2012 Team Outlook: Detroit
QB Matthew Stafford, DET - Stud (low risk)
Finally, in his third season, Matthew Stafford was fully healthy. It's easy to forget that he only played 13 games in his first two seasons, but he made the most of his opportunities in 2011. With over 5,000 passing yards and 41 touchdown passes, Stafford was in the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Those numbers shouldn't be tough to replicate as long as Calvin Johnson is on the field. The emergence of a more reliable running game could take a small bite into Stafford's fantasy production though. Stafford has quickly established himself as a fantasy QB1 across all formats and he's only 24 years old.
Update (08/27): Stafford sustained an injury to his non-throwing hand. It is a non-issue.
QB Shaun Hill, MIN - Not Draft Worthy
Should Matthew Stafford sustain a serious injury, Shaun Hill would become a bye week fill-in. In 2010, he played in 11 games and performed admirably in Stafford's absense. The reality is that Hill is 32 years old and now has rookie Kellen Moore nipping at his heels. Moore may have been undrafted and brought in as a free agent, but the Boise State quarterback won a lot of college football games. It's possible that as the season presses on, Moore takes Hill's backup spot. For the time being though, Hill is penciled in as the Lions' backup quarterback.
RB Jahvid Best, --- - Gamble (high risk)
Since the organization opted not to add a running back in the draft, they must already be confident in what they have. Jahvid Best is a big part of the Lions' backfield, regardless of his concussion problems. When healthy, he has been a great fantasy performer, particularly in PPR leagues. Best has been cleared for football activies by Detroit's medical staff and has already taken part in offseason workouts. Second-year back Mikel Leshoure will see his fair share of work after missing all of the 2011 season, so keep an eye on what the coaching staff says about a possible timeshare. Best is a risky choice because of his injury history and due the potential for a split backfield.
Update (08/27): Best has been placed on the PUP list which will keep him off the field for the first six weeks of the season. If he ever does get back on the field, that's the time to add him to your roster so until then, consider Leshoure or Kevin Smith.
RB Mikel Leshoure, --- - Sleeper (undervalued)
Detroit's potent offense is worthy of close examination because the players who earn the most touches inevitably will score a lot of fantasy points. After missing his entire rookie year, Mikel Leshoure has a ton of potential. For those who hadn't heard, Leshoure will face a two-game suspension after pleading guilty to a possession of marijuana charge in early May. Putting that suspension aside, Leshoure is the main backup behind Jahvid Best, a player with a known injury history. If fantasy owners can grab Leshoure as a late-round flier, the upside makes him a worthwhile selection especially since he figures to be Detroit's goal-line back.
Update (8/12): Leshoure anticipates that he'll return to practice sometime in the next week.
RB Kevin Smith, --- - Quality Backup
Kevin Smith deserved another shot with his former team and he earned it when Detroit signed him during a rash of injuries suffered at the running back position. In his second week back on the field, he put up over 200 total yards and three touchdowns. If Jahvid Best sustains another big injury, the former Central Florida back is on the short list to reap the fantasy benefits. Let's not forget though that Smith's career was originally cut short because he couldn't stay healthy. If injuries pile up, Smith has already proven he can be good for a productive week or two, but he doesn't seem able to sustain that success.
Update (8/12): Smith should be considered Detroit's top back due to the injury concerns of both Best and Mikel Leshoure. Just remember this is a fluid situation that could end up changing week-to-week during the regular season.
RB Keiland Williams, --- - Not Draft Worthy
After a flurry of injuries, the Lions were pressed into giving Keiland Williams touches sporadically last season. Detroit's offense requires their backs be able to catch the ball, so Williams is a natural fit. For fantasy owners, there just isn't any upside here. Williams had multiple games where he had at least nine touches and he didn't do much with those opportunities. Barring another unlucky, injury-riddled season for the Lions' running backs, Williams won't be worth a roster spot.
Update (8/12): Williams is in a depth chart battle with Joique Bell and Stephon Green.