INSIDE THE NUMBERS
For the first time in his brief NFL career Lions’ QB Mathew Stafford played in all 16 games in 2011. That coupled with Detroit’s wide-open attack led to some monster numbers. He finished the season with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns through the air. The Lions had a league-high 666 pass attempts a year ago and lined up in the shotgun on 68 percent of their plays. With a great line and stellar weapons surrounding him, Stafford should finish as a top five fantasy option at the position if he can stay healthy again.
Playing against the NFC North foes six times should lead to plenty of shootouts and big offensive numbers. Detroit gets the NFC West and AFC South as its cross-divisional opponents in 2012. The Lions six teams that finished in the top half of teams in 2011 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. You have to like their fantasy playoff schedule – at Green Bay, at Arizona and home to Atlanta on a Saturday prime time affair.
Calvin Johnson is unanimously the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver entering the 2012 season after pulling in 96 balls for 1,681 yards and 16 TD’s. He is a big-play guy that had a league-high 32 catches of 20-plus yards. Over his past 29 games (including playoffs) Megatron has 80 yards and/or a TD 24 times in 29 contests. The team has gotten better and deeper in the offseason which suggests these trends will continue. The only bad thing surrounding Johnson is that he is on the cover for Madden 2013, which is widely considered sports’ biggest jinx.
In a PPR format tight end Brandon Pettigrew has pulled his weight, averaging 77 receptions over the past two seasons. While there’s no doubt he’s a top 10 name at the position, Pettigrew’s upside appears to be limited. He’s only managed to score 11 times through three years never going up the five-touchdown mark. In addition, his 9.6 yards per catch prevents him posting huge yardage numbers that some of the top producing tight ends have turned out in recent action. As long as you don’t overpay you won’t be disappointed.
The speedy Titus Young is full of potential and with an ADP of 107.89 can provide great value for owners. Young is the deep threat in the Lions’ explosive offense, playing on 64 percent of the team’s snaps. He caught 48 balls for 607 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie and there are plenty of reasons to suggest a slight increase those numbers in 2012. He should be viewed as a solid WR4 that could emerge as a nice flex option more weeks than not.
Detroit took wide receiver Ryan Broyles out of Oklahoma with the 54th overall pick in April’s draft. He had first-round talent, but a late-season ACL injury allowed him to fall. The team removed him from the PUP list on the outset of preseason action and it appears he’ll be ready to be in the mix in Week 1 for the Lions. He is going to push 31-year old Nate Burleson for playing time right away and could end up being 90-catch guy in the offense sooner rather than later.
The Lions’ backfield is a head scratcher for fantasy owners entering drafts and auctions. The explosive Jahvid Best is a major weapon and a perfect fit in this scheme. However, with multiple concussions he hasn’t been able to stay on the field and a huge risk. Mikel Leshoure’s rookie season ended before it started with an ACL injury. He has worked his way back from the injury, but now he has to deal with a two-game suspension for his off-the-field problems. Kevin Smith shined for a few weeks and is a sneaky add late as he could easily get his fair shake running the football again for the Lions in 2012.
For owners that go with Stafford in deeper formats where roster space is abundant handcuffing backup quarterback Shaun Hill is advised. Stafford made it through 2011 without missing time, but history suggests that is the exception rather than the norm. If Hill takes over his familiarity with the system and the talent surrounding him should lead to nice numbers.
Fantasy Football, NFL