Almost as predictable as death and taxes, another former Bill Belichick disciple has failed as a Head Coach in his own right. The Detroit Lions moved on from Matt Patricia after three embarrassing seasons. The Ford family and Lions brass have turned to Dan Campbell as their new Head Coach. The colorful Campbell spent a decade as a TE in the league playing for four different teams, including the Lions. He brings a kind of energy and enthusiasm to a team that has been bereft of such a sentiment since the days of Barry Sanders. It has been 29 years since the Lions won the NFC North. Perhaps Campbell is just the man to get them back into the mix. Without further ado, let us examine the coach and his roster.
As a former offensive player in his own right, Dan Campbell brings both a player’s and coach’s background to the table. His exuberance seems reminiscent of other former player coaches such as Mike Singletary, Jack Del Rio, and Mike Vrabel. The new Lions head man immediately made waves in his opening news conference with his brutally honest assessment.
This might be just the type of coach that the Lions need following the stoic Belichick disciple. Campbell had a brief taste of a top job when he filled in as the interim Head Coach in Miami following the firing of Joe Philbin in 2015. By all accounts, the players on the Dolphins loved Campbell. He took a 1-3 team and got things turned around for a brief stint before injuries sunk their eventual fortunes. Under his leadership, the team went 5-7 down the stretch. Despite not being retained, this was a valuable test run for the new Lions head man.
The last five seasons Campbell has spent under the tutelage of Saints Coach Sean Payton. He served New Orleans as both the TE Coach and Assistant Head Coach. Being exposed to one of the best offensive minds in the league can only have helped Campbell develop in his own right. When asked about his offensive philosophy, Campbell stated, “to run a system that puts our best on your worst” Detroit has brought former Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn as the OC to help Campbell execute his vision for the Lions. They have also brought on the highly thought of former RB and Assistant Head Coach of the Eagles Duce Staley to fill the same roles. With the recent news that Detroit will also part ways with QB Matt Stafford, some massive changes are on the way to Motown. Without further ado, let us examine the Detroit dynasty assets.
Image courtesy of lionswire.usatoday.com
When I initially began writing this article, Matthew Stafford was still the presumptive QB for the 2021 Detroit Lions. Then, this past week, it was announced that the team and their franchise QB have decided to mutually part ways. This leaves the Lions in a total rebuild scenario. They currently hold the 1.07 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. In all likelihood, the Lions will either use this pick to select their next signal-caller or trade up to land the said player.
It is pointless to speculate just who the Lions will have throwing the rock in 2021. However, we can assume that Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will be gone in the first few selections of the draft. This means that unless the Lions make a play to move up the draft board, they are likely looking at Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Kyle Trask, or Mac Jones. Each of these players has some nice attributes and would be interesting building blocks for the Lions rebuild.
The eventual QB in Motown will likely be playing with a completely different set of WRs. Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Danny Amendola are all free agents. With limited cap space and moving on from their franchise signal-caller, it is fair to wonder if any of these players will be back next year. The Lions next QB will have some help in the form of D’Andre Swift and TJ Hockenson. That QB will make a fine QB2 play for Superflex leagues. However, it will likely be a long road ahead for the Detroit rebuild. That does not mean there will not be fantasy points to be had. Garbage time points score the same as regular time.
Image courtesy of usatoday.com
RB: D’Andre Swift
D’Andre Smith is unquestionably one of the building block pieces for new Head Coach Dan Campbell. When a coach talks about kicking his opponents in the teeth and biting their kneecaps, you know he intends to play a physical brand of football. To that end, the former Georgia Bulldog will play a pivotal role. If his brief stint as the Miami Interim Head Coach and Assistant Head Coach in New Orleans are an indicator, the RB will serve a dual purpose in the Detroit Offensive scheme. 2015 was Lamar Miller’s best receiving numbers of his career, and Alvin Kamara has been one of the best dual-threat RBs in NFL history, averaging over 80 catches per season. Swift briefly flashed his big-play potential in 2020. You can see his numbers below.
Swift is a rare combination of size, speed, and athleticism. He is the most recent in a long line of Georgia RB’s following in the footsteps of Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel. Swift will fit perfectly as a do-it-all RB, having already shown his receiving chops with 46/357/2 in a split role as a rookie. With Adrian Peterson and Matt Patricia’s committee approach gone, I look for Swift to take on a much larger role for the Lions. Below you can see the highlights of one of Swift’s best games last year.
The running game and D’Andre Swift, in particular, are the big winners of the Dan Campbell hire. Sure, you could make the argument that Hockenson is the big winner with Campbell’s background as a TE, but we already knew that T.J. was going to be a featured part of the passing game. Last season Swift was mired in a three-man committee forced to spit time with Kerryon Johnson and the ageless Adrian Peterson. Now his coach is talking about getting him some action out of the slot to get him on the field that much more. With a rookie signal-caller likely in tow, Detroit is likely to lean that much more heavily on the running game in 2021.
Swift is one of the best breakout candidates for the upcoming season. He already had the talent on his side. Now it appears he will have the opportunity to show what he can do in a featured role. I would have no trouble paying a true RB1 price for D’Andre Swift. He has top5 potential and youth on his side. Remember, as Rich, Matt, and Garret always say. What looks like an overpay now can look like a homerun deal tomorrow. If it’s not too late in your league, get out in front of the Swift 2021 breakout.
Image courtesy of usatoday.com
As I alluded to earlier, the Detroit WR position is in a state of flux. As we stand today, Quintez Cephus is the top WR in the room. The Lions will likely build their draft portfolio when they eventually trade Matthew Stafford. The 2021 draft class is loaded with WR talent and will almost certainly be tapped to fill out the depth chart. The upcoming free-agent class will also be a likely resource of the Lions front office. We just don’t know who will be added on either end of the spectrum.
As is said above, Quintez Cephus is the top returning player on the Lions roster. He makes for an interesting stash at this point of the season. The second-year fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin was thrust into the lineup last season as a rookie due to an immense number of injuries. He showed relatively well for himself, making a handful of big plays. One of the more memorable ones was this TD catch against the rival Chicago Bears.
Hell of a throw and catch by Quintez Cephus, the rookies first TD of his career. Getting more run now after Marvin Hall release. pic.twitter.com/ngiYvjv3gg— Joshua Moore (@4for4_Josh) December 6, 2020
Keep an eye on whomever the Lions draft or sign to pair with their next QB. The Detroit Lions will likely be taking quite a few lumps in the next few years. I, for one, love to get garbage time points out of my dynasty players. Skill position players on bad teams often have the dual benefit of a positive game script and ample opportunity.
Image courtesy of lionswire.usatoday.com
TE: T.J. Hockenson
The loss of Matthew Stafford will be both a blessing and a curse for T.J. Hockenson. Moving forward in his career, he will be the senior pass catcher in the Detroit locker room. The former Iowa star came to Detroit as one of the highest-graded TEs in recent memory. He and his teammate Noah Fant formed the best tight end duo in College football. For his part, T.J. has shown remarkable improvement from year one to year two in his career. You can see his numbers below.
In 2020 Hockenson proved to be a weapon in every sense of the word. His 723 yards and six TDs were second on the team in both categories. Coming into his third season, Hockenson is primed to build on his top-five fantasy finish in 2020. His athletic profile indicates he has all the skills of remaining a top-flight option at TE for years to come.
As I mentioned above, Matthew Stafford’s loss is both a blessing and a curse for the budding star TE. He is certainly losing one of the more prolific passers in the entire NFL. Stafford was a known quantity who had produced many fantasy-relevant pass-catchers throughout his decade-plus in Motown.
What is also true is that the TE is usually the best friend of young QBs. Not only will Hockenson be the senior pass-catcher on the Lions he will also be a reliable safety outlet for the next Lions signal-caller. It is fair to anticipate him being peppered with targets every week as his next QB learns to diagnose coverages in the NFL. Hockenson will also have the benefit of playing on a fast indoor track in Ford Field. It may seem like a bad weather situation playing in the NFC North, but in reality, you only play two outdoor games, one apiece at Chicago and Green Bay. With eight home games and one division game in Minnesota’s dome, Hockenson will play most of his NFL games in excellent weather conditions.
No matter who is throwing him the ball T.J. Hockenson represents an excellent option at dynasty TE. He is solidly in the top five options at the position, with some ranking him as high as TE2. Hockenson has been a favorite of the founders here at DynastyNerds since his days at Iowa. Despite his high cost, T.J. is worth the price of admission. TE is one of the best positions to gain an advantage over your opponents. After all, who doesn’t want a TE who did this in his first-ever NFL game?
Following the news that Detroit will deal Matthew Stafford, new Head Coach Dan Campbell takes over a team in transition. There were already multiple holes on the defensive side of the ball. Now with the Lions setting the reset button on the QB spot and having virtually the entire WR room slated for free agency, the offensive side of the ball is in line for a major overhaul as well. There are important questions about what this team will look like heading into 2021. Swift and Hockenson are still screaming buys despite the turmoil in Detroit. Keep your eyes open for how the Lions address their many holes, and remember, no matter what, the Dude abides.
The Dude abides pic.twitter.com/HhTLbDBrOS— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 21, 2021
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