Each week this season, I will provide fantasy football advice about which Detroit Lions to start or sit. Even if you don't have any Lions on your fantasy team(s) or really just don't care to have another opinion messing with your ultimate decisions, this could very well serve as a preview of sorts for what to expect come game day.
Now, I know some of you are probably thinking, "What's this guy with a last name that sounds like Packers know about fantasy football that I don't?" Good question. I don't want to pretend I know more than anyone else. I read a lot about (fantasy) football stuff online*, I've been playing fantasy football since the stats were calculated manually with the Monday and Tuesday newspapers and I've even won sometimes, but in the end, these are just my thoughts typed out. Take them for what you will, but don't e-viscerate me because you think Calvin Johnson will have six touchdowns this weekend instead of four.
Okay, on with the posting!
QB Matthew Stafford
As we all know, Stafford is coming off his first full NFL season in which he tossed for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns while leading the NFL in pass attempts. He's another year wiser, he still has Calvin Johnson and the running back situation is suspect.
It doesn't matter who else you have -- unless you somehow also landed Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady -- and it shouldn't matter that the St. Louis Rams were not bad at forcing bad decisions last year and vastly improved their corners. Although Stafford wasn't a top quarterback in terms of yards per attempt, he throws more than enough and has the weaponry to make him a QB1, must-start in all fantasy formats.
VERDICT: So, yeah.
RB Kevin Smith
The Rams allowed 2,433 rushing yards last season, second worst to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Kevin Smith is truly healthy and stays that way throughout the game, there's a decent chance he could rack up some yards with the Lions passing game receiving most of the attention. Smith gains more than an adequate number of yards on carries he's provided good blocking, and he sees extra touches via dump offs (100 rush attempts + targets in seven games played last season).
Smith is tabbed as an RB3 by most fantasy experts, but I think you could do a lot worse than him in Week 1. I'd for sure start him over Willis McGahee, Cedric Benson, Donald Brown, Stevan Ridley, Isaac Redman, Mike Shanahan's RB of the Week and would even entertain the idea of starting him over Jamaal Charles in his first game back since Roary tore his ACL. Remember, Smith put up 40-plus fantasy points against the Carolina Panthers last season and this Rams run defense is arguably worse.
VERDICT: Sure, I would (given my running backs).
WR Calvin Johnson
Megatron will likely be going up against rookie CB Janoris Jenkins on Sunday -- talk about a warm welcome to the NFL. Jenkins says he feels good about facing Johnson, that he puts his pants on the same way Johnson does, but Jenkins doesn't realize that Johnson
makes gold records embarrasses defenses after he puts his pants on. The Rams will certainly provide Jenkins with some help, but I don't see how it stops Megatron from seeing the end zone at least once. This isn't rocket science, or is it?
VERDICT: You start him and you start him hard every week.
WR Nate Burleson
It seems we haven't heard a whole lot about the Lions' No. 2 WR this offseason. It feels like everything I've heard about the Lions wide receivers has had to do with Calvin Johnson, Titus Young breaking out, Calvin Johnson and Calvin Johnson. But don't sleep on Burleson. After all, he did have 110 targets last season.
Getting matched up against Cortland Finnegan certainly wouldn't do him any favors, but it's possible Burleson benefits from a lack of hype heading into the season a la some guy named Ogletree, who was a good throw away from three touchdowns.
VERDICT: How deep is your league and how gutsy are you feeling?
WR Titus Young
Of course, Young could break out like everyone is saying he's going to do. Even if you play the odds and not your gut, though, Young is probably the smarter play over Burleson because Young is better vertically and is expected to take the next step after getting 85 targets last season, 52 of those coming in the final nine games.
VERDICT: I say do it in deeper leagues.
TE Brandon Pettigrew
Last season, Pettigrew was second on the team and in the league amongst tight ends in targets with 126. He only turned 83 of those into receptions and the majority of those were short-yardage plays. He's obviously a much stronger play in PPR leagues due to the number of looks he gets as Stafford's safety valve.
VERDICT: Your safe play, too, unless you have Gronk, Hernandez, Graham, Davis or Gates.
My strategy with D/ST is to wait until the penultimate round, pick best available and play the matchups most weeks. If I push the right buttons, I'm going to do just as well if not better than the person who wasted a 10-12th-round pick on a potential top 5 D/ST.
Of course, that strategy means you probably won't wind up with the Lions D/ST because they finished amongst the top last year in fantasy points. If you were lucky enough to grab them, there's not a much better Week 1 matchup than this one, as the Rams allowed defenses to score over six points more than the average last season.
K Jason Hanson
He's 42 and still kicking ... in the NFL. Unbelievable.
Like D/ST, I usually play the matchups with kickers unless I can snag one from an elite offense, like the Lions. Detroit figures to get into field goal range quite a bit on Sunday, so Hanson should make you feel pretty comfortable at the kicker spot.
VERDICT: If you got him.
In other words, according to Ram Rule No. 6, if you have a Rams opponent in fantasy, you should probably start him.
Well, do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
*KC Joyner's The Football Scientist, for instance -- a fantasy football bible blue book cheat sheet guide all in one.