The 2019 NFL season is so close we can taste it. That’s a good thing for Lions fans, as Matt Patricia could finally have Detroit in position to compete for the NFC North or even make a deep playoff run.
Years of mediocrity make that hard to believe, but fans and sports bettors may want to embrace the positivity. If you take a look at any Detroit Lions betting guide, odds are you’ll see in a hurry that there is reason for optimism and that the 19th ranked schedule could give way to a fun year.
Even more fun, though, could be had in the fantasy realm. The Lions have historically been a team that has thrown the ball a ton, but all of those drop-backs have put unwanted pressure on Matthew Stafford to carry the offense on his own.
Detroit has added some strong bodies to beef up their defense, but they also could be preparing for the most balanced offense Lions fans have seen in years. That could open the door to a very productive season for Detroit’s offense, potentially making Lions players a far hotter commodity in fantasy football than anyone is admitting.
With that, here’s a look at every Detroit Lions player you may want to consider selecting in your 2019 fantasy football draft:
Kerryon Johnson – Running Back
The number one option out of Detroit for fantasy football purposes is 100% going to be Johnson. The explosive Auburn product flashed absolute brilliance as a rookie last year, churning out 641 rushing yards and four scores in just 10 appearances.
If you extrapolate that production over a full 16-game season, you could conservatively suggest Johnson could have produced 1,025 rushing yards and over six touchdowns. This doesn’t even factor in his elite versatility, as Johnson crushed in the passing game with 32 receptions and 213 receiving yards in those 10 games in 2018.
Tack that on (340 receiving yards and 51 receptions) and it’s possible Johnson could have produced close to 223 fantasy points (if not more). This was as a rookie in a system that hadn’t fully committed to him yet and those numbers could have placed him inside the top-15 for fantasy rushers last season.
Anything close to that will make Johnson an asset, while his talent and upside make him a serious threat to post top-10 numbers.
Kenny Golladay – Wide Receiver
The Lions figure to throw the ball less with Matt Patricia seeing over things, but Matthew Stafford still attempted 555 passes last season. His yardage, touchdowns and yards per attempt all took a hit, but Golladay was still heavily targeted (119 targets) and turned those looks into a solid 70-1,063-5 line.
Golladay didn’t even hit stride until the team cut ties with Golden Tate, yet he still managed to finish as fantasy football’s 21st best wide receiver.
There are certainly questions about how the Lions will run their offense, but Golladay saw a huge leap in year two and is walking into a firm role in year three. Knowing his role from the start offers upside for a talented receiver that will already be operating as the team’s top weapon in the passing game.
Matthew Stafford – Quarterback
These Detroit Lions fantasy options are being listed in order of value in drafts and in third place comes the quarterback Matthew Stafford. In past seasons, Stafford was either a flat-out elite fantasy passer or he was a fine value to target late in drafts.
Stafford has historically been very up and down and a lot of that hinges to the way the Lions have played. Less volume may hurt his upside going into 2019 but having it more concentrated may allow him to be more efficient than he's ever been.
For what it’s worth, Stafford still cracked the top-20 among fantasy quarterbacks in 2018. This was without the coaching staff fully committing to running the football, Golden Tate getting traded, Marvin Jones missing seven games due to injury and the team not effectively replacing tight end Eric Ebron.
Detroit has done the latter, spending a first-round pick on the athletic T.J. Hockenson and also signing the reliable Jesse James away from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Lions also look to run the ball more to balance out their offense, Danny Amendola comes in to replace Tate in the slot and Jones will hopefully be healthy for most of 2019.
Amendola probably isn’t a great fantasy asset, but he’s a glue guy that will help make this offense work more seamlessly. A lot of the moves around Stafford feel underrated or even disregarded completely.
Marvin Jones – Wide Receiver
You could state a case for Danny Amendola here, but he’s mostly a PPR fiend and even in leagues that reward heavy points for receptions, he simply has too low of a ceiling. The 33-year old is an asset for any offense, but his 56th finish in 2018 is a pretty good indicator of his value these days.
Having interest in Jones wouldn’t be crazy, though. The 29-year old playmaker did miss a lot of time in 2018, but he delivered a solid 35-508-5 stat line in just nine games. Extrapolating that production could put him on pace for around 70 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 scores.
That isn’t some crazy projection, either. Jones delivered a very similar line (61-1,101-9) in 2017 and scored 10 times in 2013 with the Bengals.
Jones has always been a red-zone factor and a strong presence on deep balls down the field. If he can stay healthy and play true to his role, he could return efficient production as a very strong WR3 in fantasy leagues this year.
T.J. Hockenson – Tight End
It’s fair to be a bit slow to get excited about Hockensen. The Lions did bring in Jesse James and they struggled to utilize an equally intriguing talent in Eric Ebron for years.
True, but Hockeson enters the league as a more complete product than Ebron was during his time in Detroit and he’s already flashed ability during the offseason. Rookie tight ends struggle to produce on a consistent basis in their initial NFL seasons, but if anyone can buck that trend it’s possible it could be the Iowa alum.
Hockensen’s redraft fantasy football upside is curbed due to his rookie status and the fact that he’ll begin 2019 behind James. He’s a stud for dynasty drafts, however, and is a very solid late-draft sleeper at an extremely thin position.
Detroit Lions Team Defense
You can argue for guys like Danny Amendola and C.J. Anderson if you’d like, but they’re not going to be weekly contributors you can truly trust in fantasy leagues.
The Lions defense just might.
If Matt Patricia has anything to say about it, Detroit is going to turn into a balanced offensive team that runs the football and executes properly. They’ll also turn into a nasty defensive-minded team that punishes opponents.
Detroit does seem to have the personnel in place to deliver in both areas. That may especially be the case on defense, where the Lions brought in stud defensive linemen in Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels this offseason.
The Lions already finished 14th in sacks (43) last year and their additions promise to make the pass rush (and probably the run defense) even nastier up front. Should that be the case, the Lions could perform better in the secondary and create more turnovers. want to make any changes, go to your job & pay tab and then scroll down to “Federal Taxes”. Click edit off to the side and then make any changes you want. If you make any changes, you will be asked to esign your W4.
Making the Lions your main team defense won’t be an easy decision, but you won’t need to draft them until the last pick in your draft. Worst case, you can use them as part of a team defense streaming strategy.
It may not make much sense to some to draft Detroit Lions players in fantasy football this year, but this team could deliver surprising results, both in real and fantasy life.
Whether it ends up being on the ground, through the air or on the defensive side of the football – or all of the above – remains to be seen. Lions fans can rejoice that their team is more talented than it’s been in some time, though, and that a Bill Belichick disciple may very well have them on the upward swing.