What changed for the Lions? Click here
First of all, lets point out the obvious and that is Matthew Stafford's arm is going to fall off in the near future if the Lions do not develop a dependable rushing attack. He has a staggering 3228 passing attempts in the last five seasons. That is simply too many throws and the Lions will never be viable Super Bowl contenders until some semblance of a rushing attack is added.
Last year, Stafford had his finest season since his incredible 2011 campaign which saw 5038 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. He completed a career best 67.2% of his throws last year for 4262 yards and 32 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Outstanding numbers for sure from a legitimately talented quarterback.
Stafford is in the prime of his career but losing superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson to retirement is going to sting a little. His ability definitely opened up the passing game and losing him will hurt. Stafford is going to throw for 4000 yards as he does every season but touchdowns and yards per attempt may falter as the team moves on from Johnson.
Dan Orlovsky finally got in some action last year, completing 22 of 40 passes for 201 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mediocre numbers from a mediocre quarterback. He is capable of controlling the offense, completing 60 percent of conservative throws and tossing as many touchdowns as picks. So as a backup, this veteran quarterback is just fine.
Ameer Abdullah was a part time player as a rookie last season but he did adept well to the pro game and showcased his agility, vision and drive to become a better player. He struggled running with the ball in the first half of the season, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry but found his game in the second half with a better 4.7 yards per carry. He finished with 598 rushing yards on the season but with Joique Bell no longer in the picture, Abdullah should see an extra 100 carries in 2016. Expect his first 1000-yard rushing campaign in 2016.
A 7th round draft pick this year, Dwayne Washington is capable of surprising some folks this year. Great size and excellent speed, he has struggled to stay healthy in college but his top end speed and ability to catch the ball in space make him a posible rotational guy with the Lions.
Theo Riddick has been terrible running with the football in his first three NFL seasons, averaging only 2.9 yards per carry on 72 attempts. He just does not have NFL instincts in the running game. However in the passing game he really emerged as a threat with 80 receptions for 697 yards and 3 touchdowns. He reminds me of Eric Metcalf from the past with his abilities as a receiver and he will continue to shine in that role. He has become a solid 3rd down running back option for the Lions but it is extremely unlikely he gets more than a few carries per game.
Michael Burton showed promise as a fullback / H-back last season and will continue to improve this year. He has minimal fantasy football value though. Zach Zenner and George Winn look like one of the dime a dozen running backs that are good enough to make the NFL but not to truly shine. Steven Ridley is a former star running back with the Patriots that never really recovered from devastating injury. His career has flatlined.
What a difference one superstar retirement can make. A Calvin Johnson / Golden Tate duo looked scary on the field as both fed off each other and created nightmare matchups for defenses. Now however, Tate has to climb the ladder to WR1 and he will have to deal with the top cornerbacks and defensive focus week in and week out. I absolutely love what Tate brings as the WR2 in an offense but I am not certain his skill set is going to lead to huge success in replacing Calvin Johnson. He averaged less than 10 yards per catch last year as well. He has a real chance to catch 100 passes for 1100 yards but only if one of the other receivers on the squad can make a difference as well.
I like Marvin Jones and what he brings to the football field. I really do. However I was surprised he commanded such a big contract after his years with the Bengals. That said, he has nice size and quickness and 65 passes for 816 yards last year after missing the 2014 campaign. I see him more of a number two much like Tate but one of those two guys have to elevate their play this season or the Lions overall passing game will take a hit. I see Jones having similar numbers to a year ago but perhaps he can elevate from there if he works hard to develop chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford
Jeremy Kerley is another free agent pick up this offseason but this one is not nearly as exciting as Marvin Jones. Kerley had one decent year back in 2012 (56 receptions for 827 yards) but has been very quiet since and has only 9 touchdowns in his five NFL seasons. He provides some depth here.
T.J. Jones saw minimal action last year but did catch a touchdown pass on his 10 receptions. Corey Fuller, Corey Washington and Ryan Spagdola are unlikely to make much impact but Fuller has flashed occasional upside.
Eric Ebron has elite tight end receiving skills including good size and athleticism. He began to flash that more in his second season last year with 47 receptions for 537 yards and 5 touchdowns. Tight ends often take awhile to find their top game at the NFL level and Ebron is going to become a top-five tight end this season with 80+ catches. I would not be surprised if he finishes the season as the most explosive Lions receiver in 2016. I expect 80 receptions, 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns from him in his third season.
Pettigrew was a top-12 fantasy tight end in the past but he has become the blocking tight end over the past seasons and has minimal fantasy impact now. If injury were to strike Ebron though, Pettigrew does have the tools to splash the fantasy football waters.
Projected Starters: LT Riley Reiff, LG Laken Tomlinson, C Graham Glasgow (rookie), RG Larry Warford, RT Taylor Decker (rookie)
Key Backups: Travis Swanson, Joe Dahl (rookie), Michael Ola, Geoff Schwartz, Cornelius Lucas
For the first time in a very long time the strength of the Detroit Lions team could wind up being a young, talented offensive line. Riley Reiff and Laken Tomlinson are former first round picks both coming into their prime. They join veteran Larry Warford who quietly is one of the better guards in football. What makes this so attractive going forward is the addition of 1st round pick Taylor Decker this year from Ohio State and 3rd round pick, potential gem at center Graham Glasgow from Michigan who is nasty and physical. It may take some time for this group to gel which is why I have them ranked at 15 but I truly believe when it all comes together in Detroit, this group of five has the legitimate potential to be the top offensive line in football, battling the Cowboys for that honor. Watch out NFL, the Lions may find themselves a rushing attack very soon.
He has hit 43 of 50 attempts with the Lions over two years.