Detroit Lions: 2014 Outlook
 
 
 
 
Football > Teams > NFC North > Lions > Outlook

Detroit Lions

By Mark Morales-Smith, Friday, September 12, 2014

PASS HAPPY Matthew Stafford is a fantasy stud. One thing we know is he is going to throw the ball and he's going to throw it a lot. Last year Stafford threw 93 fewer passes than in 2012, and his attempts were down to 634 (his lowest in any full season of his career). No, that is not a typo. For a bit of context, 634 attempts ranks as the 17th-most pass attempts in a season ever. Needless to say, this guy likes to air it out. He has maybe one of the greatest targets of all time to throw it to in Calvin Johnson. The Lions also brought in Golden Tate and rookie Eric Ebron and their running backs are glorified receivers. With more weapons than ever, expect Stafford to carry this offense even more. He does throw a high amount of interceptions, but that comes with all the attempts. Stafford is ranked around the Top 5 fantasy quarterbacks and should be drafted and started in all leagues. He has been on the doorstep of elite for a couple seasons now and he has the potential to muscle his way into the Big three (Manning, Rodgers and Brees).

Veteran backup Dan Orlovsky will be the man to take the reins in Detroit should Stafford get injured. On just about any other team Orlovsky wouldn't even be a consideration, yet we've seen backups get playing time in Detroit before and become fantasy relevant. When you have Calvin Johnson, you can be relevant. If Stafford is injured, Orlovsky is worth a look as a bye week fill-in.

Reggie Bush is coming off a 1,000-plus rushing yard, 500-plus receiving yard season. This is what we've come to expect from him. Bush is a very good fantasy back, but much more valuable in PPR leagues. It is looking like the Lions will be in a dual back system again with Joique Bell, which gelled during the 2013 season. Bush played well as the Lions' feature back, then Bell played well enough to earn a substantial amount of playing time. Expect Bush's numbers to be similar; although he may earn a few less carries while seeing a few more passes to further augment the 54 catches he had last year. His TD numbers will not be high since he is not an adequately-sized option in the red zone. When you have Calvin Johnson and three capable tight ends, undersized running backs don't get all that many looks. Bush is a high-end RB2 in PPR leagues and still has mid-range RB2 value in standard.

Bell's strong play earned him substantial playing time and forced a two-back system in Detroit. Expect to see more carries (166 last year) and perhaps see the same number of receptions (53). He will split time with Reggie Bush. If Bush were to get injured (which would not be all that shocking), Bell could become a very capable RB1. The former Wayne State back has value in all formats, especially PPR. Bell is likely the league's best handcuff option for fantasy owners. He is also good enough to stick in the starting lineup every week.

Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the game. In 2013, Megatron caught 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. All that production came in just 14 games. He is 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, yet he can run faster than most receivers and cornerbacks. The question is whether any of the other tremendous receivers in the league can compare. Given his dominant production over the years, Johnson only makes sense as the first WR to come off the board. He should be drafted in the second half of the first round in all redraft leagues and formats.

Editor's note: At 28 years old, he will still be at the top of his game with an elite year or two left in the chamber. Considering he collected 14 receptions for 329 yards and a touchdown last year in Week 8 against Dallas, there's really no argument that he's slowing down. Johnson played through knee and finger injuries last year. He's back at 100-percent and could improve upon his already excellent 2013 statistics.