Mikel Leshoure is going to be a very solid option for fantasy owners this season. But if you're expecting a top-10 running back, you're going to be disappointed.
Let's talk about the positives first.
Leshoure had an excellent debut for the Detroit Lions on Sunday, rushing 26 times for 100 yards and a touchdown. In total, he netted 19.4 fantasy points for owners in standard-scoring leagues.
Not a bad way to start your (healthy) NFL career, huh?
And the good times should keep on rolling. The Tennessee Titans played defense the way many teams will approach Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the dangerous passing attack of the Lions, as Stafford noted (via Anwar S. Richardson of MLive.com):
We didn't see one blitz, not one five-man pressure, not one snap of single-high (safety) the whole game. Two deep, drop seven, eight or nine the whole game. You want to be able to run the ball. We were able to do that early. We just have to be able to do a better job on third-down.
It's going to be the way teams are going to play us. We're going to have to adjust and go out there, and you got to be great on third-down because they're going to try to keep everything in front of you.
In other words, Leshoure should be given plenty of opportunities to pound the rock based simply upon how other teams are going to play the Lions. The San Francisco 49ers played the same way against Detroit, so I think it's safe to call this defensive strategy a trend.
But the question remains whether or not Leshoure and the offensive line can consistently produce in the running attack. The Lions are currently 13th in the NFL with 306 rushing yards, but the team's 3.8 yards per rush is hardly inspiring.
And suddenly becoming a running team would be a major philosophical adjustment for a team that finished 29th in rushing offense a year ago.
I also question whether or not the Lions will consistently use Leshoure on third downs. He had 30 total touches on Sunday, including four catches, so he might be a three-down back before all is said and done. But even if he has suddenly dropped down the depth chart, I still like Kevin Smith on third downs more than Leshoure.
Mikel Leshoure will finish as...
So no, I don't think Leshoure will be an elite fantasy option this year. I don't trust the Lions to suddenly become a completely balanced offense, nor do I think Leshoure will see 30 touches every game.
But I do think he can be a very solid flex play and occasional RB2 for fantasy owners. If he's available on your waiver wire, you need to put a claim in for him now.
He won't win you a league title, but he'll certainly be a welcome addition and a player that should hover around double-digit fantasy points for the rest of the season.
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