For many, it's the greatest time of year. It's fantasy football season. Many of us imagined what life would be like as an NFL general manager. And while a fantasy, which is precisely described in the name itself, the game still allows you to manage a team you've assembled. Also, depending on who and what type of league you are in, there can be a pretty penny to be earned.
You've found the odd diamond in the rough regarding the Lions in recent years. For years and years, most Detroit Lions were often avoided in fantasy football until the mid-to-late rounds. That is, except for Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
Which Detroit Lions players should you target in your Fantasy Football draft?
Each player mentioned above needs to be targeted, but when constructing your fantasy football team, you need to consider value. For example, in no format should you consider drafting Jared Goff as your QB1. D'Andre Swift should not be among the first five running backs selected, and Jamaal Williams shouldn't be regarded as an every-week starter.
I am not saying these players shouldn't be targeted, but you need to be conscious of where you are looking to draft them.
1 D'Andre Swift, a fantasy football RB1?
I've been saying this for two years, but they say the third time is a charm. I believe 2022 will be the fantasy breakout year for Swift. The Detroit Lions are expected to produce a top-five offensive line led by Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker, and Penei Sewell. Rather than an RB2 or RB3 like in the past, Swift is viewed as an RB1 heading into the 2022 season.
Fantasy Pros has Swift ranked as the ninth-best running back in standard formats and the eighth-best in half-point per reception leagues. In both formats, Swift is mentioned as a tier two running back in a group of four, including Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, and Najee Harris. Expect big things from the Detroit Lions lead back this season, but with his injury history, make sure you shore up your running back stable with other bodies. I expect Swift to be selected in the second round of most fantasy football leagues.
Swift is projected to be selected 15th overall on average this fantasy football season, so be careful if you'd like him on your roster and look elsewhere in round two, hoping to pick him in the third. The third-year runner has amassed 1,138 rushing yards and 809 receiving yards on 108 receptions, with 17 total touchdowns combined over his first two professional seasons.
Jamaal Williams is the perfect insurance policy for Swift. I would look to target Williams in the mid-rounds. Fantasy Pros has him projected as the 45th running back in the same range as other valuable handcuffs such as Alexander Mattison, Darrell Henderson Jr, Michael Carter, and James Robinson.
2 Dissecting the value of each of the top four Detroit Lions receivers.
I expect many Detroit Lions fans will be eager to draft Jameson Williams out of Alabama ahead of Amon-Ra St. Brown this summer. You can make a case for it; Williams is a highly-touted offensive weapon drafted in the first round. St. Brown entered the league as a fourth-round selection yet performed exceptionally well during his rookie season. St. Brown totaled 912 yards hauling in 90 of his 119 targets.
St. Brown should be considered as a volume-driven WR2 while Williams nurses an injury to begin the season. Once Williams finds himself inserted into the lineup, I will slide St. Brown down a slot but still see him being utilized as an elite WR3. I expect 100/1,000 and six touchdowns from St. Brown in 2022. Williams needs to be targeted in dynasty leagues due to his high upside. I see the rookie plateauing in year one as a WR2, but if you invest in Williams in a dynasty league, he certainly has WR1 potential in the near future. Williams begins the year as the 87th-ranked receiver, primarily due to his injury concerns to start the year. He's a perfect ‘draft and stash' candidate.
The third Detroit Lions receiver to target in this year's fantasy football drafts is newly signed DJ Chark. The veteran is expected to enjoy a bounce-back season after suffering a season-ending injury with the Jaguars last year. The 6-foot-4 speedster is expected to be the top outside red zone threat for Detroit this season.
Chark's 4.4 speed will bring an extra dimension to the Lions' offense in 2022. Chark has totaled 2,042 yards and 15 touchdowns in four seasons, with his most productive year coming in 2019. In '19, Chark totaled 1,008 receiving yards along with eight touchdowns. If he can remain healthy, I can see Chark totaling similar numbers over 17 games. Chark should be a steadfast WR4. Look for the soon-to-be 26-year-old to amass 800 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. Chark is ranked 55th.
The fourth receiver to target is Goff's security blanket. Josh Reynolds and Goff have built up some solid chemistry throughout their career, both with Los Angeles and now in Detroit. Reynolds is nothing more than a WR5 or WR6 when it comes to fantasy football but can be utilized in deeper leagues. Reynolds made 29 receptions totaling 396 yards to go with a pair of scores last season. With Williams expected to miss the beginning of the season, Reynolds will see three or four targets per game early on.
The 27-year-old should be expected to produce 400 yards and a couple of touchdowns again for Detroit this season. Fantasy Pros has Reynolds plugged in at 102 in their most recent rankings. For the record, Quintez Cephus is ranked 111th.
3 T.J. Hockenson remains a TE1 in fantasy football
Don't sleep on T.J. Hockenson in 2022. The once highly drafted tight end has struggled to live up to his expectations appearing in 40 games over the first three years of his career, amassing 1,673 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Hockenson's high-water mark thus far in his young career came in 2020, totaling 723 yards and six touchdowns on 67 grabs. Hockenson will benefit from a better supporting cast in 2022.
Fantasy Pros has Detroit's tight end ranked as the seventh best fantasy tight end to begin the year. Although Hockenson won't be an elite tight end in fantasy terms, like George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and Mark Andrews, he should be penciled in as a TE1.
With defenses forced to focus on the improved play-making wide receivers this season, it will open up the middle of the field where Hockenson does most of his damage. I expect Hockenson to produce around 800 yards and seven touchdowns.
4 Where to target Jared Goff.
Let's take a look at Jared Goff. According to Fantasy Pros, Goff is considered the 26th-ranked quarterback in the standard scoring format. They've placed the Detroit Lions signal-caller as a fourth-tier quarterback. Others they have comparable to Goff are Baker Mayfield, Matt Ryan, Mac Jones, Daniel Jones, and Jameis Winston, among others.
For fantasy football purposes, this is about right. It would be best if you looked to target Goff as your QB3. Someone who can be plugged in on bye weeks and stashed on the bench as an insurance policy in case your club gets bitten by the injury bug.