Matthew Stafford
When Calvin Johnson retired my first thought was why does Detroit’s best football players retire so soon? My second though was Matthew Stafford’s value just took a hit. I currently have Stafford ranked at 18th, but I’m thinking that may need to be adjusted.
It appears that the Lions will be looking to employ a more fast-paced offense in 2016. Quite simply, more plays should translate into more stats.
Stafford threw for 4,262 yards and 32 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions. Over the past five seasons he’s averaged 4,634.8 yards and 28.8 touchdowns. I know losing a hall of fame wide receiver hurts your value, but perhaps I am overdoing it.
Detroit has three solid options at wide receiver. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones will stretch the field while Anquan Boldin gives them a tough inside presence. T.J. Jones gives them another option that could end up surprising fantasy owners.
Theo Reddick caught 80 balls last year and Ameer Abdullah added 25 of his own. Dynamic receiving backs will certainly help Detroit’s fast-tempo plan.
Eric Ebron is dealing with an ankle injury, but he should be ready for the season opener. Ebron caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns last year. In his third season, Ebron is a breakout candidate.
I’m not Stafford is quite a QB1 entering the year, but he definitely has the potential to perform like one.

Calvin Johnson walks away
In a cruel twist of fate Detroit’s all-time wide receiver is taking a page out of their all-time running back Barry Sanders’ book by calling it a career prematurely. Unlikely Peyton Manning, this one is a bit of a head scratcher.
Johnson, only 30, is leaving millions of dollars on the table as well as an opportunity to climb the record books. He finishes a brilliant nine-year career with 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. Megatron played in all 16 games last year, catching 88 passes for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. It was the fifth time in the past eight years that Megatron topped 1,200 yards and the sixth time he had at least eight touchdowns. Production like that will be missed.
Golden Tate finished with 90 catches for 813 yards last year, but carried a heavier load in 2014 when Megatron was limited to 13 games. Tate responded with 99 catches for 1,331 yards. Look for a bump in production for Tate.
Tight End Eric Ebron caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns last year. He figures to take another step forward with additional targets.
Youngster T.J. Jones could possibly take on a larger role with the Lions in 2016. Stay tuned to their offseason moves.
Matthew Stafford’s value takes a hit. He can no longer be counted on as a QB1.

Adrian Peterson delivered once again despite playing on the Vikings’ sinking ship. He ran for 1298 yards and 12 touchdowns. He added 36 catches for 341 yards and another score. After being dogged by fumbles, he improved his ball control by coughing up just one fumble all year. Peterson is once again in the conversation for the first overall pick in fantasy leagues. He shouldn’t slip by the top four or five picks even in PPR leagues. With a rookie quarterback he’ll likely be called upon to take some of the pressure off. Toby Gerhart showed he was capable towards the end of the year, and should see an increase in touches this year. He remains strictly a handcuff though.
Matt Forte bounce back from a somewhat disappointing 2009 season by running for 1069 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged a career high 4.5 yards per carry. Forte also added 51 catches, his third straight year with 50+, for 547 yards and three more scores. Forte figures to be a high-end RB2 in non-PPR leagues and a low-end RB1 in PPR leagues. Chester Taylor will keep Forte fresh and provide veteran insurance should Forte go down, but isn’t a hot fantasy commodity.
Jahvid Best will operate between the 20s, but rookie Mikel Leshoure will get the touch carries near the goal line as well as closing out games. Best deal with turf toe last year which sapped his explosiveness, but injuries have been commonplace for Best. He has the ability to put up huge numbers, but is a fantasy risk even as an RB2 because of his injury concerns and Leshoure’s presence. It’s possible that both Best and Leshoure could each have weekly fantasy value.
Green Bay has a bit of a mess at running back. For starters, we already know that they are first and foremost a passing team. We also know Aaron Rodgers always steals a few rushing touchdowns per year. With Ryan Grant and James Starks sharing carries, there may not be a reliable weekly option barring injury. The Packers added Alex Green in the draft who will likely handle third down duties and further muddy the water.

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Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is by far the best in the division. The writing was on the wall the wall he handled the Brett Favre situation while still delivering on the field. A concussion cost Rodgers from reaching 4000 yards for a third straight year, but fantasy owners can live with the 3922 yards, 28 TDs (11 INTs), 356 rushing yards, and four rushing TDs. If he’s not the best fantasy quarterback in the league, he is certainly a top three choice.
Chicago’s Jay Cutler cut his interception total from 26 to 16. His yardage (3274) and touchdowns (23) also dipped, but the Bears were winning and more committed to the run. He doesn’t have great weapons around him, but he makes do. The Bears drafted Gabe Carimi to provide some much needed improvement on the offensive line. His toughness may have come into question, but his arm strength never will. He’s a solid QB2 that is really hit or miss.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford just can’t seem to stay healthy. The Lions did not invest heavily in their offensive line, as their play was actually not that bad. They did give him some complimentary weapons in the form of Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure to add to Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson, and Jahvid Best. Don’t look now, but the Lions are on the rise. If the injury bug bites again, Shaun Hill has shown that he’s more than capable to step up.
The Vikings finally addressed the quarterback situation with a long-term solution. Christian Ponder is a good fit for the offense and has the experience to play right away. The team will likely add a veteran to mentor Ponder, but it appears he’ll get his shot. If Sidney Rice does not return, the Vikings will need to give Percy Harvin some help at WR. Adrian Peterson will make the life of a rookie quarterback easier.
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Jahvid Best is an explosive running back. That is without question. The question is whether or not he can hold up to the punishment he’ll take as an NFL running back. Best has already had numerous surgeries (elbow, hip, shoulder) and missed time with a concussion. That is before playing a snap in the league where the defenders are bigger and faster than anything his played against to this point.


Best is in a good situation, playing for a young team like the Lions, that can allow him to learn on the job. His ability to break a long run at any time will offset some of the rookie mistakes. He’s also playing his home games on a turf field, which plays into his hand as a burner. On the flip side, though, is the injury concerns that come with playing on turf.


He doesn’t have very stiff competition for the starting gig. Kevin Smith, who has had a couple of solid seasons for the Lions, is coming off an torn ACL that came at the end of the season. Even if he gets back on the field, his explosiveness won’t return until at least next season. In fact, the  only competition he is facing is the ghost of Barry Sanders.


The Lions have struggled to replace the face of their franchise. James Stewart ran for 1184 yards and 10 TDs in 2000, but missed 13 games the next two seasons. Kevin Jones had a strong rookie showing with 1133 yards in 2004 before injuries set in.  Kevin Smith had 976 yards in 2008 before getting hurt the next year. The hope is that Jahvid Best will not only be productive this year, but for many years to come. His injury history worries me though.


Another thing that worries me is their defense. They should be a better unit with the additions of Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch, but still will they keep the team in games long enough for them to establish the run?


It’s not like I dislike Jahvid Best, but I am way more skeptical than where he’s going in fantasy drafts (click to see where he ranks among RBs). According to Mock Draft Central, Best is going 37th overall (20th RB). There are too many questions to invest a late third/early fourth round pick on him.


Best is going ahead of proven RBs like Joseph Addai and Matt Forte. He’s also going ahead of QBs like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Matt Schaub; WRs like both Steve Smiths, Michael Crabtree, and Chad Ochocinco; and every TE including Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark. Personally I would rather take a commodity that I have come to trust, rather than gamble on an oft-injured rookie RB.


What are your thoughts on Jahvid Best?

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As a rookie, #1 overall pick Matthew Stafford completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 2267 yards, 13 TDs, and 20 INTs for a passer rating of 61.0. Those aren’t exactly numbers that make you clamor over him in your upcoming fantasy draft, especially when you consider 422 of the yards and 5 of the TDs came against the Browns in a Week 11 shootout. However, it is not unrealistic to foresee dramatic improvement from Stafford in 2010.


For starters, he gained invaluable experience by playing in ten games as a rookie. He learned how to prepare for a game, what to expect from defenses, and he became acclimated with the speed of the NFL. That gave him plenty to chew on as he prepares for his sophomore season.


There also is the hope that Calvin Johnson returns to form. His 2009 season was plagued with injuries. If he’s healthy this year, that gives Stafford one of the best threats in the game. He has the size, strength, and speed to put up monster numbers.


The Lions have provided some help for Johnson and Stafford. Defenses won’t be able to key in on Megatron like they did last year with the additions of WR Nate Burleson and TE Tony Scheffler. Assuming Brandon Pettigrew can return from his knee injury, Stafford will have a plethora of options that he just did not have last year.


The Lions also bolstered their running attack by drafting rookie Jahvid Best. He gives the Lions a gamebreaker that can score from anywhere on the field. He should help keep defenses honest.


With all of these pieces falling in place, I believe Stafford will make great strides in his second season. Enough so that I have him ranked as the 18th fantasy QB (click to see rankings).  He squares off against the Rams in Week 5 making him a nice backup to Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, who are on bye that week. Chad Henne is also on bye that week if you wait for a QB and play the match-up game.


Prediction:  3600 passing yards, 19 TDs, 20 INTs, 150 yards & 2 TDs rushing


What do you expect from Matthew Stafford?


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The Lions have added some young pieces (Stafford, Best, Megatron, Pettigrew) on offense over the past couple of years. They added some pieces on defense as well. They are far from being a contender, but they should be more competitive in 2010.

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Moderate
The Lions face the Packers at home, the Bucs on the road, and the Dolphins on the road. Calvin Johnson is probably the only sure thing in the playoffs.  Him and your Packers and Dolphins.

Five Star Fantasy Options
Calvin Johnson – Assuming he (and Stafford) is healthy, Megatron should put up numbers more resembling his 2008 season (78-1331-12) than his 2009 season (67-984-5). Mainly because he’ll have more of a comfort level with Stafford, but also because Nate Burleson should take some of the defensive pressure away.

Four Star Fantasy Options

Three Star Fantasy Options
Matthew Stafford – With Megatron and the combo of Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew at TE, Stafford should have some weapons at his disposal. Nate Burleson provides an upgrade at #2 WR. Stafford had his moments as a rookie, and should make some progress in his second year. He remains a low-end QB2 though.

Jahvid Best – Best will have to prove he can hold up to the rigors of the NFL, but he has electrifying talent with little competition. He could be a nice dual threat if he’s able to stay on the field.

Two Star Fantasy Options
Nate Burleson – Burleson has a knack for performing well when you don’t expect him to and poorly when you do. He’s worth a look as a WR5 in his new home. He should have opportunities playing opposite of Calvin Johnson.

One Star Fantasy Options
Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris – I’m concerned with his knee and with the number of carries he’ll get. He’s a good low-end pick to round out your bench. If Best gets hurt or can’t carry the load, Smith could take over as feature back. Morris only has value if both Best and Smith go down.

Brandon Pettigrew & Tony Scheffler
Pettigrew could miss some time early on as he recovers from his  knee injury. Scheffler should see more looks as Pettigrew recovers, but will split duties as the season progresses.

Lions Defense/Special Teams – I like the additions of Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch, but this defense is still a long way away.

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Looks like you can cross off Detroit as a landing spot for Terrell Owens. The Lions addressed the need to compliment Calving Johnson with free agent WR Nate Burleson. Burleson, if he can stay healthy, is actually a decent pairing with Megatron. 

Coming off a torn ACL, Nate caught 63 passes for 812 yards and 3 TDs. He finished 2007 with a flurry averaging four catches for 62.4 yards, and a TD in his last five games. He had five catches for 60 yards and a score in Week 1 of 2008 before tearing his knee.

Switching to Detroit and second-year pro Matthew Stafford shouldn’t lower his value. Seattle has been a mess for a few years now. He’ll welcome playing with a strong-armed QB, opposite of a WR that commands a lot of attention. 

Don’t go penciling him in as a #3 fantasy WR though. He’ll be a nice addition to your bench. He holds more value in PPR leagues as he figures to be Detroit’s possession receiver.

Detroit’s misery continues as second-year RB Kevin Smith (knee) is done for the year.  The timing couldn’t be worse as the first week of the fantasy playoffs are wrapping up. Hopefully you have other options on your roster, but if not, here are some guys that could be available.

Quinton Ganther, RB, Washington Redskins
Ganther had 93 total yards and 2 TDs against Oakland this week. They face the Giants and Cowboys the next two weeks.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Foster had 88 total yards last week and was named the starting back for the Texans. It’s a perfect week for him to step into that role as St. Louis is up next.

Chris Jennings, Cleveland Browns
Jennings has 73 yards against the Steelers, and should have even more running room against the Chiefs next week. Then he has the Raiders in Week 16.

Maurice Morris, Detroit Lions
If the waiver wire got picked over, you can stay at home and take Morris. I don’t like either of his next two match-ups (Arizona, San Francisco), but if he’s all that’s out there, you don’t have a choice.

Calvin Johnson TD
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Calvin Johnson became a fantasy beast in his second year catching 78 passes for 1331 yards and 12 TDs.  He had at least 90 yards and/or a TD in 12 of the 16 games.  He should get better QB play this year with Daunte Culpepper in better shape and familiar with the team, and the addition of the first pick in last year’s NFL Draft, Matthew Stafford.

Megatron’s size, 6’5″ and 236 lbs., makes him a nightmare to cover.  Defensive Backs simply do not have the size and strength to matchup with him, and Linebackers don’t have the speed.  Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris for a talented duo in the backfield to take pressure off of the passing game.  Two newcomers, free agent Bryant Johnson and Rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew will keep defenses from keying in too heavily on Calvin. 

The only problem I foresee is the fantasy playoff schedule.  The Lions face Baltimore, Arizona (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), and San Francisco (Nate Clements).  That’s not enough to deter me from taking Megatron in the second round of fantasy drafts and projecting him for 85 receptions for 1400 yards and 12 TDs.

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