Detroit Lions: Five Players for Your Fantasy Football Draft Board

Blue in GreerCorrespondent IAugust 5, 2010

Detroit Lions: Five Players for Your Fantasy Football Draft Board

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    What if this Detroit Lion offense works?

    What if players stay relatively healthy and they play up to their potential?

    What can we expect if Scott Linehan and Jim Schwartz get their wishes granted this year?

    Which players benefit and what players will take a backseat?

    When was the last time the Detroit Lions had so many weapons that someone would have to take a backseat?

    Pretty good questions and for a lot of Lion fans along with a lot more Fantasy Football players hoping to find a steal or two I will try to find some answers.

    If you are even halfway serious about this, you know all the Lions additions and what was already here. But the answers lie in who gets the ball and how they will get it.

    For that question we have to look at a Linehan and Schwartz's offense. Leopards don't change spots and coaching tendencies are tracked by opposing teams for a reason.

    While we only have last year to access the impact Schwartz has on an offense, Linehan has seven full years of being either an offensive coordinator or head coach that we can examine. If we understand how Linehan has utilized his players before we should get an idea of how the players might perform this year.

Matthew Stafford

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    We have to start with the quarterback in a Linehan offense.
    In the four years of top 10 offenses they averaged 4,029 yards a season passing while in the three years when things didn't go so good they averaged 3234 yards.

    This was despite the fact that they threw the ball more in the bad years 16.2 more times. The difference can be explained by the difference in completions when the good teams actually had an average of 42 more completions per season.

    With three of the four top 10 offenses sending a QB to the Pro-Bowl it's clear that Linehan must get production out of the position. No real surprise there, few offenses do succeed in this NFL without a good QB but it seems a little more so with Linehan.

    Fortunately the Lions appear set with Matt Stafford at the helm. Despite the very rookie-like statistics he compiled last year there are plenty of reasons to believe he can take that next step and put up some pretty good numbers.

    So if we are saying it will be an average "good" Linehan offense and Stafford will have average numbers for that kind of team, what are we looking at?

    How about 4301 yards with 29 touchdown passes?

    For you fantasy team owners how many QBs will put up those kind of numbers this year? Even if you only give him 4000 yards and 25 TDs that still makes him a starting QB in a 10-team league.

    Maybe you are having a hard time believing Stafford will have those kind of numbers consider that Drew Bledsoe went from a rookie season with 2494 yards and 15 TDs to 4555 yards with 25 TDs his second season.

    Just last year, Joe Flacco increased his yardage per game by 40.1 in his second season and even Aaron Rodgers increased his yardage by 24.7 per game.

    If Matt Stafford is the real deal he will have a huge leap in production, it won't be a gradual thing, probably some ups and downs first. But somewhere within the next two years he will become a 4000-4500 yards with 30-plus TDs-passer.

    Schwartz and Linehan have plenty of confidence in him and they have surrounded him with all the weapons so now it's more a matter of when he takes that leap.

    If I'm drafting a fantasy team and the usual top guys like Brees, Manning, and Rodgers are gone I would have to seriously consider Stafford. Tons of potential and he will get an opportunity to use it, especially with that Lions defense.

Calvin Johnson

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    This will be the last year anyone will draft Calvin Johnson outside of the top two rounds.

    Last year was the first year Linehan didn't have a 1000 yard receiver and I doubt we should get used to it. Even the year when injuries held Randy Moss to 49 receptions Nate Burleson had his best season with 1006 yards and Burleson is in Detroit now.

    Linehan has always had a big-time receiver. Whether it was Randy Moss in Minnesota, Chris Chambers in Miami or Terry Holt in St Louis one WR was the clear leader. In the five years the stud WR was healthy they averaged 97 receptions with 1295 yards and 10 TDs.

    Those are pretty decent numbers and no fantasy owner would complain about that kind of production but I expect Calvin to exceed those numbers this year. Maybe not the receptions but I expect to see more like 1400-1600 yards and 15 TDs this year.

    I can understand why someone would draft Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald but Megatron has to figure in there pretty soon after that.

Tony Scheffler

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    Linehan likes tight ends but Tony Scheffler is a different kind of player than he is used to.

    Maybe the closest player in Linehan's past is Jermaine Wiggins and he had 71 receptions for 705 yards and four TDs in the one year he played for Linehan.

    That would be pretty decent numbers for TE on a fantasy team and from what we are hearing about him so far Linehan and Schwartz are probably expecting at least those kind of numbers this year out of Scheffler.

    If you are looking for a cheap starting TE or certainly a No. 2 TE Scheffler should be a great option.

Jahvid Best

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    Another player whose talents Linehan hasn't had a lot experience designing plays for is Jahvid Best.

    While Linehan has coached two pro bowl running backs in Micheal Bennett and Stephen Jackson plus Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in Miami, he hasn't had any back with the speed or versatility of Best,

    I have seen a lot of predictions about Best but there are a few things you should consider before drafting him—and I am not talking about the injury factor.

    For one, Linehan doesn't run the ball that much with an average of 444 rushing attempts per year and only Stephen Jackson has ever carried the ball more than 260 times.

    Considering the way the Lions have talked about using him and the apparent good health of Kevin Smith I doubt he will get 200 carries this year so I doubt we see 1000 yards rushing.

    What the Lions are expected to do is use Best in the passing game and Linehan has always thrown to his backs.

    It seems reasonable to expect 40-60 receptions this year with 500-600 receiving yards and if we add that to his rushing yards 1400-1500 yards from scrimmage makes him a solid number two back on any fantasy team.

    But be warned, I don't expect Best to be the running back scoring in most goal to goal situations so his touchdown total will be a little light.

Kevin Smith

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    The forgotten man is Kevin Smith.

    Between his injury and Jahvid Best coming to town it's easy to forget him but don't make that mistake.

    He shouldn't be in your top two backs but he makes a real attractive number three back on any fantasy team.

    It appears he is recovering nicely from his injury and he could be ready to go from the start of the season so don't let the injury scare you away.

    For the Best impact, we only have to look at Linehan's past history with No. 2 backs. In 2005 Ronnie Brown had 207 carries while Ricky Williams toted the ball 168 times and a similar ratio seems likely between Best and Smith.

    The Lions love the solid, all-around game of Kevin Smith and I have to believe he will be the runner of choice for those tough yards around the goal line and we know they will want his pass protection skills on third down.

    We might even see a little of Smith and Best in the backfield together. Just imagine the mismatches that creates and we know they have complete confidence in the receiving skills of Smith.

    In the end I could see Kevin Smith with 150-180 carries for 600-800 yards and 8-10 TDs. Throw in 20-40 receptions for another 200-400 yards with a couple of more TDs and you have a real nice No. 3 RB.

Nate Burleson

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    We know Linehan wasn't in Nate Burleson's driveway on the opening of free agency because they like his blocking.

    This was who the Lions wanted and we sure should expect to see them throw it his way once in a while.

    The question is how often.

    Linehan has a mixed record with number two recievers. While Isaac Bruce averaged 69 receptions and over 900 yards in his two years with Linehan the most receptions by a number two reciever was Dwayne bates with 50 receptions.

    With all the options on this team we shouldn't expect big numbers out of Burleson. If you are looking for a third WR who can give you 60 receptions with 800 yards and 5-6 TDs than consider Burleson.

Brandon Pettigrew

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    Brandon Pettigrew has a chance to be a great tight end.

    Just not so great as a fantasy team TE.

    His main value lies in his blocking and ability to create mismatches against linebackers. Great hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic so he will be a threat in the end zone but with all the options I already mentioned he will be the fifth option on the field at any time.

    They won't ignore him but 40-50 receptions for 400-600 yards seems to be about the limit for this season. That makes him an option for a second TE but the name recognition will probably mean he goes too early in most fantasy drafts.

The Rest of the Story

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    If you are still looking after those guys either you are in a very big league or something really bad has happened to your draft.

    Unless there are injuries involved the only way another Detroit Lion should be on your fantasy team is who ever ends up returning kicks and it doesn't appear to be any top ten kick returners on this team.

    A quick rundown of the remaining possibilities include;

    Bryant Johnson—The word out of training camp is good. He is healthy this year and appears ready to fill that third WR role on the Lions. On a lot of teams that makes him someone who should be on your radar but not on this team.

    With Scheffler and Best expected to be that third option most of the time, I don't expect Bryant Johnson to get many opportunities.

    Mo Morris—Should be the third RB and probably even get a little action but it will be sparingly and sporadic. Unless Best or Smith is injured it makes no sense to have Morris on your team.

    Will Heller—Sometimes it's nice to have this kind of player deep down in the depth chart. This is the kind of guy who might get you a few yards and a touchdown when you are filling a bye week by your starting TE. But not on this Lion team, I could see two-three TDs but that's about it.

    Derrick Williams—If a Lion player steps up as a punt returner option it would have to be Williams. They say he looks a lot more comfortable this year and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets the job. I just don't know if that would be enough to make him valuable on a fantasy team. With this defense how often will the other team punt anyways?