QB Matt Stafford (Detroit)
7/26/12: Like with Megatron, nothing new to report here, but my projections were a little high here. He’s unlikely to have 663 passing attempts again and he’s only once played all 16 games. He’s still a one year wonder not quite on the level of Rodgers, Brees, and Brady. He’s still a nice value if you can get him in the 3rd round though.
I like Matt Stafford’s chances to approach 5000 yards again as well. No team passes the ball more than the Lions. They passed 663 times last year and 633 times in 2010 without Stafford. He has a ton of weapons in Calvin Johnson, Titus Young, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Brandon Pettigrew, and Tony Scheffler. He might not throw for 41 touchdowns again, but he still deserves to be a high pick in fantasy circles.
Projection: 4720 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 70 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown (305 pts standard/375 pts in 6 pt TD leagues)
RB Mikel Leshoure (Detroit)
8/20/12: Leshoure is still not 100% from his Achilles injury. He’s missed most of Training Camp and has yet to play a Preseason game. He’ll miss the first 2 games of the season anyway with suspension, but it’s definitely possible he misses a couple more with injury. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith has had a great offseason and will get the week 1 start in the absence of Best and Leshoure. He’s the Detroit back to own because he could end up being the lead back all season.
I’ll take Leshoure over Best. Yes, Leshoure is facing a suspension for a marijuana related arrest, but sources are saying it’ll only be a 2 game suspension because he entered a league substance abuse program and has been getting drug tested multi times weekly and has failed none. Leshoure is still the more durable back. He doesn’t have Best’s extensive injury history and he’s better built to withstand hits than Best. He’ll also get the goal line carries when both are healthy.
Projection: 140 carries 590 rushing yards 5 total touchdowns 17 catches 130 receiving yards (102 pts standard/119 pts PPR)
RB Kevin Smith (Detroit)
8/20/12: With Best likely out for at least 6 games and Leshoure out for at least 2 games, Smith will get at least two starts this season, but it seems like he’ll continue to be the lead back even once Leshoure returns as Leshoure is still struggling to return from his torn Achilles. There’s definitely upside with Smith as a RB3, but remember, he has a pretty checkered injury history too.
8/7/12: Mikel Leshoure is still coming back from an Achilles tear and will be suspended for the first 2 games of the season. Jahvid Best is reportedly “weeks” away from being cleared to practice. Smith will almost definitely be their week 1 starter and could be much more if he impresses early. There’s definite sleeper value here.
Projection: 160 carries 700 rushing yards 7 total touchdowns 28 catches 220 receiving yards (134 pts standard/162 pts PPR)
WR Calvin Johnson (Detroit)
7/26/12: No news to report here, but my projections were a little high for Calvin Johnson. It’s unlikely that anyone, even Johnson, can repeat what Johnson did last year, especially since his team is unlikely to pass 666 times again, has other weapons, and his quarterback has only once made it through a 16 game slate. Johnson has also had his own injury history, only playing all 16 games once before last year. He’s still my #1 receiver, but don’t buy TOO high with him expecting him to catch 96 passes for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns again.
Calvin Johnson was insane last season in his first full season with an actual quarterback, catching 96 passes for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns. He might not quite match those numbers this season, but with Stafford throwing him the ball, he remains the #1 fantasy receiver by a good margin, barring the curse of John Madden striking him down.
Projection: 87 catches 1450 receiving yards 13 receiving touchdowns (223 pts standard/310 pts PPR)
WR Titus Young (Detroit)
7/26/12: Titus Young is fully expected to win the starting job opposite Calvin Johnson. Titus Young caught 48 passes for 607 yards and 6 touchdowns as a mere rookie last year, despite 84 targets. Incumbent starter, Nate Burleson, caught 73 passes for 757 yards and 3 touchdowns on 110 targets. If Young had Burleson’s 110 targets last year, he would have caught 63 passes for 795 yards and 8 touchdowns if you extrapolate his numbers. In his 2nd year in the league, he should exceed even those numbers, even if his team does pass less than the ridiculous 666 times they passed last year.
Titus Young might move into the starting lineup this year. The marginal Nate Burleson was targeted 110 times as a starter last year and turned that into 73 catches for 757 yards and 3 touchdowns. Young already had 48 catches for 607 yards and 6 touchdowns on 84 targets as the #3 receiver last year. The Young/Burleson battle will be one to watch in Training Camp and the preseason, but there’s definitely upside with Young. Even if he doesn’t start the season as the starter, he could move into the starting lineup during the season.
Projection: 66 catches 850 receiving yards 8 receiving touchdowns (133 pts standard/199 pts PPR)
TE Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit)
Pettigrew was actually the Lions’ 2nd most targeted receiver last year and he turned that into 83 catches for 777 yards and 5 touchdowns. He could see a slight dip in production this year with the emergence of Titus Young and the addition of Ryan Broyles, but he’s still a solid TE1.
Projection: 72 catches 730 receiving yards 5 receiving touchdowns (103 pts standard/175 pts PPR)