2015 Fantasy Football Team Preview: Detroit Lions
The Lions tend to lure you in, but then disappoint you horribly in the end. The inability to convert in the red zone is often maddening, and it limits the fantasy appeal of this offense. That being said, if you're betting on talent to eventually win out and for the red zone issues to be solved, the Lions have some strong buy-low options for the first time in a long time.
Bye Week: 9
Rookie Impacts: Ameer Abdullah (RB)
While most of the rookie running back attention will be paid to Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and T.J. Yeldon, don't forget about Ameer Abdullah. Detroit's second-round selection is a well-rounded back who could easily take a three-down role at some point in his career. That opportunity may come sooner rather than later, with Joique Bell coming off knee and Achilles surgery this offseason.
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford
Stafford once again threw the ball over 600 times last season, but somehow ended up with only 22 touchdowns with 12 INT. You'd like to think the touchdowns should jump back up to around the 29 he posted in 2013, especially if Calvin Johnson can stay healthy. Given his big arm and aggressiveness downfield, Stafford is a high-upside QB2 that could easily finish in the top-10 quarterbacks. He's well worth the cost at his current draft price.
Running back: Ameer Abdullah
Abdullah is already earning rave reviews in July, and the Lions will certainly give him plenty of chances to prove himself along the way. The one red flag in his profile is a fumbling issue, which could cause Detroit to lean Bell's way if he proves untrustworthy. If I'm betting on a Lions back, though, I'm taking the healthy, more dynamic, younger guy, and that's Abdullah.
Running back: Joique Bell
Bell is seriously banged up, and he represents a huge injury risk in the early-middle rounds. With Abdullah lurking as a competent three-down back, Bell probably isn't worth the squeeze considering he's averaged under four yards per carry in each of the last two seasons. At best, he's going to be sharing time with Abdullah and maybe even Theo Riddick, a good receiver out of the backfield. I'm lower than most on Bell, but there are plenty of concerns any way you slice it.
Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson
For the first time in a long, long time, Johnson won't be the first receiver taken in your draft. Injury issues have plagued Megatron over his last few seasons, as he missed three games last year and was slowed down in multiple others. That said, Johnson still put up a 71/1,077/8 line in 13 games, and we know Stafford is going to throw the ball up for him. If you can stomach checking the injury reports every day, Johnson can very easily provide top-5 WR production and provide value at his current second-round ADP.
Wide receiver: Golden Tate
After registering one of the most surprising fantasy campaigns of last season (99/1,331/4), Tate will no longer be a great value in drafts. Most of his damage last year came when Calvin Johnson was out, so his upside may be capped if Johnson stays healthy. That's not a safe bet by any means, and Tate should still see plenty of targets either way. He's a strong PPR option, even if he's not a sexy name.
Tight end: Eric Ebron
Ebron failed mightily as a rookie, registering only 25 catches and 1 touchdown. Still, he should be able to hold off Brandon Pettigrew for the job without much effort, and there's still a lot of talent and opportunity within Detroit's offense. Ebron is a strong sleeper pick, particularly if you pair him up with someone more consistent (Heath Miller, for example) to negate some of the risk.
Placekicker: Matt Prater
Big leg? Check. Dome team? Check. High-powered offense that struggles to finish off drives (26 FG in 11 games)? Big check. Prater is one of the best kicking options on the board.
Team defense (D/ST):
You can avoid Detroit's defense on draft day, despite their solid performance last year. It's not all about the loss of Ndamukong Suh, either: the Lions start the year with matchups against San Diego, Denver and Seattle in three of their first four games. There will be worse offenses to exploit early on.
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