Detroit Lions – 2019 A Look Inside

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Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Joe Zollo, & Chris Tyler

As the Lions continue their attempt to become the Patriots of the NFC North, they spent their first pick on the latest tight end to draw comparisons to the recently retired Rob Gronkowski. Hockenson is the highlight of this class. You don’t spend a top 10 pick on a TE if you don’t think he can help change around your offense. After jettisoning WR Golden Tate, the Lions have some big bodied pass catchers to dominate in the red zone. Outside of Hockenson, there’s not much to bring up. This class lives and dies on the Hockenson pick. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

The two biggest names in this lineup for fantasy are RB Kerryon Johnson and WR Kenny Golladay. Johnson is the intrigue based on last year’s seven game tease, and Golladay is the target monster now that Golden Tate is no longer around. QB Matthew Stafford used to be a consistent bet to finish as a low-end QB1, but once HC Matt Patricia took over and decided to make the offense suck, the hopes of that continuing were immediately dashed. Marvin Jones has the big play ability but lacks consistency, so he’s best for DFS and Best Ball formats. Theo Riddick is a lock for 50+ receptions, but the emergence of Johnson’s potential as a three-down back puts that into question. All told, the offense has pieces to work with, we’re just not sure yet how they’ll be utilized. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

Kerryon Johnson is on his way up. All the way up. We just need head coach Matt Patricia to give him the damn ball. Johnson spent the beginning of 2018 buried behind the corpse that is LeGarrette Blount, and later suffered a knee injury that would eventually land him on injured reserve. But during his time as the starting running back of the Lions, it was easy to get excited about the possibility of a Lions offense fronted by Johnson.

Johnson was RB14 from Weeks 4-11, averaging 15.73 fantasy points per game — solid numbers for an RB2. Johnson did this while averaging fewer than 13 carries and four targets per game. His four total touchdowns didn’t exactly light the league on fire either. But perhaps, the most telling stat was that during those aforementioned weeks, Johnson was on the field and running more pass routes than incumbent third down back Theo Riddick. Johnson even ended the year with one of the ten best receiving grades according to Pro Football Focus. Johnson proved his worth as a potential three-down back by excelling not only as a receiver, but also as a pass blocker.

During those same weeks, Johnson was a top ten-graded runner as well. He also averaged 5.39 yards per carry. Over the full season, Johnson had nine rushes that exceeded 15 yards, and finished 13th in PFF’s Breakaway and rating, which figures the number of yards gained on rushes exceeding 15 yards divided into the total number of rushing yards. Johnson ended last season as RB33, having only started seven games. His current ADP is RB23, and he only has to fend off competition from newly-signed C.J. Anderson and his head coach who is seemingly reluctant to give him a full workload. Johnson has a clear path to RB2 production, and getting him in the fifth round is well worth the price. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

Matt Patricia’s first year at the helm did not go according to plan for the offense. The Lions were the 25th best in the league (seventh best the year prior). Their points-per-game dropped almost a full touchdown. They attempted four more pass attempts in 2018 compared to 2017. However, their touchdowns scored dropped by eight, and passing yards dropped by over 400. That begs the question: Are there any players on the Lions who have enough upside that there might be fantasy downside? The answer is yes. There are three players on the team worth starting on your fantasy teams. Of those three, there is one obvious choice for potential downside on the Detroit Lions: Kenny Golladay.

Golladay had 70 receptions, 1,063 yard, and five touchdowns on 119 targets. That was good for WR19. He had a good year. However, the Lions skill players around him were vanishing, one-by-one into thin air (Avengers-esque!). Marvin Jones only played in nine games. Golden Tate played in seven games before his trade to the Eagles. Kerryon Johnson only played in ten, starting seven. Despite all that, Golladay only managed a 21% share of the receiving targets. Jones will be back this year. They signed Danny Amendola. Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick have the ability to combine for over 100 targets. They also used a top 10 pick on a tight end from Iowa (TJ Hockenson). You don’t draft a tight end in the top 10 to not use him.

Furthermore, Golladay is being drafted as the WR17 (ADP at 4.08). People are expecting him to improve upon his WR19 from last year, despite an expected plateau with targets, receptions, and yards. The only place he can improve is touchdowns. However, he only had three receptions last year inside the 10. That is the same amount Jones had in five fewer games. Also, 87.5% of Golladay’s targets were not in the red zone. With Hockenson, a healthy Amendola, Jones, and Johnson- the red zone targets are likely going to remain the same.

Golladay’s ADP has him in the middle of the following receivers — Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins (no Tyreek Hill as of now), and Calvin Ridley. Woods was WR10 last year with a lesser share of targets; Edelman was WR23 despite missing five games. Long story short: avoid Kenny Golladay in the 4th round. If you take him, consider yourself warned. You’re likely taking a borderline WR2 in the fourth. – Chris Molina

Marvin Jones is the most prominent veteran on the Lions entering the 2019 season. While Jones may be considered a liability in PPR leagues, he still has multiple opportunities every game to score a long touchdown. Coming off a season where he missed multiple games due to injury, he wasn’t anything stellar. But that could also be attributed to the offense as a whole. He will primarily compete for targets with Kenny Golladay, and secondarily with rookie TE T.J Hockenson. Jones’ first two seasons in Detroit were stellar, and he most likely would have produced similar numbers if he was healthy all of last season. Don’t buy too high on him in PPR, but understand that in standard leagues, Marvin Jones can put up big numbers due to his big play ability and Matthew Stafford’s willingness to throw the long ball. – Joe Zollo

Personally, I have very high hopes for T. J. Hockenson at the next level. He has great size (6’5’’ 251 pounds) and speed (4.7 40) that makes him a huge threat. During his days at Iowa, he received the ball 73 times in his two-year career for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns. You may be wondering why I like someone with such little stats? Compared to his counterpart, Noah Fant, Hockenson ran the full route tree because he’s athletic enough to do so. Matthew Stafford is going to enjoy the versatility that Hockenson brings, as he is too quick and agile for linebackers, and his hands are too strong for safeties. Hockenson will be a dangerous man in the NFC North for seasons to come. – Chris Tyler

A long-time Seahawk who played his last two seasons with the Jets, Jermaine Kearse finds himself in the Motor City, currently slated behind former Patriot, Ram, and Dolphin Danny Amendola. Kearse can easily jump him on the depth chart (or just wait for Amendola to eventually get hurt), and once that happens, he can produce when on the field. His best season was 2017 in New York with 65 receptions, 810 yards, and five touchdowns. Kearse has never been (and probably never will be) a 1,000 yard or 80+ reception guy. With that being said, he enters an offense that clearly missed Golden Tate after he was traded last season, and Kearse could be that guy to fill his role. If you are unaware, every full season Tate played in Detroit he caught over 90 passes. Again, don’t set expectations that high. If Stafford likes how Kearse plays, he will see plenty of targets come his way, and those warrant him as a solid bench player to call up during certain match ups. – Joe Zollo

If the team can come to terms on a contract with him, Damon “Snacks” Harrison is an easy DL1. He finished with the sixth most points in 2018 based on the sheer force he has in the run game. He won’t rack up an incredible amount of sacks, but he will certainly gobble up anything that comes near him in the run game. The newly acquired Trey Flowers finished just outside of the Top 20 last season, but easily has the potential to be in that company. Flowers is an all-around defensive end who will rack up a solid amount of tackles and sacks while also forcing multiple turnovers. Don’t draft him as your starter, but he is definitely worth a backup role.

At the Linebacker position, Jarrad Davis finished just outside of the Top 20 last season but can easily finish Top 20, if not Top 15, in 2019. He managed 195 points with exactly 100 tackles and six sacks. He is someone who will always be around the ball due to his speed, and he can also get in the backfield and get you those much loved sacks for extra points.

Finally, in the secondary, there is not much to look at. Darius Slay is an unbelievable cover corner, but is not someone who will garnish enough fantasy points for you to have him on your team. The only guy who could produce is Quandre Diggs. Diggs had a career year last season with career highs in tackles and interceptions. While 64 tackles for a safety is not unheard of, I don’t see Diggs duplicating the success he had last season. Plus, there are a slew of other players to draft who would be much more consistent and more stable than Diggs. – Joe Zollo