Detroit Lions Fantasy Football Preview
The Detroit Lions may have only won two games over the last two seasons, but fantasy owners should be aware that there is some potentially great talent on this roster.
The Lions will be led by young quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford showed last season that he has the toughness and intangibles to lead a NFL team, and he should see a big improvement in production this year.
Newcomers Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson, and Tony Scheffler should all make big impacts for Detroit as the Lions try to take pressure off of star receiver Calvin Johnson.
Here is the 2010 fantasy outlook for the Detroit Lions.
Starter: Matthew Stafford
Backup: Shaun Hill
Matthew Stafford will enter his second season in the NFL with a great supporting cast around him.
With the additions of Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler and Jahvid Best, Stafford has many weapons to choose from this year. If the offensive line can provide enough protection for the young quarterback, Stafford could become a top 15 quarterback in the NFL.
Stafford had both good and bad stretches in 2009, but injuries eventually ended his season prematurely. His 422 yard, five touchdown performance against Cleveland was regarded as one of the finest performances in the entire league last season.
Stafford has all of the tools necessary to become a successful NFL quarterback, and he will prove that in year two.
Shaun Hill proved to be a serviceable starter in San Francisco, and he will be a solid backup if Stafford gets hurt this year.
Stafford Projection: 3,500 yards, 22 TDs, 18 INTs
Starter: Jahvid Best
Backup: Kevin Smith
The Lions used the 30th pick in last April's draft to select Jahvid Best. The star running back from Cal will look to make an immediate impact for the Lions while Kevin Smith recovers from a late-season knee injury.
Best is made in a very similar mold to Reggie Bush, and fantasy owners should expect the Lions to use him in a very similar fashion. Injuries have been a concern with Best, but the one that most people remember occurred on a freak play while he was flipping into the end zone.
Best was drafted not only because of his game-breaking ability, but also because of concerns with Kevin Smith. Smith was the Lions' starting running back last year until he got injured.
Smith will see a reduced role this season as Best will take away much of Smith's workload.
Best Projection: 730 Rushing yards, 320 Receiving yards, 7 TDs
Smith Projection: 500 Rushing yards, 220 Receiving yards, 5 TDs
Starter: Calvin Johnson
No. 2: Nate Burleson
Johnson took a step back in production in 2009 while struggling through injuries and a rookie quarterback. Defenses also blanketed him with multiple defenders because there was simply no other talent on the field to guard against.
All of those things should change for No. 81 in 2010, and his numbers should increase because of it. With more talent around him and a more experienced quarterback, Johnson should come close to the 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns he amassed in 2008.
Nate Burleson signed a five-year contract with the Lions in the off-season. Detroit expects big things from the former Seahawk.
Burleson will often see single coverage as defenses will focus their attention toward Calvin Johnson. This should create many open opportunities for Burleson, and his 2010 season will be judged by how well he converts on these chances.
Johnson Projection: 1,250 Yards, 11 TDs
Burleson Projection: 700 yards, 5 TDs
Starter: Tony Scheffler
Backup: Brandon Pettigrew
This tight end duo in Detroit could be the best in the entire NFL by the end of the season.
Scheffler was brought in through a trade during the offseason in order to give the Lions another weapon in the passing game. Scheffler could be used in a role similar to Dallas Clark in Indianapolis this season.
Pettigrew was well on his way to having a successful rookie campaign until a knee injury on Thanksgiving ended his season. Pettigrew is supposed to be ready to go for the start of this season, and he will play a big role in the Lions' offense.
When Scheffler and Pettigrew are both on the field, expect Pettigrew to stay back and help block. This will increase numbers for Scheffler over Pettigrew, but Pettigrew still has more potential in the future.
Scheffler Projection: 575 Yards, 4 TDs
Pettigrew Projection: 380 Yards, 2 TDs
Jason Hanson will once again handle the kicking duties for the Lions this year. Hanson struggled in 2009, and his aging leg will certainly not help his cause in 2010.
One thing that might improve his numbers from a year ago is the possibility of many more chances due to an improved offense around him.
Hanson is just one year removed form going 8-8 from 50+ yards in 2008, and he should still have some decent power from distance this season.
Defensively, the Lions should be improved from last year, but they are still a few players away from being solid.
Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch will improve the defensive line dramatically from last year.
Louis Delmas is a play-maker at safety, and Zack Follett will look to make an impact as he should start at linebacker this season.
The Lions should be able to pressure the quarterback, but the back seven will give up too many big plays to warrant a spot on fantasy rosters this year.
Hanson Projection: 23 FGM - 29 FGA, 31 PAT
Defense Projection: 34 sacks, 12 INT, 13 Fumble Recoveries