 total yards and a few touchdowns from your
RB4? Well then sign up for a few shares of Jamaal Williams! Since
joining the Packers as a 4th rounder in 2017, Williams has been
the consummate committee back, averaging about 450 yards on the
ground and 230 more in the air per season. Solid, but unspectacular,
Williams joined the Lions this offseason, and figures to fill
the “Robin'' role to D’Andre Swift’s “Batman”.
The Lions are going to lean heavily on this backfield so there
will be a path to weekly touches for Williams. He would have a
major role should Swift miss time, as he’s proven to be
able to handle a starting role when called upon. Another perennial
underrated fantasy asset, Williams is more than just an obvious
handcuff for Swift owners.
We’ve officially arrived at the murkiest position group
in the NFL, the Lion wide receivers. Let’s start with Tyrell
Williams who arrived on a 1-year deal this offseason after a short
stint with the Raiders. Williams missed all of the 2020 season
with a torn labrum, and now finds himself as the defacto No.1
receiver on a bad team with a limited quarterback. Williams has
been nothing more than a complimentary deep threat during his
time in the NFL, and seems a bit miscast in this offense. On the
positive side, he should see a boatload of targets for a team
likely to be trailing quite a bit, and if he remains fully healthy,
should have no problem surpassing his career high of 119 targets.
Can a heavy volume and the familiarity with his old coach Anthony
Lynn be enough to make Williams one of the best receiver values
in fantasy? I actually think it can. He’s big, fast, and
should be healthy enough to reach some surprising production.
Missing the 2020 season, and being stuck in Detroit means you’ll
likely be able to steal a serviceable WR3 really late in your
draft. With little investment, and a potential big role in the
passing game, don’t sleep on the upside of Williams.
Another likely one and done receiver signing for Detroit is the
mercurial Breshad Perriman. Possessed with an abundance of speed,
and inability to stay healthy, Perriman profiles as another outside
deep threat along with Tyrell Williams. The Lions needed some
warm, cheap veteran bodies to run around the secondary as they
begin their obvious rebuild, and Perriman will serve that purpose
nicely. Perriman will occasionally flash with a 60+ yard touchdown,
then return to earth with a 2-23 line the following week. Then
he’ll miss a few games with a soft tissue or lower body injury.
About to join his 5th team entering his 6th season in the NFL,
Perriman will need close to a full season of playing time to really
be fantasy relevant, and there just isn’t any reason to believe
that’s going to happen. He’ll be an easy player to phase out later
in the year when the season has become lost, and will likely be
waiver fodder by that point.
Hockenson made a huge leap in his 2nd season, finishing 2nd on
the Lions in targets (101), receptions (67) and yardage (723),
and figures to improve upon those numbers in 2021 with the loss
of Detroit’s top two receivers. While Williams and Perriman
are better suited as situational deep threats, Hockenson figures
to soak up the short and intermediate targets, an area of greater
strength for Jared Goff. On an offense that figures to be run-heavy,
and mediocre at the same time, the cap on Hock’s scoring
potential is the only thing keeping him from joining the truly
elite fantasy tight ends. He should certainly thrive in PPR leagues
as he’s my bet to lead the team in targets and receptions.
Outside Kelce, Kittle, and Waller, the tight end position is as
fickle as the weather, so Hockenson has as good of a chance as
any to find a home in the top-8.