Golden Tate Will Shine as No. 2 Fantasy Wide Receiver in Detroit Lions Offense

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 14, 2014

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate catches a pass during NFL football training camp in Allen Park, Mich., Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Golden Tate was the leading receiver on the most recent Super Bowl champions. However, the Seattle Seahawks didn't pay out for Tate this offseason, so he went to the Detroit Lions as a free agent.

The Seahawks are more reliant on their physical rushing attack, so they will be fine in their defense of the Lombardi Trophy. With a cannon-armed quarterback in Matthew Stafford and the NFL's best receiver starting opposite him, though, Tate figures to play at an unprecedented level and have a career year in Detroit.

With how often Stafford airs it out, the lack of Lions receiving depth and Tate out with something to prove, all the pieces are in place to count Tate as a legitimate No. 2 fantasy option at wide receiver.

Check out what Megatron himself has had to say about Tate's role in the offense during training camp, per's Tim Twentyman:

Golden's going to get a lot of one-on-one coverage. With all the weapons we have, those one-on-ones will go full circle and I might get some more myself. When Golden starts doing what he does, they can't double both of us. One of us is going to have the opportunity.

Those guys (Tate and [Eric] Ebron) are going to be big focal points in the offense this year. They're going to make a lot of plays for us, a lot of skillful plays to get the ball down the field to increase our scoring chances. I'm going to be out there, I'm going to make big plays, but those guys are going to help out.

If you're an opposing defense, would you rather go one-on-one with Johnson or Tate? The latter is the obvious answer, but only because of the fact that Johnson is an absolute terror in terms of size and athleticism.

Tate causes more trouble to the secondaries he faces than you might think, though.

NFL Network scouting expert Daniel Jeremiah alluded to how precise Tate is in the nuances of the position, and projects great things for him as a Lion:

Much of the fanfare in Seattle rightly went to the vaunted defense and the electric play of dual-threat QB Russell Wilson. That left the Seahawks receiving corps under the radar, but the numbers say Tate was especially less appreciated than he should have been.

Even without a surefire No. 1 receiver opposite him and a Seattle offense predicated on the run, Tate managed 64 receptions for 898 yards and five touchdowns.

In an interview on ESPN's First Take, it appears Tate feels confident about his new role in the Motor City:

What stood out about his play at Notre Dame was how strong Tate was in going up for 50-50 balls and how often he'd come down with them despite lacking prototypical size. Since his college days, Tate has honed his craft to become, well, one of the craftiest receivers in the NFL.

Bold confidence in his own ability, as professed in the ESPN interview, along with an innate chip on his shoulder as a smaller player, makes Tate a dangerous adversary on the gridiron. Furthermore, the numbers back him up.

Check out these statistics from Pro Football Focus, which highlight Tate's impeccable, reliable hands and his knack for making people miss:

That would seem to help alleviate the following problem ESPN Stats & Info brought to attention:

Let's take a quick look at the other wideouts on Detroit's depth chart. Kris Durham has 49 receptions in his three-year career, and although 38 of those came in 2013, he struggled with drops and has throughout his time in the pros. Former undrafted free agent Kevin Ogletree offers speed but not much substance in terms of production, with just 999 yards receiving overall.

Oft-injured 2012 second-round pick Ryan Broyles can't be relied upon until he proves he can stay on the field, either.

To condense this message: Tate has all the tools to thrive opposite Johnson, who will draw a ton of double coverage and leave Tate in ideal situations to make plays.

Stafford has never had a reliable second option to target other than Johnson and has had to be getting frustrated by all the drops. Tate provides desperately needed relief in that regard. Otherwise, the Lions would have been stuck with an underwhelming cast of characters with stone hands or little evidence of sustainable production.

Not only will he often win with his routes and unique skills after the catch, but Tate also has the knack for getting leverage to catch back-shoulder throws and jump balls. That will make him an attractive red-zone target, and frankly, Tate is a threat anywhere on the field with Johnson attracting so much attention.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell called the plays for Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco on his run to Super Bowl MVP and one of the most statistically impressive postseasons in NFL history. Flacco often relied on the talents of one receiver, Anquan Boldin, but got contributions from others.

New Detroit offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi comes over from New Orleans, where he was the Saints' quarterbacks coach. Having to emphasize fundamentals with Drew Brees should aid Stafford's efforts to correct some of his sloppy mechanics and become an even more accomplished passer.

Tate will be that significant other for Stafford, who has the potential to be a Super Bowl MVP himself if he's put in the proper position to succeed. Coming off two losing seasons, Stafford and the Lions have a lot to prove, as does Tate to the team that didn't retain him.

Over the past three seasons, Detroit's gunslinger has averaged approximately 675 pass attempts per year, compared to Wilson's even 400 over his first two years in the league.

Presuming Stafford is in his own range in 2014—and he should be—Tate is in for his first 1,000-yard NFL season and therefore is a legitimate No. 2 fantasy play.

Golden Tate's Projected Fantasy Numbers: 75 receptions, 1,100 yards, 8 TDs