QB Matt Stafford (Detroit)
Stafford, the first overall pick in 2009, struggled in his first 2 years in the NFL, missing 19 games and completing 54.5% of his passes for an average of 5.92 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. However, he’s played all 48 games over the past 3 seasons, completing 60.6% of his passes for an average of 7.24 YPA, 90 touchdowns, and 52 interceptions. He’s also been better than his numbers, as he had 46 passes dropped in 2011 (most in the NFL), 49 passes dropped in 2012 (2nd most in the NFL), and 59 passes dropped in 2013 (most in the NFL). Now he gets Golden Tate and Eric Ebron added into the mix, which turns their receiving corps from a weakness into a strength. He’s an underrated fantasy asset.
4725 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 100 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (305 pts standard)
RB Reggie Bush (Detroit)
The Lions are planning on scaling back Bush’s role as a runner, as new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi comes over from the Sean Payton coaching tree in New Orleans and plans to use Bush as they did with Darren Sproles in New Orleans. Sproles caught an average of 77 passes over the past 3 seasons. Reggie Bush has caught an average of 44 over the past 3 seasons and could catch 60 passes this season. At the same time, he could see his carries drop down from 223 to the 140-160 range, as he goes into his age 29 season.
160 carries for 720 yards, 4 total touchdowns, 60 catches for 540 yards (150 pts standard)
RB Joique Bell (Detroit)
Any loss in carries by Bush will be the benefit of Joique Bell, which Bush has said publicly he is fine with. The Lions have been a pass happy, 3-wide receiver team over the past 3 seasons, averaging 680 pass attempts over the past 3 seasons. Now they will be more of a traditional offense. They used their first round pick on Eric Ebron, which means they’ll use more two-tight end sets (though they obviously still have the ability to throw out of two-tight end sets). They signed a traditional fullback in Jed Collins, who comes with Lombardi over New Orleans. They also gave a 3-year, 9.3 million dollar extension to restricted free agent Joique Bell, who figures to lead the team in carries in their new more traditional offense. The 5-11 220 pounder is their best traditional runner.
Bell doesn’t have as many breakaway runs as Bush, but he had 65 first downs on 219 touches last season, while Bush had 68 first downs on 277 touches. The Lions could easily be getting a steal with that 3-year deal. Over the past 2 seasons, Bell has been one of the more important backup running backs in the NFL. Last season, he played 562 snaps, 23rd most in the NFL among running backs. In the past 2 seasons, he’s averaged 4.29 yards per carry, while serving as a valuable goal line back (11 touchdowns) and receiver out of the backfield (105 catches).
200 carries for 860 yards, 8 total touchdowns, 60 catches for 500 yards (184 pts standard)
WR Calvin Johnson (Detroit)
Johnson had a “down year” in 2013 with 84 catches for 1492 yards and 12 touchdowns, his lowest catch and yardage totals since 2010. That was really only because he missed 2 games with injury (after playing all 16 games in the previous 2 seasons). Last season was actually the best season of Johnson’s career in terms of yards per route run, as he averaged 2.72 yards per route run. He’s averaged 2.55 yards per route run over the past 3 seasons since Stafford broke out as a starter. He’s the #1 wide receiver in fantasy football and real football.
95 catches for 1650 yards and 14 touchdowns (249 pts standard)
WR Golden Tate (Detroit)
The Lions signed Golden Tate to a 5-year, 31 million dollar deal with 13.25 million guaranteed this off-season. Golden Tate has never had a 1000 yard season, but he’s been stuck on a run heavy team in Seattle, since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2010. He caught 45 passes on 65 attempts (69.2%) for 688 yards and 7 touchdowns on 378 routes run (1.80 yards per route run) in 2012. In 2013, he caught 64 passes on 93 attempts (68.8%) for 898 yards and 5 touchdowns on 447 routes run (2.01 yards per route run). Tate will see plenty of single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson and could run 500-600 routes in a pass heavier offense. He won’t see any downgrade in terms of his quarterback’s passing ability going from Russell Wilson and Matt Stafford and he could easily have 1000 receiving yards.
74 catches for 1020 yards and 8 touchdowns (150 pts standard)