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2023 Player Outlooks: Detroit Lions

By Colby Cavaliere | 7/10/23 |

Jared Goff

QB Jared Goff
(2022 QB Rank - No.9, 20.7 FPts/G)

The Lions entered Week 8 last season limping to a 1-6 record. Having led the team to only six points total and multiple turnovers in losses to New England and Dallas, it seemed Goff’s grip on the starter job was tenuous at best. With their season slipping away yet again, the Lions were at a crossroads. Goff and this team showed something down the stretch, as they went 8-2, barely missing a wild card slot in Week 18.

Roaring back (pun intended) the way Goff and the team did last season has now created something not seen in Detroit for a long while, expectations. Goff, now the undisputed steady handed leader of the “Goffense” is playing for a big contract extension. I definitely missed on him in this spot least year, as a porous defense, and lack of consistent run game led to 587 pass attempts (2nd most of his career) and making Goff a consistent fantasy asset during the 2nd half of the year. This coaching staff seems to know exactly what he does best, and have tailored an offense that is both creative and aggressive when necessary. They added Jahmyr Gibbs in the 1st round, as a receiver-like back to create mismatches, and Goff seems to understand the importance of getting the “free yards” that defenses will concede. He was able to protect the ball, yet still be explosive, throwing for the 2nd most touchdowns in his career (29) and throwing only one interception in the final ten games, while still finishing 8th in the NFL in air yards, and tying Mahomes for the third-most pass attempts of 50+ yards.

Goff definitely overachieved on the field and for your fantasy squad last season, but I don’t know another top-10 finish is in the cards. Missing Jameson Williams for the first six games is going to hurt the explosiveness of the passing game, and with an improved defense, shootouts and 2nd half comebacks shouldn’t be as frequent. Look at Goff as more of a high-end fantasy backup as a good bye week fill in or short-term starter.

RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Whether it was too much time in the trainer's room, or the tendency to freelance too much, the Lions tired of D’Andre Swift and dealt him to the Eagles for a mid-round pick. To replace his role in the offense, Detroit spent the 12th overall pick on the electric Gibbs from Alabama. The All-SEC back was a versatile dynamo with both the Tide and Georgia Tech. The 200-pound runner was widely considered the best receiving back in the class, and brings 4.3 speed with him. If off-season minicamps are any indication, Gibbs is going to be moved around the formation a ton, and coordinator Ben Johnson has proved to have a knack for creativity, and making the best use of his offensive talent. While his upside is capped by the presence of free agent addition David Montgomery, Gibbs should lead this backfield in touches. With a 50-catch floor, look for Detroit to get the ball into his hands at least 200 total times, and in a myriad of different ways. He’s sure to lose most goal line scores, and might be limited by game script (Montgomery will likely be the closer), but Detroit didn’t spend that kind of draft capital to sit the kid. He’ll be a PPR machine, but has RB1 upside even in standard leagues.

RB David Montgomery
(2022 RB Rank No.21, 9.2 FPts/G)

The other piece of the remade Detroit backfield, Montgomery comes to the Lions to fill the Jamal Williams “thunder” role. Entering his 5th NFL season, Montgomery has proved to be a solid, if unspectacular back in the NFL. He’s been durable, and incredibly consistent, putting up 1,000 total yards and at least seven touchdowns in each of his first four seasons. While his career rushing average leaves much to be desired, he’s running behind the best line of his career, and won’t have to carry the load with the presence of Gibbs. While this backfield will be an annoying committee at times, there is a TON of value to be had with Montgomery, and even if he sees a dip in total touches, he won’t have those short yardage touchdowns vulture by his quarterback. While Gibbs is going to get the hype and attention, I think Montgomery can be an absolute steal, and a solid RB2 in multiple formats that you can add later in the draft.

WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
(2022 WR Rank – No.10, 10.1 FPts/G)

St. Brown followed up his historic rookie season with an even better encore. The shifty slot receiver was nearly unguardable, as he finished 5th in the NFL with 106 receptions. His 146 targets, good for 8th in the league, proved he’s slated for much more than a complementary piece in the NFL. Instead, as the sole real receiver threat in the Detroit passing game, St. Brown carried the offense as they surged in the 2nd half of the season. After a ripping hot start to 2023, he cooled considerably, at least until Week 10. In the final nine games St. Brown finished with fewer than seven standard points only once (Week 18), and piled up target totals of 11, 10, 12, 10, and 13.

The Sun-God will be counted on once again this year, as Jameson Williams serves a six-game suspension, and the remainder of the receiver room is mediocre at best. St. Brown made his money at the short and intermediate level, as the deep balls were spread elsewhere. He’s expressed a desire this offseason to be more of a downfield threat, and he will need to be in order to enter the upper echelon of receivers. St. Brown is a microcosm of how this Detroit team is built. Punch above your weight, fight for every yard, and be in a position to make plays. If he can add a vertical dimension, he has a chance to repeat and maybe even exceed the 2022 top-10 finish.

WR Jameson Williams
(2022 WR Rank - No.148, 2.4 FPts/G)

Thanks to some ill-timed sports bets, Williams is going to have to wait six games before he can make the impact that he, and the Lions hope he is capable of. Rehabbing off a torn ACL last season, Williams didn’t make his NFL debut until Week 13. In the six games he played, he had two touches, but he certainly made the most of them, hauling in a 41-yard bomb for a touchdown, and burning the defense on a 40-yard rush. It’s a bit odd that Williams had zero impact upon returning, but this coaching staff values preparation more than anything, and likely felt giving Williams a bigger role was unwarranted considering his return from injury, and the absolute roll the offense was on at the time.

Obviously, the suspension saps a large chunk of fantasy value from Williams this season, but he was never going to be a big receptions guy early in his career. My bigger concern comes from his clear lack of maturity and awareness off the field. Blessed with unlimited physical gifts, the gambling situation, and several social media posts show he has a long way to go to be a professional. After a lost first season, and now a 2nd season impacted, Williams will be under heavy pressure to produce when he returns. But what if Detroit is humming along again? I’m willing to take an end of the draft flier on his talent alone, but I’m really uncertain he’s even worth the stash if your league has a shallow bench.

WR Josh Reynolds
(2022 WR Rank – No.68, 5.5 FPts/G)

To show you just how dire the receiver depth is in Detroit, (make a call to DeAndre Hopkins?) consider the fact that Josh Reynolds is going to be called on to play a ton of meaningful snaps while Williams serves his suspension. Entering his 3rd season with the Lions, the former 4th round pick of the Rams, topped out with a 38-497-3 line on 59 targets last season. The best you can say about him is he’s reliable, and has a great rapport with Goff, whom he has been teammates with now for several seasons. He did have a pretty strong start last year, scoring 9+ points in four of the first five weeks, but a midseason injury had him all but disappear down the stretch. This offense spreads the ball around like few others, but I think Reynolds should provide some sneaky value, especially early in the season. Finding a WR3 at (least for a chunk of the season), for a miniscule investment is still a pretty good deal. Don’t forget about Reynolds on draft night.

TE Sam LaPorta

With T.J. Hockenson shipped to the Vikings mid-season, Detroit stitched together the position for the remainder of the year. Enter LaPorta, the 2nd round pick from the tight end farm of the Midwest, The University of Iowa. There have been 12 tight ends drafted from Iowa while Kirk Ferentz has been the coach and more than a few have gone on to become fantasy names. The Lions, and LaPorta hope to be the next. Historically, this is a position to avoid in fantasy if it’s a rookie, especially one with good, but limited physical skills. LaPorta was extremely productive in college, but nothing leaps off the page. He was developed by some of the best tight end coaches in college, but will take time to find his place in the NFL. Look for him to learn and grow as the season goes on, and eventually solidify the position for the Lions, but there are plenty of other places to look for fantasy production.

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