With Week 1 of the NFL season rapidly approaching, so too are fantasy football drafts. No matter how well or poorly 2017 went, a new season offers a new chance to construct the perfect roster on the way to a championship run. Instead of focusing on all 32 teams, today’s post takes a look at the skill players in Detroit and which Lions to keep an eye on during fantasy drafts.
Fantasy scoring assumes six-point passing touchdowns and a point per reception; average draft position (ADP) comes from fantasypros.com and assumes a 12-team league.
Matthew Stafford (Current ADP: QB10)
Perhaps no player in fantasy better describes “safe but boring” better than Matthew Stafford. Though Stafford is one of the most exciting quarterbacks on the field, his fantasy performances rarely hit too high or too low. In 2017 he had just one start during the first 16 weeks above 30 points and just one start below 10 points, bringing him to a QB7 finish.
The age-old wisdom of drafting a quarterback late remains true, and Stafford is an excellent candidate to snag well after the rest of your league has already reached for a signal caller. With an ADP of 99th, look to take Stafford after filling out your running back and wide receiver positions.
Kerryon Johnson (Current ADP: RB30)
Balancing the hype of a rookie running back and a crowded backfield is one of the toughest challenges in fantasy drafting, and Kerryon Johnson lands right in the middle of these uncertainties. His talent is undeniable, and the fact that he was drafted in the second round is a big plus, but with a new head coach in Detroit, his usage remains a mystery.
Though Johnson is primed for a solid career with the Lions, pump the brakes a bit for Year 1. He is a versatile back who may be able to do it all, but he is sharing the backfield with a red zone bruiser and a third-down specialist. He may dominate the touches between the 20s, but his fantasy ceiling does have a limit. Johnson is going as the 30th running back off the board, but this seems five to ten spots too high.
LeGarrette Blount (Current ADP: RB47)
After a top-10 finish in 2016 with New England, LeGarrette Blount had a much reduced role in Philadelphia last season. His role with the Lions is no less complicated, and his RB45 finish in 2017 seems like a good baseline for his expectations this year. He does have the benefit of being the veteran at the position, but that may only take him so far.
The Lions would not have signed Blount if they did not plan on involving him in the offense, but his role could be limited to goal line and short-yardage situations. This may still result in a handful of touchdowns, but it will be a struggle for Blount to ever be startable. He should not come off the board until the last few rounds of the draft.
Theo Riddick (Current ADP: RB54)
It may be surprising to learn that Theo Riddick ended as RB26 in PPR last season, but this was actually his lowest finish in three seasons. The elite pass-catching back has been a consistent part of the Lions offense, but the addition of Johnson could see his target count take a slight dip in 2018.
Riddick is never given proper respect in fantasy drafts, even though he is exactly the type of running back that should fill out the back end of rosters. He is currently being drafted as the 54th running back off the board, but he will finish well ahead of this. Taking Riddick around the 10th or 11th round is a great move to provide some depth at the position.
Golden Tate (Current ADP: WR23)
Since 2015, Golden Tate has been eerily consistent, averaging 13.2, 13.9 and 14.0 fantasy points per game. There is no reason to think that this will not be the case in 2018, and he should continue to see somewhere between 120 and 130 targets. This is a great situation in PPR, and he can comfortably be drafted as a WR2.
There were definitely some down moments for Tate last season, as 40 percent of his games ended with under seven points. Just like everyone else in the offense, there is a hint of uncertainty with a new coaching regime in place, but Tate’s 46th overall ADP seems criminally low.
Marvin Jones (Current ADP: WR24)
Very rarely can an NFL offense house two top-12 fantasy wide receivers, but the Lions were able to do so in 2017. Both Tate and Marvin Jones were weapons for Stafford and the offense, and differentiating between the two in fantasy is no easy task. Though Tate saw more targets last season, it was Jones who had the higher floor during most weeks.
Jones is still a great option in 2018 and should be a borderline WR2, but some regression should be expected. Tate seems to have a slightly safer role, and any player who relies on deep passes and a steep jump in touchdowns is a little risky. Still, Jones is being drafted around 54th overall which is a round later than he should be.
Kenny Golladay (Current ADP: WR54)
The old adage that it takes wide receivers three years to fully develop may not always be the case, but in fantasy it is better to bet on time when possible. Kenny Golladay had some exciting highlights in 2017, but he ended the season as a non-factor at WR70. With a year under his belt, he should improve on his 48 targets, but there are still plenty of mouths to feed in Detroit.
Golladay is still only a dart throw this season, but he is worth a look near the end of the draft. If Tate or Jones happened to suffer from an injury, Golladay would be in prime position to sneak into the WR3 conversation. The risk is low for a player that can be had in double-digit rounds, so keep an eye out for him with one of your last picks.
Luke Willson (Current ADP: TE33)
In Seattle, Luke Willson was never much of a fantasy option, but perhaps a fresh start in Detroit could be exactly what he needs. Though he is a step down from Eric Ebron in terms of talent, the former Lion proved that tight ends can be productive under Stafford; Ebron was TE13 in PPR last season.
Willson will be competing with a handful of players for targets this season, so temper expectations going into the year. He should only be drafted in the deepest of leagues, but could be a viable free agent addition come injuries and byes. He could end up as a low-end TE2, but this is likely his ceiling.
Michael Roberts (Current ADP: TE59)
Similar to Golladay, Michael Roberts enters Year 2 with some helpful experience but still has uphill battles to climb. To his benefit, the Lions did not grab any top-tier tight ends in free agency or the draft, but Roberts was a complete non-factor in 2017 with just four total receptions.
Roberts is a name to pay attention to throughout the season, but there is no way he should be drafted at all. There are simply too many pass catchers on the Lions roster for him to see any sort of consistent work, and a lack of red zone targets is an absolute deal breaker for tight ends in fantasy.