QB Matt Stafford (Detroit)
One of the weird statistical things about the Lions in 2012 was that Matt Stafford set an NFL record with 727 passing attempts, but managed just 20 touchdowns. Well, somehow a running game that ran just 391 times on the season managed to steal 17 touchdowns away from Stafford, while backup Shaun Hill stole another 2 on 13 attempts. The Lions should remain very pass heavy this year so Stafford should throw a higher percentage of the team’s touchdowns.
There should also be more touchdowns to go around on an offense that figures to turn the ball over fewer times. He probably won’t throw the ball 727 times again, for the same reason why the Lions probably won’t run 72.5 plays per game again, but he could throw 30-35 touchdowns, average around the 6.9 yards per attempt he’s averaged for his career on about 650-660 throws, and keep his interception rate right around the 2.3%-2.4% it’s been at in both of his full seasons as a starter, which puts him around 16 interceptions.
Projection: 4550 passing yards 33 passing touchdowns 16 interceptions 100 rushing yards 1 rushing touchdown (298 pts standard, 364 pts 6 pt td leagues)
RB Reggie Bush (Detroit)
The Lions plan to utilize Bush the way the Saints utilized him, when he averaged 4.9 catches per game. That’s 78 catches over a 16 game season. That sounds like a lot, but he’s capable of doing so in this offense. The Lions have said they want to get him 80 catches. The inferior Joique Bell caught 52 passes in a part time role last season and Jahvid Best averaged 62 catches per 16 games during his short time as the Lions’ pass catching back before he got hurt. The only thing stopping Bush from getting 80 catches could be injuries. He missed 20 games in 5 seasons with the Saints and, though he only missed 1 in 2 years with the Dolphins, he’s now going into his age 28 season and his 8th year in the league.
Bush will probably also be their leading rusher, but he won’t get a ton of carries. For one, the Lions don’t run the ball very often. Two, Bush has never had more than 262 touches in a season and the Lions probably don’t want to go over that. They’ll prefer him to see his touches in the air (maybe 170 carries, 75 catches). Three, they do have two other backs capable of carrying the football. Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure will see carries behind him.
Projection: 170 carries for 750 rushing yards 8 total touchdowns 75 catches for 600 receiving yards (183 pts standard, 258 pts PPR)
RB Joique Bell (Detroit)
8/26/13: Joique Bell has beaten out Mikel Leshoure for the #2 back job behind Reggie Bush, so he’s the handcuff you want for the injury prone Bush. He’s also worth a pick on his own merits because he’s an excellent pass catcher and underrated runner who will see touches on this offense. Leshoure isn’t worth drafting.
Mikel Leshoure was a 2nd round pick in 2011, but has largely been a disappointment to this point in his career. He might not even win the #2 running back battle this year, as Joique Bell averaged 5.0 yards per carry to Leshoure’s 3.7 last season. Leshoure is also not near the pass catcher that Bell is and if Bush were to get hurt, Bell would probably take over his role. Leshoure will see some carries as an inside runner, but Bell will probably be 2nd among Detroit running backs in touches. If Bush is Darren Sproles, Bell is Pierre Thomas, who has averaged 152 touches in the last 2 seasons. He’s the handcuff you want for Bush owners and a worthwhile late round flier for anyone because of Bush’s injury history.
Projection: 110 carries for 520 rushing yards 4 total touchdowns 44 catches for 330 receiving yards (109 pts standard, 153 pts PPR)
WR Calvin Johnson (Detroit)
Another one of the other weird statistical things about the Lions in 2012 was Calvin Johnson sitting the single season receiving record (surpassing Jerry Rice in week 16 no less), but scoring just 5 times. That total should increase for some of the same reasons that Stafford’s should. He probably won’t have a record setting season again, but he’s by far the best receiver on a team that passes a ridiculous amount, has a good young quarterback, and doesn’t have a lot of other passing options. He’s consistently able to beat double and triple teams and the 96 catches for 1681 yards he had in 2011 now seem like a floor. He should have around 1700 receiving yards again and almost definitely will break double digit touchdowns again.
Projection: 110 catches for 1750 receiving yards 12 touchdowns (247 pts standard, 357 pts PPR)
WR Ryan Broyles (Detroit)
Broyles was an incredibly productive collegiate receiver at the University of Oklahoma, catching 349 passes for 4586 yards and 45 touchdowns, but a torn ACL suffered late in his final collegiate season, along with a lack of elite size or speed, dropped him to the Lions in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. However, he plays better than his measurables on tape and is a remarkably hard worker and quick healer.
He made his debut week 3 last season and eventually became a starter down the stretch, catching 22 passes for 310 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30 targets on 190 routes run, before tearing the other ACL. Once again, Broyles did a fantastic job recovering from that injury and has been practicing in Training Camp and is on pace to play week 1. Obviously, he’s an injury risk and he might not be 100%, but there’s some intriguing breakout potential for him as a secondary receiver opposite Johnson.
Projection: 60 catches for 760 receiving yards 5 touchdowns (106 pts standard, 166 pts PPR)
TE Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit)
Pettigrew struggled mightily last season, catching 59 passes for 567 yards and 3 touchdowns on 95 targets, with 9 drops. He averaged just 1.18 yards per route. The 2009 1st round pick is a good run blocker, but has largely been a disappointment since the Lions drafted him. He’s had better years and it’s possible the ankle injury he played through most of the season was part of why he struggled so much, but he’s never been much better, so I don’t see a big improvement.
Projection: 55 catches for 600 receiving yards 5 touchdowns (90 pts standard, 145 pts PPR)