2018 Fantasy Football: Detroit Lions Team Outlook

Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate anchor a productive offense, but can new head coach Matt Patricia bring about enough changes to retool this team into a legit contender? Senior Fantasy Football Expert Shawn Childs breaks down the Detroit Lions.

Detroit Lions

Over the last four seasons, the Lions have 36-28 record with two playoff appearances. Detroit decided to move on from Jim Caldwell despite a career 62-50 record in the NFL. Matt Patricia takes over as head coach after spending the last four seasons with the Patriots. In the previous six seasons, Patricia ran the defense for New England.

The Lions showed growth on offense leading to the 7th place finish in point scored (410) while ranking 13th in offensive yards gained. Jim Bob Cooter will run the offense after taking over the offensive coordinator job during the season in 2015. In 2014 and 2015, Cooter was the Lions’ quarterbacks coach. He has 12 years of experience coaching in the NFL.

Detroit fell to 27th in yards allowed and 21st in points allowed (376). The Lions named Paul Pasqualoni their defensive coordinator who makes the jump from Boston College while holding the same position. Pasqualoni does have eight years of experience in the NFL.

This coaching staff has a lot to prove in 2018.

Free Agency

Detroit signed nine players in the offseason while sending 11 other players to find new jobs in the NFL.

The first order of business was to change the personnel at the tight end position. The Lions moved on from Eric Ebron and Darren Fells while signing Luke Wilson and Levine Toilolo. Ebron was a first-round draft pick in 2014 who failed to develop into an impact player. Both Wilson and Toilolo project as low upside players.

Matt Cassel was brought in to compete quarterback job. Detroit signed RB LeGarrette Blount to add a power back to their offense. He has ties to the coaching staff while in New England.

The Lions lost C Travis Swanson to free agency leading to C Wesley Johnson being brought in to add depth. Swanson struggled in three of his four seasons in the NFL while being a liability in 2017 in all areas. Johnson did start 14 games last year, but he didn’t belong in the starting lineup.

Detroit released P Jeff Locke plus DE Brandon Copeland and DT Haloti Ngata from their defensive line. Ngata is a veteran player at the end of his career with some value on early downs against the run. Copeland missed all of last year with a pectoral injury.

The Lions signed three linebackers – Jonathan Freeny, Christian Jones, and Devon Kennard. Freeny struggled to find a home in 2017 leading minimal playing time with four teams. Jones delivered 90 tackles and two sacks, but he ranked as a liability in all areas. Kennard was a neutral player for New York off the bench over the last four seasons. Detroit did lose LB Tahir Whitehead to the Raiders after delivering 242 tackles over the two seasons with some upside defending the pass.

Detroit signed CB DeShawn Shead while releasing S Don Carey and CB D.J. Hayden. Shead missed 14 games in 2017 with a knee injury after playing the best ball of his career with Seattle in 2017 (81 tackles and 14 defended passes). Carey is a low-level backup while Hayden is a former first-round draft pick (2013) who has never lived up to his draft value.

Draft

With the 20th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Lions invested in C Frank Ragnow. Last year Ragnow played in only eight games due to a high ankle injury. His game is built on power and his initial quickness, but his overall speed isn’t an edge. Frank can handle bull rushers while showing limited range if asked to defend a bigger part of the field.

In the second round, Detroit shifted back to the RB position with Kerryon Johnson. He offers traits of three-down ability, but Johnson does need to add more upper body strength to handle a heavy workload at the next level. Kerryon shows the ability to downshift and accelerate through traffic, but his short area quickness isn’t elite. He runs with an upright style while featuring a stiff arm and toughness in his physical style. Johnson doesn’t have an edge in vision. He’s expected to handle his responsibilities in pass protection.

S Tracy Walker was the choice in the third round. His vision and reads in play development aren’t where they need to be to make an impact early in his career. Walker plays with speed and athletic ability while needing to get stronger. His best value will come when moving forward while projecting a hitter with growth expected in his tackling.

The Lions added DE Da’shawn Hand in the fourth round. He looks the part of a high-end run defender with questions with his motor and value as a pass rusher. Hand offers a foundation piece to a defensive live thanks to his strength and power.

Detroit drafted G Tyrell Crosby in the fifth round. Crosby has tackle size, but a guard body while needing plenty of work to improve his technique. His game is built for the run game while lacking range and motivation. Tyrell needs to tighten up his body while adding more strength above the waist.

The Lions took a shot on FB Nick Bawden with their last pick in the seventh round. His run blocking needs work after starting his career as a quarterback.



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Offensive Line

Detroit had the worst rushing offensive (1,221 yards) in the NFL in 2017 while averaging only 22.7 rushing attempts per game. They gained 3.4 yards per carry with ten TDs and seven runs over 20 yards.

The lack of run game led to a sixth-place finish in passing yards (4,183) with 29 TDs and 11 Ints. The Lions gained 7.8 yards per pass attempt with a league-high 16 catches over 40 yards. Their offensive line allowed 47 sacks and 93 QB hits.

LT Taylor Decker started the last seven games for the Lions last year after missing the first eight games with a slow recovery from a torn labrum. He played well the previous season in his 16 starts as a rookie. Decker has some technical issues in his footwork, which invites some risk in pass protection. Taylor is a power player who plays with an attitude. Detroit selected him in the first round in 2016.

LG Graham Glasgow is expected to move to guard after getting drafted in the third round in 2016 as a center. Glasgow has limitations in his blocking area due to minimal quickness and questionable foot speed. Graham plays with power, and he can play multiple positions. His best value will come in a power running game. Last year he moved to a league average player his best success coming against the run.

C Frank Ragnow will move into the starting lineup after drafted in the first round. Ragnow will upgrade the run game for sure with his best edge coming from his power and strength. His range may be challenged in pass protection.

RG T.J. Lang was a plus player in his last three seasons in Green Bay thanks to the decision making by Aaron Rodgers. His game regressed slightly in 2017 in his first year in Detroit due to weakness in his run blocking. Lang remains a high-level asset in pass blocking.

RT Ricky Wagner has three plus seasons on his five-year resume after being selected in the fifth round in 2013. Wagner played the best in pass protection while being a league average player in run blocking.

The Lions have the talent on the offensive line to possible rank in the top third of the league. They allowed too many sacks last year with failure in the run. The changes at RB and on the line should correct some of their shortfalls leading to better success in the passing game.

Offensive Schedule

The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).

This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.

2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.

2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.

Detroit has four tough matchups (CAR, ARI, and MIN X 2) for their rushing offense with all games coming after Week 8. Their best chance for success will come against the Rams and the Bills.

Their pass attack has two bad games vs. the Vikings with only one favorable game (NE).

Overall, both run and pass schedule appear to be below average.

Offense

The Lions threw the ball 62 percent of the time while leaving plenty of offense on the table due to a horrible run game. Detroit will still throw the ball a high level even after a change at head coach. The changes at RB and offensive line should lead more success on the ground in 2018.

Quarterbacks

QB Matthew Stafford – Over his last seven seasons has with the Lions, Stafford hasn’t missed a game with a 57-55 record. Matthew has 197 TDs and 97 Ints over his previous 112 games. His completion rate (66.1) moved into an elite area over the last three seasons, but his passing yards have drifted from his highest levels without the might Calvin Johnson at his service. Stafford passed for 4,000 yards in each of his last seven seasons. His passing attempts (583) over the previous three years are well below his previous for years (656 per season). Last year Matthew threw for over 300 yards five games, and he had four games with three TDs or more. In 2018, Stafford has weakness in the passing game at TE while feature three options at WR and pass catching talent at RB. Possible 4,500 passing yards with a chance to beat 30 TDs if Kenny Golladay makes step forward.

Other Options: Matt Cassel, Jake Rudock

Running Backs

RB LeGarrette Blount – I expect Blount to win the power lead running back job out of training camp. His best season came in 2016 with the Patriots where he gained 1,199 combined yards with 18 TDs and seven catches on a career-high 306 touches. Last year the Eagles rotated RBs, which led to LeGarrette gaining 816 combined yards with only three TDs and eight catches on 181 touches. He has no value on passing downs. With Kerry Johnson in the mix, I can’t put a number on Blount’s value. The lead runner in Detroit has a chance to run the ball 225+ times for 1,000 yards with questionable value in TDs. In general, the Lions’ early-down back looks to be a Fantasy trap even with an improved offensive line.

RB Kerryon Johnson – Over three seasons at Auburn with one coming as a full-time starter, Johnson rushed for 1,391 yards and 34 TDs plus 55 catches for 478 yards. Much of his scoring last year came on of the wildcat type offense leading to his best year (1,585 combined yards with 20 TDs and 24 catches). In his college career, Kerryon gained only 4.8 yards per rush. He runs with a long stride and upright position, which I believe is going to be a problem in the NFL. His movements require space to gain yards even with some wiggle and power. In 2018, I view him as a work in progress with a wide range of outcomes from week-to-week. I sense a draft day bust while offering no interest to me in the Fantasy market.

Update: 8/11/2018 > The player that gained the most momentum in the first preseason game for the Lions was Kerryon Johnson. He finished with 67 combined yards with four catches. His value in the passing game may be better than expected, and I have him rated too low heading into August.

RB Theo Riddick – Over the last two seasons, the Lions gave Riddick 282 combined touches. He’s been boring in the run game in his career (3.4 yards per rush) while offering value in the passing game. In 2015, Theo caught 80 of his 99 targets for 697 yards and three TDs. His opportunity faded to 53 catches in each of the last two seasons while averaging 5.3 targets per game. Riddick did miss six games in 2016 while being on pace for another 80-catch season. The positive by signing Blount and drafting Johnson will be a cleaner role as a pass-catching back with minimal value on early downs. Theo has upside in catches, and Matt Stafford will throw to the RB position. Possible 80+ catches with Ameer Abdullah expecting to be less of a threat on third downs.

RB Ameer Abdullah – Detroit looks ready to part ways with Abdullah after a disappointing third season in the NFL. Last year he gained 714 combined yards with five TDs and 25 catches while receiving 190 touches. Ameer gained only 3.3 yards per rush and 6.5 yards per catch. Overall, he can’t match the pass-catching ability of Riddick while no owning a strong enough skill to see starting snaps on early downs. I won’t write him off, but he projects as more a waiver wire option in 12-team leagues unless his opportunity and performance improve over the summer.

Other Options: Zack Zenner, Dwayne Washington

Wide Receivers

WR Golden Tate – It’s easy to overlook Tate as top WR2 due to his weakness in TDs (24) over his last 80 games. Since arriving in Detroit, Golden averaged 93 catches for 1,056 yards and five TDs per season with his best success coming in 2014 (99/1331/4) when Calvin Johnson was still on the roster, and the Lions threw the ball 650 times a year. He had a great four-game run from Week 6 to Week 10 (27/392/2) with two other strong games (10/107, 8/85/1, and 7/104/1). A shoulder injury in late October appeared to be serious, but Tate was able to play through the injury. Last year the WRs in Detroit caught 211 passes for 2,928 yards and 16 TDs on 334 targets. Matt Stafford will throw plenty of balls to the WR position with more targets expected with the TE position looking to have a drop down in talent. Possible 100+ catches for 1,100 yards and a handful of TDs.

WR Marvin Jones – Jones rewarded Fantasy owners with a great season (61/1101/9) while being a value on draft day. He gained an impressive 18.0 yards per catch, which pushed his two year total to 17.5 yards in Detroit. Over his last 47 games, Marvin has 313 targets with growth in his yards each season. Jones had five strong games (6/128, 7/107/2, 4/85/1, 6/109/2, and 4/90) over a six-game stretch midseason. The Lions barely looked his way over the first four games of the year (8/130/2 on 18 targets) and the last four games of the season (13/280/1 on 19 targets). His down games leave more room for growth with better consistency from week-to-week. Marvin had 20 catches for 20 yards or more with six catches gaining over 40 yards. Jones is motivated to get better, and he can be a matchup problem when facing questionable cornerback play. His next step points to 70+ catches for 1,100+ yards and about seven TDs.

WR Kenny Golladay – Over two seasons at Northern Illinois, he caught 160 passes for 2,285 yards with 18 TDs. He instantly gives Stafford a scoring threat in the red zone. Until he improves his route running, Kenny will work as a deep threat on the outside while adding value on slants and screen type plays. Golladay has an excellent combination of size (6’4” and 218 lbs.), speed (4.5 40-yard dash), and hands. Once he improves his technique and release, Kenny will rise to the WR1 spot on this roster. In his rookie season, Kenny battled some injuries leading to 28 catches for 477 yards and three TDs on 48 targets. Five of his catches went for 40 yards while showing upside in Week 1 (4/69/2) and Week 17 (2/80/1). His growth is the biggest threat to the value of Marvin Jones. With weakness at TE, Golladay could easily push his catch total to 60+ with a full season of healthy while possibly leading the team in TDs and more than 900 yards.

WR T.J. Jones – Jones was expected to be a perfect fit for the Lions’ offense. He is a slot receiver with excellent route running skills and hands. In his senior season at Notre Dame, he caught 70 passes for 1,108 yards and nine TDs. He has NFL average WR speed with solid quickness. The Lions drafted him in the sixth round in 2014. He missed all of 2014 season with a lingering shoulder issue. T.J. caught ten passes for 132 yards and a TD on 18 targets in his second year in the league with a shorter opportunity in 2016 (5/93). T.J. started to have a pulse last year (30/399/1 on 49 targets, but he did have shoulder surgery in January.

Other Options: Jace Billingsley, Dontez Ford, Teo Redding, Bradley Marquez, Andy Jones

Tight Ends

TE Michael Roberts – When looking for an upside TE in Detroit in 2018, a Fantasy owner should start here. Roberts is another big bodied TE (6’4 and 270 lbs.) with plus hands. He’s going to be a scoring factor in the red zone while improving the team in blocking. Michael doesn’t have an edge in speed while needing to improve his route running. In 2016 at Toledo, Roberts caught 45 passes for 533 yards with 16 TDs. Possible sneaky red zone value in TDs.

TE Luke Willson – Over five seasons in Seattle, Willson has 89 catches for 1,129 yards and 11 TDs on 137 targets. His best season came in 2014 (22/362/3). Last season the TEs in Detroit caught 75 passes for 803 yards and seven TDs on 114 targets. Low-level TE option who will split playing with a couple of options for the Lions in 2018.

TE Levine Toilolo – Toilolo has been the second TE in the Falcons’ system over the last five seasons while offering the most value in blocking. Over this span, Levine has 74 catches for 723 yards and seven TDs on 114 targets. He also played his best ball in 2014 (31/238/2). A boring player with no dart board close to his name on draft day in Fantasyland.

Other Options: Seth McGrath, Hakeem Valles, Marcus Lucas

Kicker

Matt Prater – There’s one thing a Fantasy owner should know about Prater; he’s one of the best legs from long range. Over the last three seasons, he made 19 of his 24 kicks from 50 yards or longer with elite success in Detroit (22-for-28) and 43-for-56 in his career (76.8 percent). Matt made 83.4 percent of his field goals in his career with improved success in four of the last five seasons (96.2, 91.7, 86.1, and 85.7). 2016 was his best opportunity in both attempts (36) and made FGs (31) with strength in 2017 as well (30-for-35). Prater is 107-for-113 in extra points over the last three years. I like his opportunity to kick many field goals this year. The Lions will move the ball while stalling in the red zone with a weakness in the red zone running the ball. Viable swing as a top 12 kicker with matchup value.

Defensive Schedule

The Lions have two tough matchups (DAL and CAR) for their rushing defense plus three mid-tier games (LAR, BUF, and MIN).

Detroit has a favorable schedule for their passing defense. They have eight games (NYJ, DAL, CHI X 2, CAR, BUF, and GB X 2). Green Bay will be much improved with Aaron Rodgers back in the starting lineup. The Lions have one poor matchup (NE) on the year.

Defense

The Lions ranked 18th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,800) with 18 TDs and eight runs over 20 yards. Runners gained only 4.2 yards per rush.

Detroit fell to 27th in passing yards allowed (3,892) with 21 TDs and 19 Ints. Their defense picked up 35 sacks with only 45 catches over 20 yards.

DE Ezekiel Ansah delivered 12 sacks and 44 tackles in his fifth season in the NFL while ranking a slight edge against the run. Ansah is a former first-round draft pick (2013). He had minor knee surgery in early April. DE Anthony Zettel worked his way into a semi-starter in his second year in the NFL leading to 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He played well defending the run. DE Kerry Hyder chipped in 36 tackles and eight sacks in his first season with playing time in the NFL in 2016, but he missed last year with an Achilles injury.

DT A’Shawn Robinson delivered on his second round value in his sophomore in the NFL. He pushed his way to 53 tackles with only a half of sack plus six defended passes and Int returned for a TD. His game should continue to show growth while offering minimal value rushing the QB. DT Sylvester Williams is only a rotational option against the run while failing to live up to his first round value (2013).

LB Jarrad Davis proved to be a strength against the run after Detroit added him in the first round in 2017. He posted 96 tackles with two sacks, three defended passes, and one Int. Davis looks like a dominant run stopper with enough talent to attack the QB. Davis doesn’t have impact vision leading to him playing too fast, which will put him in the wrong position to make plays at times. Hard worker who needs to find the right moments to add his thump to blockers. His next step is improving in pass coverage.

LB Devon Kennard is a league average player vs. the run and in coverage while chipping in with some sacks (4 in 2017). LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin worked as a part-time player in his rookie season leading to 30 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and two defended passes. He needs to improve his game against the run if Jalen wanted to gain more playing time in 2018. LB Christian Jones had 90 tackles, two sacks, and two defended passes as a role player last year. Even with success in tackles, Jones grades as a liability in all areas.

S Glover Quin continued to be a productive option in their secondary leading to 84 tackles, six defended passes, three Ints, and one TD. 2017 was his best season in the NFL while having strength in five of his last year six in the league. S Tavon Wilson missed six games last season with a shoulder injury, which led to a huge step back in value. Wilson tends to be a league average player. S Quandre Diggs works a hybrid safety/cornerback who offers the best value in coverage. Digg picked up 55 tackles, one sack, nine defended passes, and three Ints.

CB Darius Slay has been one of the top players at his position over the last four seasons. In 2017, he had an incredible 26 defended passes and eight Ints while adding 60 tackles. CB Nevin Lawson has been a weak option in three of his four years in the NFL with failure in all areas. Last season he finished with 47 tackles, four defended, and one TD.

Detroit has one top player at least level of their defense, but they also have one weak link as well at each level. With the tight matchup, the Lions will deliver upside in sacks which gives them chances at turnover and possibly TDs. More of a second Fantasy defense with matchup value helped by a favorable schedule against the pass.

2018 NFL Team Outlooks

AFC East
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West
NFC East
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West

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Shawn Childs
About Shawn Childs 389 Articles
Shawn Childs has been a high stakes Fantasy baseball and football player since 2004 where he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). In early years of the high stakes market in Fantasy baseball, he was ahead of the curve in player evaluation, draft value, and free agent bidding setting up four top-five finishes in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has four AL-only Auction titles, one NL-only title, and five Main Event titles plus an overall title in 2012 at RTFBC (netted $10,000). This success led to an induction into the NFBC Baseball Hall of Fame. His success in the high stakes market led to a career in providing Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football content. On the football side, he’s competed and won in all different formats – auctions, draft championship, main events, and high-dollar leagues. He won 2nd place overall in the 2014 Most Accurate Salary Cap Expert contest at FantasyPros.As a dual-sport player, it was natural to transition to the daily games where he is a “swing for the fences type of guy.” Childs has appeared in one FanDuel NFL Live Final and one DraftKings NFL Live Final, a season-ending tournament which led to a couple of chances to win over $1,000,000.