An unfortunate stroke of luck for Nate Burleson may just have opened the pearly gates of fantasy football relevance to Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles.
Lions' Nate Burleson to have surgery, to miss up to 8 months goo.gl/fb/cMeSC— Freep Lions (@freeplions) October 23, 2012
Though everyone and their great-grandmother is falling over themselves about Titus Young's potential as Burleson replacement, it may actually be Broyles who proves to be more valuable for fantasy owners.
Drafted in the second round out of Oklahoma, Broyles was expected to come on slow this season due to the devastating knee injury which ended his collegiate career. He became an almost unused asset and failed to record a catch in any of the Lions' first five games of the season.
That all changed when Burleson was injured. The 24-year-old stepped in on almost an every-down basis, catching three passes for 51 yards and a touchdown while being targeted four times.
That success is nothing new for Broyles, who has the most receptions in the NCAA's bowl subdivision history, with 349. As an underneath option for quarterback Landry Jones at Oklahoma, he was seemingly always in the mix when the Sooners needed him.
With Burleson out for the season, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will ostensibly be asking Broyles to fill the same security-blanket role for the balance of 2012.
While that may seem like I'm damning him with faint praise, that role could prove vital as teams continue to bracket cover Calvin Johnson. Through Week 7, Megatron has yet to catch a touchdown on a ball thrown more than 10 yards down the field (after having 10 similar touchdowns in 2011, according to ESPN Stats and Information).
Those coverages may become even frequent considering the fact that Titus Young is an unproven commodity as an NFL flanker.
All these factors are fantastic signs for Broyles' fantasy value because the Lions certainly aren't going to stop throwing the ball. Still unable find consistency on the ground with Mikel Leshoure, Stafford has thrown an average of 47.3 passes over the past three weeks.
Even if Detroit eventually signs a veteran, Broyles will have the first opportunity to impress in the coming weeks.
For fantasy owners in deep leagues, the Lions rookie is easily a must-own until further notice. There are so few valuable players available in 14-team or 16-team leagues that Broyles' potential in Detroit's offense could make him a weekly flex play down the stretch.
In standard leagues, take a wait-and-see approach. But for owners in deep formats, be sure to nab Broyles on the waiver wire this week before it's too late.