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Fantasy Forecast: Detroit Lions

Detroit finished with the 3rd overall pick in 2019. 2020 may be a very different story after the horrendous injuries across the offense last year! This team is on the rise!!

You can lock me in as one of the biggest Matt Stafford Stans in the game. I love his swagger, his style, and his talent, not to mention the fact that he’s supremely underrated. Afterall he makes throws like this regularly, but is still talked of as a mediocre talent:

The Recap 2019

Despite me despising of Matt Patricia, things were looking positive for the Lions offense to start the 2019 season. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Stafford was on pace to lead the NFL in passing touchdowns and was putting up elite passing numbers (averaging 280 passing yards per game with only 5 INTs). Then disaster struck as Stafford, who is regularly an ironman, went down. The injuries piled up at all positions on the offense. You had David Blough, and Jeff Driskell at QB, Bo Scarbrough at RB, and both Marvin Hall and Chris Lacy started far too many games at WR. It can only get better in 2020….

On the coaching scene, the Lions are giving Matt Patricia another shot, and Darrell Bevell will return for a 2nd season as the Offensive Coordinator. So, what can we expect in 2020??

Quarterback

I hinted at it earlier, but the obvious change is the return of Matt Stafford. The upgrade from Driskell and Blough cannot be overstated. Arguably only Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Carolina will see such an improvement from the position this season. Performing at an elite clip before getting hurt, I fully expect Stafford to continue right where he left off. He has some of the best weapons around him that he’s ever had, and a much-improved O-line.

At 32 years of age, he’s in the prime of his QB career, and I truly believe he can finish around QB6-QB8 for the next few seasons. Obviously, in Superflex formats, that’s supremely valuable. That being said, he still seems relatively attainable. I routinely see him in rankings as the QB13-QB16. In my opinion, there’s a colossal miss on the valuation there.

Running Back

Kerryon Johnson

Why can’t Kerryon just stay healthy? I loved his landing spot when the Lions initially drafted him in 2018, but his inability to stay on the field makes him a fading fantasy asset. The fact that Ty Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, and JD McKissic were starting games last year is abysmal. Even after the injury concerns, Kerryon is a monumental upgrade for the backfield.

Rookie Incoming!

However, the biggest upgrade in the RB department has to be the acquisition of D’Andre Swift. The Lions spent an early 2nd round pick on Swift in the 2020 draft, and the upside is obvious. Prior to the draft, he was my 2nd overall rookie player for rookie drafts. Due to an illogical hatred of Detroit in fantasy circles, Swift suddenly fell to the 1.06 to 1.08 range in most rookie drafts. Initially, I believe there will be a 60:40 split between Swift and Kerryon (in Swift’s favor), but as the season progresses, I expect to see the feature role grow for D’Andre. He’s a supreme talent, and the Lions haven’t had such a backfield talent in decades.

At the end of the 2019 season, PFF ranked the Lions’ O-line as the 11th best in the league. Frank Ragnow has developed into an elite center, and Taylor Decker was a top 10 Tackle. Unfortunately, they lost Graham Glasgow, but the additions of Vaitai, Joshua Garnett, and Jonah Jackson are positive off-season additions that should help the RBs produce.

Wide Receiver

Credit: USAToday.com

Babytron

Similar to the QB and RB position, the Lions WR were banged up in 2019 as well. Kenny Golladay managed to stay healthy and produce despite poor QB play. He had 65 receptions for 1,190 yards. It makes you wonder what he can do if Stafford is chucking deep balls rather than the other no-names. Unfortunately, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola both missed time, and the depth chart was exposed.

Me and Marvin Jones, got at thing going on.

Marvin Jones continues to be undervalued in most dynasty leagues, and you’ll see several dynasty analysts recommending him as a buy-low before the season. No matter what you think of him, when he plays, he tends to get TDs.

Best of the Rest

The Lions addressed some of their depth issues through the draft and free agency. They drafted Quintez Cephus in the 5th round, who many believe to be a deep sleeper. The big-bodied WR out of Wisconsin could be one of the only players on the roster in 2021. Golladay, Jones, and Amendola are all UFAs following the 2020 season. They also brought in former Green Bay WR, Geronimo Allison, on a 1-year contract to give Stafford another option.

Overall, if Golladay can take another leap in his 4th season, and Jones can stay healthy, they have a true WR1/WR2 combo for Stafford to throw to. It’s not out of the question for Golladay to produce WR1 numbers and Jones to have WR2 fantasy value in 2020.

Tight End

In the 2019 draft, the Lions spent their 1st round pick on one of the best TE prospects to enter the draft in recent years….TJ Hockenson. They let Eric Ebron leave, and Hock was expected to step right in. Hockenson had a promising start to his career with 131 yards and a TD in his first game. However, he missed a large chunk of the season with concussion issues and didn’t get to show us his full ability.

Credit: Lionswire.USAToday.com

Obviously, we can’t expect every rookie TE to be elite, but the fact that he had 367 yards in just 7 starts as a rookie is extremely promising. That’s relatively in line with what many HoF TEs have had in an entire rookie season. Hockenson is a huge breakout candidate in 2020 and will likely enter TE1 territory with an extremely high ceiling. Now may be your last chance to buy Hockenson before his value explodes.

IDP

Defensive Line

Until we can get IDP123 scoring adopted as the default scoring for IDP there will be some variance in how players are ranked across different fantasy sites. We will push on though.

Trey Flowers finished 2019 as the DE20, according to FantasyPros. Flowers has been a consistent scorer across five NFL seasons and should continue for at least a couple more years. As your DE2/3, you could do a lot worse than seven sacks and 20 QB hits.

Third round rookie Edge Julian Okwara has the physical makeup and athleticism but was inconsistent at Notre Dame. If he can take NFL coaching, he could develop into an NFL pass rusher with the size to play the run as well.

Linebackers

To quote fellow Nerd Jeff Abercrombie “It’s a Belicheckian Defense. That scares me for IDP, similar to the way it scares you about RBs.” If I’m going to take a chance on a Detroit linebacker, I’ll gamble on second-year player Jahlani Tavai. I think he could supplant the underwhelming Jarrad Davis in the middle. Veteran Jamie Collins is a serviceable bye-week fill in if you are looking for depth. Collins has a nose for turnovers, so you might get lucky if you have to start him.

Defensive Backs

Credit: AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

Now we’re talking!! Tackle machine Tracy Walker returns at the free safety position. Walker tallied 103 total tackles with 82 solos in 13 games last season. Per FantasyPros.com, Walker was S4 on a points per game basis with 13.5 ppg. Number three, overall pick Jeff Okudah, will start on the right side. If Okudah lives up to the hype, LCB Desmond Trufant might be viable in leagues where you have to start a cornerback.

Summary

Over the last 5 years, it just hasn’t quite come together for Detroit. Injuries and terrible coaching have held this team back from reaching their potential or having any consistency. It’s a big “if”, but if the Lions can stay healthy in 2020, I truly think they could be a dark-horse playoff contender with plenty of fantasy production. They could have a QB1, RB1, WR1, WR2, and TE1. Not bad for a team that had the 3rd overall pick in 2019…..

Are you a #NerdHerd member yet? For just $2.99/month, you get access to rankings, extra podcasts, the buy/sell tool, and more on the way. Catch me on Twitter @DynastyJon.

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