The Lions are going into this season ranked as my 31st best team. I have them winning 3 games this year and finishing 4th in the NFC North and 16th in the NFC. Below is my in-depth breakdown of the team by position, staff, and fantasy worth.
Coaching: D+; Matt Patricia has a record of (9-22-1) with the Lions. He is definitely on the hot seat, and I doubt he returns after this season. Personally, I don’t like his coaching philosophy. I feel that having a defensive-minded coach that focuses on building up the secondary is not the ideal way to run a team. That is, of course, you are Bill Belichick. Matt Patricia feels like a failed Bill Belichick at times. Besides the head coach, I feel Cory Undlin will be a solid defensive coordinator. When he was a defensive backs coach in Philadelphia, the Eagles had the 19th best passing defense despite Injuries across the secondary.
QB: A-; I like Stafford. He’s got incredible arm talent, and he’s been putting up monster numbers in the league since he joined. He is definitely an above average quarterback. Last season he was looking terrific, as he was on pace to put up nearly 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns. Though he went down with an injury that hurt the Lions, I don’t think injuries should be much concern. Hopefully he can turn the team around this year, but I doubt it.
RB: B-; I feel the Lions have a bit of an underrated backfield. Though there have been injury concerns with Kerryon Johnson, he has put up a solid 4.5 ypc in his two years (5.4 ypc in his first year before injuries). I really like D’andre Swift as a second round rookie, but he is a rookie, so who knows how well he will perform? Bo Scarbrough will be an above average third option for the Lions. On 14.8 a/g last year he put up 62.8 ypg on 4.2 ypc.
WR: A-; The Lions are pretty well set at wide receiver. Kenny Golladay is easily a top ten wide receiver, and he led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (11) last year. Marvin Jones Jr is a very above average second option for Stafford. He managed to put up 779 yards with 9 touchdowns last year. Danny Amendola is also terrific in the slot as he put up 678 yards last season on 62 receptions.
TE: C; TJ Hockenson performed decently in his first year in the league. In the 12 games he played, he was targeted 59 times, caught 32 balls for 367 yards. I hope that he will improve next season with Stafford back. Jesse James is a below average second option for the Lions. He only managed to get 142 yards in the 16 games he played.
O-line: C-; For some reason the Lions have never elected to beef up their offensive line despite the clear need for it each year. Though the Lions offensive line is not as poor as it was in the past, it is still a very average group. The starting group of Taylor Decker, Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow, Josh Garnett, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai will be able to hold their own next year. The main knock on the O-line isn’t really even their fault. It’s that they will have to face some of the top pass-rushing teams that are in their division.
D-line: F; This defensive line is atrocious. The best player on it may be defensive end Trey Flowers. Yes, Trey Flowers. They had a hurry % of just 8% last year, and I suspect it will be worse with the loss of Darius Slay. The team got an abysmal 28 sacks last year. That was 31st in the league and only beating the Miami Dolphins.
LB: C+; This is a very average Linebacking corp. Jamie Collins will make a great addition to the Lions. The 2015 pro bowler helped cement the Patriots and Browns defense in the past, and now will be a quick starter on the Lions. Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones will make fine compliments to him.
DB:D+-; It’s sad that Patricia focuses so much on secondary, yet his is completely average. The loss of Darius Slay will hurt the Lions a lot. He was easily a top 5 shutdown cornerback, and now he’s gone. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jeff Okudah. I think he could be the next Jalen Ramsey. I just don’t think he will instantly solve this secondary in his rookie year. Tracy Walker is a fine safety that could be a sleeper player this year. I just don’t know how he will progress though. Amani Oruwariye is an underrated corner, but he will struggle more now that Slay is gone.
ST: A-; Matt Prater is a very talented kicker, and Sam Martin should be a reliable new punter. The return game has been decent in Detroit, also.
Overall: C; This team isn’t good. The only highlights of it are the quarterbacking position and the flashy receivers. Expect the Lions to get a whole revamp of the team and front office after this year. The team has a few young stars and some good veteran leaders, so It’s not completely over. I could see the Lions back in the playoffs in two years if they play their cards right. The team was (3-4-1) with Stafford, so I’m sure he could take a decent future Lions roster to the playoffs.
Fantasy Value: Stafford is a really underrated fantasy QB. He has the weapons and the talent to finnish top 5. Kenny Golladay will be good, but I doubt he plays up to the level he did last year if the lions spread around the ball more in the red zone. He has the upside, but he is a fantasy risk. I wouldn’t get any of the lions running backs. They will most likely use the 3 in rotation, and none of them will stand out as stars. D’andre Swift has potential to be a deep sleeper if you are willing to take the risk.