The Detroit Lions' roster isn't bursting with blue-chip, fantasy-football prospects. With that said, the Lions do have some intriguing options that could possibly be solid additions to a fantasy unit. We will break down the Lions' team defense, IDP (individual defensive player) options, receivers, running backs and quarterbacks heading into opening week. We will start with the most intriguing group – the receivers – today.
The receiver is an often overvalued position in fantasy drafts. Receivers have the potential to put up gaudy numbers, but are often inconsistent and rely heavily on their supporting cast. Also, there tends to be an abundance of receivers that can be plucked in later rounds and/or off of the waiver wire that produce comparable numbers to those selected before them. For example, last season fantasy owners paid a high price for the likes of Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Larry Fitzgerald – and were rewarded when these players produced excellent numbers. However, it was the fantasy owners that selected Brandon Marshall, Roddy White and Wes Welker who got the most value for their picks.
The wide receiver position is by far the easiest to get late-round steals and owners should avoid spending top picks on the position.
Entering 2008, the Lions will approach their offensive attack much differently from the previous two seasons. The team will put more focus on the run and will pass the ball less frequently. That sounds like bad news for the team's receivers but that isn't entirely true. Expect the Lions to heavily utilize their top-two receivers (Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson), improving their fantasy value. The Lions No. 3 and No. 4 receivers (Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey) may see their numbers take a nose dive and lose much of their value.
The Lions do not have a difficult nor easy schedule in terms of passing defenses that they will face. Look for big outings in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons and Week 16 against the New Orleans Saints and beware of Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Week 15 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Williams has been the Lions' most consistent fantasy contributor since his rookie season in 2004. Ironically, Williams has been anything but consistent.
The former University of Texas standout has averaged 61.3 receptions for 913 yards and seven touchdowns a season during his career. Those respectable numbers don't tell a complete story. Fantasy owners who depended on Williams in the past have been repeatedly disappointed. In his four-year career, Williams has experienced droughts where he has failed to score a touchdown in three or more consecutive games five times –- including four times where he went five-plus games without a touchdown.
Roy Williams is a strong fantasy option in the
fourth or fifth round.
Last season, Williams actually regressed after a breakout season in 2006. Williams hauled in 18 less passes for 472 less yards and two less touchdowns. He missed a career-high four games and set career lows in both touchdowns (five) and yards per reception (13.1).
Williams is being selected between the late-third and early-fifth rounds in most fantasy drafts. He should be considered a decent selection in the fourth round and a solid selection in the fifth. Williams will provide fantasy owners with some outstanding weeks and some lackluster ones. Expect him to improve over last year's statistics and remember that Williams is in the last year of his contract and will have extra motivation to perform. Don't let last year's regression deter you from selecting Williams in your draft, just don't reach for him. He is a serviceable No. 1 and a strong No. 2 receiver for you fantasy roster.
Johnson has more upside as a fantasy football player than any other Lion. The No. 2 overall pick from the 2007 draft put up respectable, but somewhat disappointing numbers in his rookie campaign.
Johnson's stat line of 48 receptions, 756 yards and five total touchdowns is not a fair representative of his enormous talent and potential. That potential was curbed by many factors last year. The two main ones being the back injury he suffered in the season's third game and the complicated offense the Lions ran. Neither is a concern in 2008. Johnson, a very intelligent receiver, should have no problem grasping the more simple offense the Lions plan to use and could excel because of it. He displayed glimpses of his vast ability and understanding of the offense in the preseason.
Johnson is being selected in between the early fourth round and late fifth round in most drafts. That may be a little high to select someone based on potential alone. Johnson is an extremely risky option as a No. 1 receiver and a moderate risk as a No. 2. Johnson should best be considered a No. 3 receiver with tremendous upside.
McDonald's performance in 2007 was a great example of how a late pick or waiver-wire acquisition can be an effective addition to a fantasy roster. McDonald wasn't drafted in many leagues. Despite the lack of expectations he produced 79 receptions for 943 yards and six touchdowns. Don't expect similar numbers in 2008.
McDonald was a trusted target of then-offensive coordinator and play caller Mike Martz. With Martz gone and his replacement, Jim Colletto, expected to use Williams and Johnson heavily; do not look for McDonald to replicate last season.
Also it should be noted that in the first four years of McDonald's career (last season was his fifth) he averaged just 26.3 receptions for 303.8 yards and one touchdown.
McDonald is being chosen later in drafts – around the 13th round – as a depth player. He represents a moderate reward but high risk for those considering him. He could surprise and have another solid season based on the chemistry he has build with quarterback Jon Kitna but if the offensive coaching staff chooses to primarily run two-receiver sets, McDonald may find it difficult to get on the field. He should be considered no more than a bench player and potential situational player.
Furrey faces a similar situation as McDonald.
After coming out of nowhere in 2006 (96 receptions for 1086 yards and six touchdowns) Furrey saw McDonald eat into his playing time as he regressed statistically as the team's fourth receiver. Furrey still posted a respectable 61 catches and 664 yards, although his lack of touchdowns (one) was a disappointment. With Martz gone, expect Furrey to take another step backwards. He will remain a reliable target with solid hands but offers more to his team than a fantasy owner.
Furrey is being selected in the draft's last few rounds and may not be a selection in many drafts at all. Fantasy owners should steer clear of the 31 year old, as he may find it difficult to get on the field.
The remaining receivers, fighting for roster spots, offer little to nothing in terms of fantasy value.
Mike Mady is a KFFL contributor and a regular correspondent for RoarReport.com. He is an avid fantasy football player, and will provide his "FantasyLions" updates on a regular basis.