Detroit Lions Week 17 Stock Report
An enjoyable second half of the 2015 year has some wishing the regular season was extended to 18 games, just as the NFL has threatened to do on multiple occasions.
But alas, the Detroit Lions' season will come to an end this Sunday, which also means this weekly gathering won't happen again until sometime next year. No moment of silence is necessary, however, as the focus is always to go out on a roar.
Detroit's mildly entertaining 32-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers brought a lot of hope for the future and cemented some confidence in its quarterback. These distant and somewhat condescending moral victories are all that's left in the death rattle of a losing season.
Click through for this week's—and this season's final—Detroit Lions stock report.
Stock Up: RB Theo Riddick
Theo Riddick hates defenders' ankles more than my future brother-in-law hates cell phone screens, and he can barely scroll through an article without cutting his fingers. The struggle, my friends, is indeed real.
San Francisco learned this lesson the hard way. Particularly when Riddick caught a short pass on 1st-and-20 and busted out a move so dangerous it was immediately banned from all school campuses and church grounds.
Riddick finished the game with a team-leading seven catches for 63 yards and picked up another 20 yards on seven carries. He'll also finish as the league's leader in missed tackles forced (34) after a reception, barring an incredible day from Golden Tate, who currently checks in at second with 26.
Whoever is brought in (or retained) to run the offense next year would be wise to continue featuring Riddick. He's earned himself a spot at the table and in the primary pass-catcher rotation, checking in behind Tate but possibly ahead of all others at this point.
Stock Down: LB Stephen Tulloch
Not everyone is enjoying an incredible run to end the season.
Stephen Tulloch leads the team with 99 tackles, but not all of those came against the run. It's a little easier to rack up the takedowns when teams are constantly singling you out in the passing game.
He's given up the ninth-highest passer rating, with a mark of 124.2 allowed in coverage due to four touchdowns being scored at his expense.
The 49ers were only able to target him three times but came away with a big 28-yarder deep in their own territory. Detroit did a better job of hiding him against the passing game in the second half.
The end is never pretty, especially for a player as respected and loved as Tulloch is in Detroit. He brought fire to a franchise that lacked any and has been apart of two playoff seasons, which is more than most Lions can say.
Stock Up: DE Devin Taylor
Devin Taylor has no need to worry about his job security this offseason.
The third-year defensive end from South Carolina has put on a show this year. He's already racked up career highs in sacks (6), tackles (31) and quarterback hurries (21, per Pro Football Focus), and he still has one game left to improve those marks.
The Lions may go for one more spin with defensive end Jason Jones, although Taylor could supplant the soon-to-be free agent as a starter. And nobody should be shocked if Detroit simply lets Jones walk to allow a younger version of him to shine with more snaps.
However the story unfolds, Detroit may opt to extend Taylor prematurely if the new general manager thinks he could be locked in at a kind rate that benefits the franchise long-term. He's only set to account for $750,146 against the salary cap in 2016, so the decision won't be easy since he's currently such a bargain.
Stock Down: CB Nevin Lawson
Detroit's young secondary has received a lot of kudos in this space for its past performances. And every single one of them was earned.
Unfortunately for Nevin Lawson, he earned a different flavor of attention this past week.
Lawson has always been a physical cornerback. Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams was so taken out of the game by Lawson's hands-on style that he looked for a flag instead of the ball on seemingly every play.
But that physicality backfired against the 49ers. Officials tagged Lawson for three penalties, with San Francisco accepting one of them.
The Lions will be in search of a starting-caliber cornerback this offseason to play on the outside. Lawson's tenacity has a place on the field, but it needs to be limited to nickel or dime situations whenever possible.
Stock Up: QB Matthew Stafford
It's fitting that everything ends this season—just as it began—with Matthew Stafford.
Detroit's signal-caller faced intense scrutiny and calls for his job, with trade speculation flying and heated discussions about his contract playing out on Twitter, message boards and in bar rooms freshly spoiled by another lackluster Lions loss.
That narrative, however, has been flipped on it's head since the bye week. Coincidentally, that marked the first time that new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had an entire week to prepare his quarterback. The difference was palpable.
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The dramatic shift in production and efficiency is mostly due to a scheme that has been molded to its quarterback instead of the other way around. He's more comfortable at the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by him constantly barking out pre-snap calls. Plus, the running game has improved. Five of Detroit's six 100-yard days were in this time span.
Lastly, he and his receivers have been on the same page. That wasn't the case all the time under former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and can be credited to Cooter making things simpler.
The debate regarding Stafford's future has been resolved for now. Surely, there will be some who will always pine after what could have been (where art thou, Kellen Moore?), but the Lions can win with Stafford. And that's the only criteria the franchise should be considering.