The 2021 Detroit Lions team failed to break many kneecaps on the way to a 3-13-1 record, but it wasn’t all bad. The three wins came in the final six weeks, and seven of the losses were by less than ten points. The team ranked 25th in points per game and 22nd in yards gained. Many of their offensive team stats were smack in the middle, and they weren’t glaringly deficient in any area.
The offense is helped by the return of DJ Chark from injury, and electric receiver Jameson Williams will join the team upon recovery; more on that later. The offensive line is the third-ranked unit in the NFL going into 2022, per PFF. They have one of the best young backs in the league and a steady veteran QB. So how does 2022 look for the hapless Detroit Lions?
Goff turns 28 early in the season and has a lot of football left in him. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of how good you believe Goff to be, one thing is sure. He’s a steady vet that may not win you games, but he will not make loads of mistakes to cost games.
Goff carries a Dead Cap hit of only $10 million in 2023 and $5 million in 202. They should be moving on if he doesn’t prove to be the guy Detroit wants at the helm. Goff threw for over 3,200 yards and 19 scores versus eight picks – I expect that number to improve this season with the new weapons.
It gets ugly quick, and if Goff goes down, the Lions are picking in the top three again next season. Both backups, Tim Boyle and David Blough, are veteran guys and capable, but neither will cause any fantasy inspiration if thrown into the starting lineup.
Swift 👀 pic.twitter.com/CnmJAVK2id— NFL Beat Writers (@32BeatWriters) August 5, 2022
Swift is entering his third season and is one of the premier young backs in the league. He’s dangerous as a runner but lethal as a pass-catching back. He had 62 receptions in 13 games in 2021 and had over 1,000 total yards while reaching the end zone seven times.
Swift is locked in with the Lions for the next few seasons and is only 23 years old. He’s the RB3 in our Consensus Rankings and a locked-in first-round draft pick. Swift is one of the few backs in the running to be the overall RB1 if he can stay healthy and get a full workload on the ground. He has over 270 fewer touches than RB1 Jonathan Taylor in their first two seasons. The receptions help Swift, but he’s not used on the ground near as much as Taylor.
The depth chart behind Swift has a few solid options, led by Jamaal Williams. The former Green Bay Packer is also dangerous as a pass catcher, and the offense doesn’t skip a beat when Williams is in. He’s not as talented as Swift, but his skill set is similar, and Williams fills in admirably.
Second-year back Jermar Jefferson, a back from Oregon State, is similar in size to Swift and has a versatile skillset. Former Charger Justin Jackson is also on the depth chart and filled in for Austin Ekeler well, and Jackson is also a solid inside runner with good pass-catching chops.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
St. Brown burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2021. He caught 90 passes on 119 targets and accumulated 912 yards while scoring five times. He added a rushing TD for good measure. St. Brown was drafted in the fourth round, and not much was expected of him. He was Goff’s security blanket, bringing stability to a decimated WR corps. St. Brown is a perfect WR2 for the Lions and a WR3 for your fantasy teams. Check out this full article on the “Sun God,” written by our own Jake Oliver.
The most exciting addition of the offseason was the Lions moving up in the draft to select Alabama’s Williams with the twelfth pick in the first round. He had a monstrous junior season, followed by a disappointing injury in the College Football Playoffs. Williams is a true alpha WR and will help the Lions’ offense immensely when the torn ACL is fully healed. The Lions will likely not rush him back, and I would be surprised to see Williams play in the first half of 2022.
A wild card in the room is former Jaguar receiver DJ Chark. He was also injured last season and played in only four games but has looked electric in camp thus far.
Lord. 🔥🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/0Vb68dic9S— LaQuan Jones (@RealDealFantasy) August 5, 2022
Chark can stretch the field and, combined with Williams, could make the exterior WRs for the Lions one of the most dangerous duos in the NFL. Both can stretch the field, but each is also much more than that. Chark, if fully healthy, could be a big producer you can get late in drafts.
Josh Reynolds and Quintez Cephus are two WRs I would stash on my bench in deeper leagues. Each could be productive if required to fill in, and both are taller guys who profile as exterior wideouts but are versatile enough to play inside. Neither will be league winners, but if injuries decimate the team, each could be a solid WR4/5 in deeper lineups.
It’s hard to believe TJ Hockenson is already entering his fourth season. He’s been a consistent TE the past two seasons but maybe not the superstar expected of a former eighth overall first-round pick. Hockenson played in 12 games last season, catching 61 passes on 84 targets with 583 yards and a quartet of visits to the end zone. The Detroit brass picked up his fifth-year option, but the team will have a tough decision soon on whether to give Hockenson a significant contract extension.
The team drafted James Mitchell from Virginia Tech and Derrick Deese Jr. from San Jose State in April’s draft. Both are deep league stashes, and each is a versatile pass-catching TEs with intriguing athleticism for the position.
The Lions have an exciting offense, and their upside may be hindered by Goff and what type of offense the team runs. Today, the play-calling duties are still up in the air – not a great sign going into preseason. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was most recently the Lions’ TE coach but has held positions in multiple position coach spots and was with Miami before hiring in Detroit.
There is talent at all the skill positions, and Goff has made offenses hum before, albeit under the guidance of offensive guru Adam McVay. I expect an uptick, and Goff’s number should improve, and at least two of the WRs will be startable in fantasy. St. Brown and Chark will likely carry the torch early; it will be interesting to see what happens when Williams finally cracks the starting lineup.
And of course, Swift and Hockenson are every week starts. Although Hockenson hasn’t been what we hoped, he’s still a low-end TE1 at worst and is consistent.
The Lions will be a better team, and the offense needs to improve to save Dan Campbell’s job. Eventually, all the talent has to come together and produce in today’s NFL; the leash is short for coaches. A top offensive line and top options at RB, WR, and TE? It’s time to unleash the roar.
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