It has been three long years since Stafford burst onto the fantasy scene by throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011. Since then, his passing yards have declined for three straight seasons (4,967 to 4,647 to 4,247 last season) and he has managed just 71 touchdown passes despite attempting 1,963 passes and throwing for 13,861 yards. While some of last year’s production issues can be chalked up to Calvin Johnson’s injury issues (he missed three games and was little more than a decoy in two others), the truth is that Stafford has never developed into the quarterback that most expected he would. He attempts a lot of passes but his completion percentage is low and his lack of accuracy is really exposed in the red zone. There is ample evidence at this point to project Stafford as a lower tier QB1 albeit one who could surprise with an elite fantasy season given the talent that surrounds him in the Detroit offense.
Expected to play second fiddle to Reggie Bush in 2014, Bell emerged as the Lions main option at running back, gaining just under 1,200 total yards and scoring eight touchdowns for the second consecutive year. With Bush having been released early in the offseason, it appeared Bell was headed for a major role in 2015 before Detroit used a 2nd round pick in the NFL Draft to acquire Ameer Abdullah. We guess they took note of his advancing age (29 by opening day) and less than stellar YPC (under 4.0 for two consecutive seasons). Abdullah’s acquisition puts a damper on Bell’s breakout potential but we expect that he will continue to work in a platoon situation while handling the short yardage work. Even though there is a flashy new toy in town, look for Bell to once again approach 250 touches, 1,100 total yards and 7-9 touchdowns, production that makes him a solid, if somewhat risky, mid-tier RB2.
Having jettisoned Reggie Bush, the Lions used a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft to acquire his replacement in Nebraska product Ameer Abdullah. Not that big, not that fast, Abdullah will most likely work as a change of pace and receiving option in his rookie year, although the Lions won’t hesitate to move him into the starting line-up over Joique Bell should he prove worthy of the leading role. However, the more likely scenario is that Abdullah will work in a platoon this season with an emphasis on the pass receiving role out of the Lions backfield provided he improves his ball handling and abilities in pass protection. Given his production in college, he has the potential to emerge as a lower tier RB3 in that role in 2015. He is also a solid dynasty prospect albeit one that will almost certainly never emerge as a workhorse type back.
Despite Riddick’s solid production as a pass receiver out of the backfield, the Lions drafted his replacement in that role, acquiring Ameer Abdullah with a 2nd round pick. Although Riddick was prolific as a receiver, catching 34 of his 50 targets for 316 yards and four touchdowns, he is extremely limited as a runner, gaining just 76 yards on 29 carries as a professional. For fantasy purposes, he only warrants consideration in PPR formats under the condition that Abdullah proves not ready for action by opening day.
While Johnson remains the most physically imposing wide receiver in the league, the days of him being regarded as the undisputed king of the wide receiver position are now history. In 2014, he posted his lowest reception and yardage totals since the 2010 season as injuries caused him to miss three games and he was little more than a decoy in two other games. While that sounds gloomy, it’s worth noting that he caught 68 passes for 1,058 yards and eight touchdowns in the 11 games that he was healthy, production that would rate as an upper tier WR1 over 16 games. But it’s the 16 game question that is the issue with Johnson, as he has missed two games in each of the past two seasons and was banged up for several other contests. At 29 years of age (30 in September), he has some wear and tear from being such a big man playing the majority of the games in his career on artificial surfaces. At this point, with some obvious decline in his game, we rate Megatron as a mid to lower tier WR1 who clearly has the potential to move to elite status provided he can remain healthy for an entire season.
After increasing his target, receptions and yardage totals every year during his four-year stay in Seattle, Tate was signed to a five-year, $31-million contract prior to the 2014 season by the Lions. At the time, it seemed rather exorbitant but Tate proved worthy of the contract, as he showed significant improvement once again, reaching career highs in targets with 143, receptions with 99 and yards with 1,331 while hauling in four touchdown receptions. Will the career trajectory move upward once again for Tate in 2015? Well, his production has improved every year that he has been in the league. However, a review of the 2014 season reveals that Tate posted 39 receptions for 599 yards and three touchdowns in the five games that Calvin Johnson was either injured or used as a decoy but just 60 receptions for 732 yards and one touchdown during the 11 games that Johnson was healthy. If you aren’t expecting Johnson to miss time in 2015, then you shouldn’t project Tate as anything more than a high end WR3 with upside.
Taken in the 6th round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Fuller languished on the practice squad before earning a roster spot last season. A slender 6’2″ and 196 pounds, Fuller possesses outstanding speed and the Lions expect him to fulfill a role as the team’s top backup wide receiver in 2015. With Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate ahead of him on the depth chart as well as two solid pass catching tight ends and three capable pass receiving running backs, we don’t expect Fuller to see enough targets to be a viable fantasy option in 2015.
It was another lost season for Broyles in 2014 as he fell behind Corey Fuller and Jeremy Ross on the depth chart, appearing in just five games and catching two passes. Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Broyles enters training camp in a dogfight to retain his roster spot. With Fuller possessing outstanding speed and Ross a solid contributor on special teams, Broyles just might be on the outside looking in come opening day.
Taken with the 10th pick in the 1st round of last year’s draft, Ebron face planted as a rookie, catching just 25 of his 49 targets for 248 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers more reflect what you would expect from a veteran journeyman playing out his final days in the league as a backup than a high 1st round pick. However, he was stuck behind a solid veteran in Brandon Pettigrew on the depth chart and rookie tight ends often struggle adapting to life in the NFL, especially blocking in the trenches, something Ebron was not asked to do much of in college. The Lions are banking on a big leap forward in 2015 but with so many solid weapons in Detroit’s offensive arsenal, we aren’t about to predict a breakout season for him. He rates as a mid to low end TE2 with upside, especially if he can earn quarterback Matthew Stafford’s trust in the red zone.