It’s about that time, Nation. As all 32 NFL clubs prepare for the preseason and training camps get underway, fans around the country start breaking down the players and putting together a big board for their respective fantasy football draft(s).
Whether you’re participating in two or twenty fantasy football leagues this year, there’s no doubt many around metro Detroit will be giving some notable Lions players a look or two for production. There are five, however, that stand out above the rest.
Matt Prater finished 5th in total points among kickers in fantasy last season and although the Lions aren’t scoring at the same rate as the Broncos were when Prater was splitting the uprights from 2008-13, he’s still finished in the top 9 of fantasy kickers in three out of the last four years.
Prater’s ability to hit the deep ball (7 for 7 last season in kicks of 50+ yards) makes him a constant threat to be an elite kicker in fantasy rankings. Prater’s accuracy is no joke, either. He has been 80 percent or better from grass to net in seven of his nine NFL seasons, including making 91.7 percent of his tries in 2015 with the Lions.
PROJECTED ROUND: Last round, when everyone takes a kicker to fill their roster.
PROJECTED STATS: 28 FGM, 31 FGA, 37/38 XP, 132 Points (5th among kickers)
4MARVIN JONES JR.
Jones, Jr. was brought in last season to replace the retired-Calvin Johnson, a tall task for a guy who never had more than 65 catches and 850 yards in a season in his career. But Jones came out guns-a-blazin’, leading all NFL receivers in fantasy points after three weeks, thanks to a 205-yard, 2 TD performance in a week 3 loss to Green Bay.
Marvin cooled off after that, eclipsing 75 yards or more just three more times throughout the 2016 campaign, and never reached the 100-yard mark again. He did, however, have four catches for 81 yards in the playoff loss to Seattle, giving him some momentum heading into 2017.
This season, Jones is ranked as the 55th-best WR in fantasy, projected for 56 catches, 825 years, and 6 scores. His numbers are average due to a conservative Detroit Lions passing attack, but I think Jones reaches 1,000 yards and 8 TDs due to an extra year getting comfortable with Stafford, as well as Golden Tate and rookie Kenny Golladay drawing double-coverage elsewhere on the field.
PROJECTED ROUND: 4th-5th
PROJECTED STATS: 56 REC, 825 YD, 6 TD, 172 points (45th among WRs)
There was a time when Matthew Stafford’s fantasy value each game was reliant on one thing; how many deep balls could he chuck up to Megatron resulting in a long touchdown. Now, Stafford takes a much more conservative approach to his game.
He averages just 7 yards per throw, the third-lowest in the league over the last three years, but completes 65 percent of his passes. The approach hasn’t hindered his fantasy value as he has finished in the top 11 of fantasy QB points in five of the last six seasons.
I think Stafford is a top-5 quarterback this season in terms of fantasy value. He wants to show he can be the highest-paid player in the league and has legitimate threats out of the backfield (Riddick, Abdullah), slot (Tate), wideout (Golladay, Jones) and at tight end (Ebron).
PROJECTED ROUND: 7th
PROJECTED STATS: 4,377 YD, 28 TD, 12 INT, 284 points (8th among QBs)
I am a huge Theo Riddick guy. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and be a safety net for Stafford the last two seasons has been critical to the Lions success. With that said, this is Abdullah’s backfield this year. It’s time for the third-year tailback out of Nebraska to finally stay healthy and bring it all together.
If Abdullah stays on the field, he can be a huge threat (18 rushes for 118 yards in 2016, 143 rushes for 597 yards in 2015). He has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and put together a very solid 2017 campaign. He’s still just 23 years old so his best years are ahead of him, but another injury-plagued season would really start to hurt his chances to have a successful career in Detroit.
Sure, Riddick will get a lot of the work on 3rd down and Zenner will have a decent amount of goal line touches, but Ameer has the chance to be the first 1,000-yard rusher for Detroit since 2013 (Reggie Bush) and second since 2004 (Kevin Jones).
PROJECTED ROUND: 3rd
PROJECTED STATS: 193 RUSH, 821 YD, 4.5 TD; 35 REC, 292 YD, 1.7 TD, 177 points (27 among RBs)
Golden Tate is the perfect receiver for Matthew Stafford. He’s shifty, has good hands, runs short, quick routes, and has the ability to get open whenever the Lions need a big play. He’s played 87 percent or more of the snaps in the last four years and finished last season as the 17th-ranked WR in the NFL.
Going into his 4th year as a Detroit Lions, I think this is the perfect opportunity for Tate to reach the 100-Rec mark for the first time in his career. With that comes 1,000-plus yards and a handful of touchdowns, putting him in a prime position to be a WR1 or WR2 all year long.
In a pass-heavy league that relies so much on possession receivers to move the chains, I think Tate and Stafford produce some pretty gaudy numbers all throughout the 2017 season.
PROJECTED ROUND: 2nd-3rd
PROJECTED STATS: 85 REC, 978 YD, 5.4 TD, 221 points (18th among WR)