Motown is known for their musical hits and football misses. The Lions have been one of the league’s perennial underachievers for as long as most can remember. When you combine poor draft decisions, little coaching stability, underachieving play, and the lack of a quality quarterback, you’ve had a sacrificial lamb every year for Thanksgiving.
For the loyal faithful who follow the Lions, the trials and tribulations may finally be reaching an end. For the first time in years, Detroit fans have reason for optimism. With Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson creating a dynamic young combination, the future is finally looking brighter. Let’s play an old Motown game of “smash or trash” and take a look at the fantasy football future of the Lions in today’s installment of the dynasty capsule.
Players in their Prime
Calvin Johnson WR
Megatron may very well be the most physically gifted wide receiver in all of the NFL. With great size, speed, and route running ability, he’s no match for single coverage.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem for Calvin. He hasn’t seen single coverage since Y2K was on our minds.
The Lions have failed to find a second offensive weapon to take the heat off Johnson, so his numbers have suffered. His 2009 season yielded 984 yards and five touchdowns on just 67 receptions in 14 games. Owners were certainly hoping for something closer to his 2008 season where he posted 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns on 78 grabs. Regardless, Johnson has an elite skill set and could very well establish himself as the premier receiver in all of fantasy in the near future. His owners just have to hope the numbers eventually match the talent. With some added weapons in Detroit, this could finally be the year.
Nate Burleson WR
If you’re hoping for a breakout 1,000 yard season from Burleson, you’re probably going to get caught holding the bag. However, he should be good enough to keep defenses honest enough for Calvin to produce, thus keeping the bag off your head. Burleson’s challenge has always been his health. When he’s feeling good, he’s very productive. In fact, he was in the top ten in fantasy points for wide receivers at one point in the middle of last year. Unfortunately, history has shown you have about a 50 percent chance of him making it through the entire season healthy. His value isn’t skyrocketing, but it’s not going down right now, either.
Matt Stafford QB
Stafford had a typical season for a rookie quarterback. On the plus side, he had 13 touchdown passes and showed incredible leadership ability when he re-entered a game with a significant shoulder injury in order to throw a game winning pass to Brandon Pettigrew.
He had his share of struggles though, too. A completion percentage of 53.3 and 20 interceptions aren’t going to punch his ticket to Canton. Stafford looks to have all the tools you need to be effective, including a powerful arm. He needs to work on his accuracy and decision making, but there’s no denying a special “it” factor you see with him. He’s a great stash in dynasty leagues.
Jahvid Best RB
Best may very well become the new BFF of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The selection of Best should give the offense a much needed home run weapon outside of Johnson. The injury concerns are prominent, but so is his enormous talent. This offense has lacked explosion in the running game since a certain Oklahoma State star was roaming the backfield. While Best is certainly no Barry Sanders, he’s no James Stewart, either. Best should be taken no later than third in rookie drafts this Summer and could very well end the season in the top 20 in running back scoring.
Brandon Pettigrew TE
The Thanksgiving injury to Pettigrew derailed what was going to be a very impressive rookie season. The arrival of Tony Scheffler clouds his value in the short-term, but Pettigrew should still recover to be a very valuable TE in a few years.
Players with Falling Values
Kevin Smith RB
Has anyone’s value fallen more than Kevin Smith’s this past year?
Many fantasy owners expected him to blossom into a very useful No. 2 RB, but a shoulder injury and torn ACL last year destroyed any chance of that. The injuries are a short-term concern, but I’m more alarmed by the 3.4 yards per carry average he had prior to being on the shelf. Smith lacks an explosion to his game and simply seems ordinary. His situation went from bad to worse after the drafting of Jahvid Best as well. Smith still holds dynasty value since it’s conceivable he could split time with Best this year, especially when you consider Best has durability issues of his own. Smith owners just have to hope he can get healthy and get another shot at some point, even if it’s not in Detroit.
Maurice Morris RB
Morris has actually carved himself out a pretty good career since entering the league out of Oregon. He was surely hoping the Lions would pass on a back in the draft in hopes he could shoulder the load until Smith got healthy. With Best in the fold, Morris returns to backup status. At age 30, the chances for fantasy prominence have likely come and gone.
Bryant Johnson WR
Johnson was supposed to be the weapon that kept defenses off Calvin Johnson last year. Unfortunately, his season totals of 36 catches, 426 yards, and three touchdowns simply didn’t get it done. With the addition of Burleson, Johnson move to No. 3 on the depth chart. He belongs on the waiver wire in dynasty leagues at this point.
Drew Stanton QB
There was once a time where Stanton was the quarterback of the future for Detroit.
There was also a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
They’re pretty much both ancient history. The addition of Shaun Hill is going to make Stanton battle for a job this season.
Tony Scheffler TE
He could take advantage of Pettigrew’s injury and flourish early for this offense. If he plays well, he could make it very difficult for the Lions to take him off the field. Disregarding his talent in dynasty circles could be a mistake.
Aaron Brown RB
It’s not inconceivable to think both Kevin Smith and Jahvid Best could deal with injuries this year. If that’s the case, Brown has shown a lot of versatility and explosiveness. He averaged nearly five yards per carry and was a preseason wonder last year. If he can avoid mental mistakes, he has a chance to make it as a third down back.
The Lions have been the laughing stock of the league in both reality and fantasy for a long time. Fans in Detroit have grown tired of watching Ty Detmer throw seven interceptions in a single game or going an entire year without a win. With the addition and development of young weapons at the key skill positions, those days may very well be in the past. Dynasty league owners should plan as if they are, too.