It’s football season. Which means, for some, even more importantly, it’s fantasy football season. You know, the time of year when grown men turn into school-age children by analyzing player stats and thinking of the funniest (and often dirtiest) team name.
When it comes to the hometown Detroit Lions, the last decade or so hasn’t been kind to most fantasy football team owners. There’s usually just a player or two from the roster that can make a serious impact on fantasy title hopes,but this year the outlook looks rosier.
Will Matt Stafford bounce back from an abysmal scoring year?
Will Calvin Johnson repeat his record-breaking performance?
Will there EVER be another Lions RB worthwhile to draft?
Can I still draft retired Jason Hanson?
Whether you’re in a standard scoring league, an auction-style draft or rely on point-per-reception (PPR), let’s break down the reasons why you should have Detroit Lions on your opening day roster.
1. Calvin Johnson
Calvin is clearly the best option from the Lions roster. As the highest-ranked wide receiver* in the entire league, his average draft position is 6.9 overall. He’s also going for an average of $60.90 in auction leagues.
Last year, Megatron had a “down” year in the touchdown department, only scoring five times, compared to 16 in 2011. Johnson was stopped near the goal line a handful of times, but still wasn’t close to his TD production of years’ past. On the other hand, Calvin set the NFL record for receiving yards with 1,964. That’s an average of 122.8 ypg (4 points) in standard scoring on yards alone. If you’re in a PPR league, Johnson is even more valuable; QB Matt Stafford targets him more than anyone else on the team. If Johnson can bounce back in the TD department this season, he’s more than worth a middle to late first-round pick. Just be sure to load up on running backs afterward.
2. Matthew Stafford
Stafford really struggled last year, both on the field and in the eyes of fantasy owners. Though he threw for just as many yards last season as he did in 2011, the TD production plummeted. With only 20 TDs (compared to 41 in 2011), Stafford gave his owners headaches all year. Some simply benched him. His sidearm passes and the anemic Lions offense caused slap-happy preseason owners to rethink their strategy.
Right now, Stafford is the 10th-rated QB with an average draft position (ADP) of 62.7. You can snag him for about $8.20 in auction leagues. Because the QB class is so deep this year, I’d recommend waiting until the 6th or 7th round to grab a quarterback (unless you can steal Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees early). After those top two, the QB class is rich with depth and many guys will put up similar numbers around the league. Don’t waste a high pick on Stafford, but do plan on him having a bounce-back year. The prospect of Reggie Bush should single-handedly boost Stafford’s value slightly. He may not put up 41 TDs, but he’ll surely do better than last season’s 20.
3. Reggie Bush
Some people bought into the hype of Mikel LeShoure last season. And that
was a tire fire didn’t work out. This year, Bush joins the mix as the perfect lightning-quick RB that Stafford needs out of the backfield. The former Heisman winner is currently the 18th-ranked RB on the board and is being taken around pick 53. He’s costing owners $13.2 in auction settings.
Bush is the perfect RB2. If you draft a horse RB (like Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster or Doug Martin) out of the gate, jump at the chance to take Bush as your second back. Especially if you’re in a PPR league. Reggie will catch a ton of balls out of the backfield and even nab some receiving TDs. While he won’t rush for 100 yards in most games, he’ll be versatile and can put up points in a flash. Don’t drink the blue Kool-Aid too much, but he’ll help your team quite a bit if he stays healthy.
The often stone-handed tight end came into the league as a heralded prospect, but has yet to show the consistency of a solid fantasy option. Right now though, the league doesn’t have many elite TEs, so Pettigrew will get picked. Because of Stafford, Brandon will get lots of looks. Though his receptions, yards and TDs were down significantly last year, word on the street is that he’s worked hard this offseason to correct last year’s woes.
Currently ranked as the the 27th-best TE (that’s low), he’s being drafted in 80% of leagues, meaning people are expecting a bounce-back season. His ADP is pick 132 and you can add him to your roster for a mere $1, Bob!
5. Ryan Broyles
In deep leagues, Broyles could blossom into a solid WR3/4. The key word there is could. As the Lions’ second receiving option opposite Megatron, Broyles is coming off an injury last year and has been up and down this preseason. With the declining play of Nate Burleson, a healthy Broyles could be a huge sleeper pick if you trust him. Heck, someone needs to pick up the slack on the other side of the field, right? Right?
He’s only being drafted in 37% of leagues and you can grab him in the 14th or 15th round near pick 133. He’ll be in the $1 bin in auction drafts.
6. Joique Bell
As the backup running back, Bell has had a promising preseason and may push Bush for playing time, especially around the goal line. The hometown product had a solid year last season and can be a PPR monster if you need some depth on your bench. Bell is currently undrafted in almost all leagues and will cost you $1 in auction drafts. With the way he runs and Bush’s propensity to disappear for stretches, I wouldn’t think twice about adding him as my last RB. He caught 52 passes last year in addition to his 414 rushing yards and 3 TDs. There’s a good chance he’ll poach some scoring runs away from Reggie this season.
7. Lions defense
If you employ a two-defense draft strategy, go ahead and grab the Lions D late as a backup. The allure of forced fumbles and sack totals is high here, but the chance the team still gives up a lot of points is also high. Even with an improved secondary, the Lions just aren’t in the top half of the league in team defense. And in the world of fantasy, you also have to think about kick/punt returners. Mel Gray ain’t walking through the door. The Lions defense is going at an average of 12th in drafts, but only being picked up by 3% of owners. They’re a bargain bin pick in auction drafts at just under $2.
8. The kicker
There’s a reason I don’t have a name here…no one’s won the job yet. In a world post-Jason Hanson, there seem to be two viable options at kicker for the moment. Only one will get the job, but it’s currently between David Akers and Havard Rugland (aka “Kickalicious”). Unless you draft two kickers on your team (that’s dumb), I wouldn’t trust either of them…yet. Though Akers was lights-out a few years ago, he bombed in San Francisco last year. He even missed a chip shot in the preseason game against New England on Thursday night. Rugland, the YouTube sensation, seems to have a booming leg, but hasn’t proven he can do it at the NFL level yet. I’d wait until the season begins and your starting kicker breaks his leg in six places before going after one of these guys.
*All rankings, ADPs and dollar values according to Yahoo! Sports