Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Augury, Chapter 18: Detroit Lions

The Lions are one of those enigmatic teams.  They rarely have a winning season, have made the playoffs just once in the past 14 years, yet always seem have productive fantasy players.

This goes way back.

Barry Sanders was a fantasy monster in the 1990's.  Likewise, Herman Moore was one of the best receivers in the league during that time.

Johnnie Morton, Brett Perriman, even Scott Mitchell were fantasy stars for a while (I realize some of these names are from the time machine, but if you've played fantasy football long enough, you know who they are).

Today the Lions still flex fantasy muscle, but have little to show for it in reality.

The all-time franchise passing leader (Matt Stafford) and the all-time franchise receiving leader (Calvin Johnson) are in the same huddle every offensive play, but the team has difficulty reaching win/loss mediocrity any given season.

You figure it out.

Once again, Matt Stafford was consistently good last year.  But when you throw the ball more than 600 times in a season, you have a tendency to consistently throw for a lot of yards, hence make a lot of fantasy points.

Last year, Stafford attempted 634 passes (fourth-most in the league), making it the third consecutive season he's attempted at least that many throws (he led the league in passing attempts in 2011 and 2012).

Altogether Stafford has attempted 2,024 passes (holy crap!) in the past three seasons, which is the most in the league during that time frame.  Somehow, his arm is still attached.

I don't look for that to change anytime soon (unless, you know, his arm really does fall off).  The Lions have added weapons to the offensive attack and Stafford will almost certainly be a top five fantasy quarterback yet again.

Perhaps Reggie Bush has finally found his comfort zone?  Or maybe he just needed to play football north of the Mason-Dixon line?  Whatever the case, he put up his best stats as a pro last year with more than 1,500 combined yards from scrimmage (80 passing targets) and seven touchdowns.

That being said, I still think Bush is yet another overhyped Heisman trophy winner.  He's never lived up to billing and he is a near-guarantee to miss a handful of games each year.

If you can tolerate seeing his name on the injury report week in and week out, and if you have a reliable player to fill the void, he's a lower second tier player that can compliment a primary fantasy back.

Although I rarely like to handcuff players, this might be a great example of when to do it.  If When Bush gets hurt, the player to fill that void might be Joique Bell.  Bell very quietly had over 1,100 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns last year.

Bell's fantasy points came in spurts, but flexing him at the right time paid off in a big way for the savvy fantasy owner.  Bell catches the ball well (69 targets, 53 catches last year) and can handle a full work load out of the backfield if needed.   He adds fantastic depth to any fantasy roster as a third tier running back.

There's really not much to say about Calvin Johnson, is there?  Not only is he the best receiver in football and a fantasy point behemoth, he also broke the Madden Curse.  He was near the top of every receiving category last year (what's new?) and should be the first receiver taken in your draft.  Don't overthink it.  It's that simple.

My gut tells me that Golden Tate has come to the right team at the right time.  There's no pressure to be the number one guy.  All secondary attention is on Megatron.  Just get open and catch the ball.  That's all ya gotta do, Golden.  He could be a fantasy steal.

Tate had almost 900 yards receiving last season in Seattle, a team much less pass-happy than the Lions.   I wouldn't at all be surprised to see both he and Johnson top 1,000 yards this year (yes, you read that right).

Tate is a lower-level second tier guy who will benefit greatly from his new environment.  He may be a very pleasant surprise to fantasy owners who draft him in the mid-to-later rounds.

One of the biggest surprises of the 2014 draft was when the Lions took tight end Eric Ebron tenth overall.  In fact, I'm still scratching my head.  It's not that he can't play; he had 973 yards receiving for the Tar Heels last year.  But it seems there were other areas of greater need.

Then again, this is the Lions.  Nothing needs to make a lot of sense.

Brandon Pettigrew was taken 20th overall just five years ago and even though he had a poor 2013, he's put up very good tight end numbers in the past.  He's just a year removed from 102 targets (sixth-most among tight ends in 2012).

The big question is where do either of these players fit in the fantasy scheme of things?

My guess is both will be used in the passing game - a "tight-end-by-committee" approach... hey, why not? -- and neither will generate enough points to be a true fantasy starter.

This seems the likely scenario.  And yes, it sucks.

Draft Well!
That Damn Sam
"Fantasy Football for the Forsaken Few"