|By Matt De Lima, Saturday, August 24, 2013|
QB Matthew Stafford - Solid/Safe Pick
A career year in 2011 faded quickly into memory for Matthew Stafford. His touchdown totals dropped from 41 to 20 in 2012. Injuries to WR Nate Burleson and the unreliable WR Titus Young left few options for the Lions' passing attack. WR Calvin Johnson will keep Stafford's numbers from completely falling off the cliff though. Burleson is now back and the addition of RB Reggie Bush should bolster the short passing game. One great thing about Stafford is that volume is not a problem as he led the league in pass attempts in each of the last two seasons. Look for him to rebound this year, but falling short of his production two seasons ago.
QB Shaun Hill - Not Draft Worthy
Shaun Hill is currently recovering from surgery on his left foot. It is presumed he will be healthy enough to return for training camp. Matthew Stafford hasn't missed a game in two years after a shaky start to his NFL career. Hill is a solid backup and nothing more. He is no threat to overtake Stafford either.
RB Reggie Bush - Solid/Safe Pick
In PPR formats, Reggie Bush is a great RB2. One big unknown is how often the Lions will lean on Bush to carry the ball. If he sees about a dozen carries per game and a few receptions, that would be ideal. Anything more than that and he could wear down. Bush stayed healthy with Miami and that trend must continue. The former USC back can be counted on for yardage, touchdown opportunities will likely be sparse because of RBs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell.
Update 8/23: Bush hauled in 5 catches for over 100 yards last night against the Patriots defense and appears a lock for 80 catches. In PPR formats, he should be strongly considered for an early second round selection.
RB Joique Bell - Bye Week Fill-in
Considering the injury history of RBs Reggie Bush and Mikel Leshoure, it may be wise to stash Joique Bell in some deeper formats. Bell is currently third on the depth chart and ran well in limited opportunities last season. He rushed 82 times for 414 yards (5.0 ypc) and three scores. His ability to both run and catch the ball (52 receptions for 485 yards) will fit right in to what Detroit wants to do if Bush or Leshoure goes down.
Update 8/23: Joique Bell appears to be the favorite for the backup running back duties to Reggie Bush. If Bush were to experience an injury, you want to own Joique Bell.
RB Mikel Leshoure - Quality Backup
Mikel Leshoure's fantasy production was anchored by nine touchdowns, eight of which came around the goal-line. It is safe to assume he will continue to see short-yardage work now that Detroit brought in RB Reggie Bush. Leshoure rushed for 798 yards on 215 carries. That works out to a 3.7 yards per carry average, which is less than ideal. Keep an eye on him on draft day. Leshoure's draft stock has fallen nearly a full round (8.01 to 8.11) in the last month and he would be a good value pick if he slips into the ninth round.
WR Calvin Johnson - Stud (low risk)
How can Calvin Johnson improve upon a season where he caught 122 receptions for 1,964 yards? Well, he did only score five touchdowns, a number so small it seems like a joke thinking back to the crazy season Megatron had. Johnson more than tripled that total in 2011, catching 16 touchdowns. The NFL's top receiver could manage to score more points if he finds the end zone more often. He was actually brought down six times at the one-yard line. Johnson's average draft position has slipped toward the back half of the first round with teams scrambling to acquire RBs early. Don't let him slide past the seventh or eighth overall pick if you've got it.
WR Ryan Broyles - Sleeper (undervalued)
With WR Titus Young out of town and potentially dealing with mental illness, the Lions must soldier on and Ryan Broyles will be asked to step up. He tore his left ACL his senior year at Oklahoma and then tore his right ACL last year. Broyles was a second round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He caught 22 passes for 310 yards and two scores last year. Most of that production came in a big game against the Houston Texans where he hauled in six balls for 126 yards. Broyles will work the slot at 5'10" and 188 pounds. Once fully recovered, he could challenge WR Nate Burleson for the No. 2 role.Injury Status: Injured Reserve
WR Nate Burleson - Gamble (high risk)
Burleson has only played a full season once in the last five years. The Lions are a pass-happy team, yet when factoring his age and injury history, the upside is limited. To his credit, he appears to have the No. 2 spot on the depth chart all but locked up. Detroit is certainly looking for someone like WR Ryan Broyles to step up. In a pinch, Burleson is a solid bye week add, but he is not a player to hang your hat on.
WR Mike Thomas - Deep-league Only
Mike Thomas used to be the No. 1 receiver over in Jacksonville just a few years ago. Now, he's struggling to find a home in Detroit after being traded halfway through the 2012 season. He finished the year with only 18 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. He ended up being benched in favor of WR Kris Durham late in the season. The Lions are now also locked in for $1 million of his salary guaranteed in 2013.
TE Brandon Pettigrew - Quality Backup
Expectations were high for Brandon Pettigrew in 2012 and he will need to rebound from a mediocre season to become a fantasy starter again. He has 100-plus targets in each of the last three seasons. Hauling in only 59 of 100 targets last year has to be improved upon first and foremost. It isn't as though Pettigrew is stretching the field vertically, as most of his routes are short and intermediate. If he couldn't get the job done last year with Detroit's receiving corps decimated, it is unlikely he suddenly becomes an elite playmaker.
TE Tony Scheffler - Bust (overvalued)
For a No. 2 TE, Tony Scheffler sees reasonable production. He had 84 targets, 42 receptions for 504 yards and a touchdown. Certainly nothing to write home about, but on the off chance that TE Brandon Pettigrew is injured, Scheffler may be worth consideration for a roster spot. If he can establish himself in the redzone, which Pettigrew has not either, that's another way he can emerge in deeper formats.
PK David Akers - Sleeper (undervalued)
For the first time in over 20 years, the Detroit Lions will be relying on a kicker not named Jason Hanson. David Akers takes over in Detroit, hoping to rebound after a miserable 2012 season that saw him struggle with his confidence. Akers was just one year removed from a stellar 2011 season. The move indoors should help Akers tremendously after kicking in the bay the last two years.
Detroit Defense - Low Potential
Beyond the defensive tackle position, the Detroit Lions defense took a big step back in 2012 and are unlikely to improve dramatically enough to become fantasy relevant. Rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah has promise and now the Lions have three first round picks in their defensive line. The linebackers have been average and the secondary has been unable to stay healthy. It would be best to look elsewhere for your defense needs.