The Detroit Lions are one of the most pass-dependent teams in the NFL. Matthew Stafford led the league with 727 pass attempts in 2012, and through three games in 2013, he is averaging 40.3 throws per outing.
Expect second-year wide receiver Ryan Broyles to become a point-per-reception league gem in Nate Burleson's absence.
Broyles made his 2013 NFL regular-season debut during Week 3, catching three passes for 34 yards against the Washington Redskins. Broyles' workload will increase as the season goes on, as Burleson suffered a broken arm in a one-car accident, per Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press.
By the numbers, Burleson will be sorely missed.
Stafford: 82.6 comp% to Burleson this year; best QB-WR combo. RT @AdamSchefter: Nate Burleson broke his arm in an overnight car accident.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 24, 2013
Someone needs to replace that production.
In four years at Oklahoma, Broyles caught an FBS-record 349 passes for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns. He was a two-time consensus first team All-American, and the Lions selected him in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Now that he's overcome a long history of injuries, look for Broyles to become one of the NFL's best slot receivers.
Short-Down Safety Blanket
What Burleson has done better than any other receiver on the Lions' roster is provide a short-yardage target to complement Calvin Johnson. The 11-year veteran uses his quickness and reliable hands to work into the open field and pick up first downs.
Over the course of his career, 70.7 percent of his receptions have gone for first downs or touchdowns.
In Burleson's most recent game, he caught six passes for 116 yards against the Washington Redskins. That brought his season totals to 19 receptions to 239 yards through just three outings, with 10 catches going for first downs.
Broyles now has big shoes to fill and countless opportunities on the horizon.
Broyles is built in a similar manner as Burleson and will serve the same purpose as a short-yardage receiver. For a Lions offense that relies heavily on the deep ball, the former Oklahoma star's presence will be extremely valuable.
That value is no greater for fantasy football owners than in point-per-reception leagues.
Broyles has battled injuries to the lower half of his body, and that may have a long-term impact on his breakaway speed. What has not been impaired is Broyles' hands, which proved to be some of the most reliable tools in college football history.
With Stafford bound to continue airing it out, that makes Broyles the most valuable wide receiver on Detroit's roster who isn't named Megatron.
Broyles, the FBS' career leader in receptions, has the pure ability to work out of the slot and line up outside the numbers. He may be 5'10", but the versatility is present, as he's proved to be a dangerous player on deep routes and short-to-intermediate plays.
Regardless of where he lines up, Broyles will catch passes.
For fantasy football owners needing a flex option with their usual stars on bye weeks, Broyles is worth the risk. Facing the Chicago Bears in Week 4 poses a tough challenge, especially against Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, but with Johnson facing double coverage, the potential is there for a breakout outing.
Broyles may not be a star, but in a league that has fallen in love with the slot receiver, the upside is present for a gem of a point-per-reception season.