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Can The Lions Take The Next Step To Contend?

Brandon Murchison Staff Writer April 21, 2017 9:49AM EST

The NFL Draft Fantasy Preview Series : Cleveland – Chicago – San Francisco – Jacksonville – LA Rams – Tennessee – Jets – Chargers – Panthers – Bengals – BillsVikings – Cardinals – Saints – Eagles – Colts – Ravens –Redskins

Team Needs: DE, LB, WR

Projected Top Three Picks:

First Round- Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan

Second Round- Tim Williams, LB Alabama

Third Round- Cordrea Tankersley, CB Clemson

The main focus for the Detroit Lions entering this draft should be defense, and more defense. The offense, although it performed flat at times, was pretty strong throughout the 2016 campaign. Even with needs on defense, with the first pick, it is hard to pass on a talent like WR Corey Davis. Davis will add a whole new dimension to this passing game that was missing with the retirement of Calvin Johnson. The Lions became more of a dink and dunk offense, and with Davis, they will be allowed to stretch the field a little more. I have Davis right on par with Mike Williams as the best WRs in this draft, and for Davis to fall this far would be a steal for the Lions. He will start right away on the outside and allow Golden Tate to go back to his normal slot position, where he thrives. His skill set, blended in with this offense to provide for a very good rookie year to the point where he could finish the season as a WR2. But during drafts, with the rookie tag, he could go into the middle rounds ala Michael Thomas last year.

Going into the second-round, the Lions will begin building the pieces of their defense as they go with LB Tim Williams. He projects out to be a hybrid type LB-DE in the NFL and has plus skills as a pass rusher, something that the Lions could definitely use. He’ll likely play on mostly passing down situations early on as his skills improve as a run stopper and playing in coverage. But the disruption he can cause on an offense can’t go ignored. Adding Williams, along with other playmakers on this defense could make the Lions a sneaky defensive unit to pick up late ion drafts.

Can Matthew Stafford put together an entire season for Fantasy owners in 2017? (Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire)

Can Matthew Stafford put together an entire season for Fantasy owners in 2017? Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire

Matt Stafford quietly put together a very strong, yet top heavy, 2016 in which he finished just inside the QB1 tier. He did a lot of his damage early on as the balance this team had on offense allowed Stafford to take advantage of matchups. But as the running game began to succumb to injuries, and the defense focused solely on Stafford, his numbers began to dip. Stafford must improve on his TD totals this year to present any value to Fantasy owners, and if they do make the pick of Corey Davis, he should be back in the 30 TD area. If he is able to do just that, he will be back in the QB1 discussion. But as it stands now, you should be able to grab him in the middle rounds as a QB2, and a player that will be great for playing the matchups with.

Even after the abysmal start to the season, Golden Tate almost finished with 100 catches, yet the one complaint you had with him was that he just couldn’t get you TDs. If he is allowed to go back to primarily playing in the slot, that should change in 2017. He should be a target monster again, and doubling his TDs from 2016 isn’t out of the question. He will be drafted as a low-end WR2, but by season’s end he could be a fringe WR1. He’ll be coming off the board sometime during round four.

Marvin Jones was the talk of the Fantasy world during the month of September, then he remembered that he was Marvin Jones and disappeared into mediocrity. If you were smart enough to deal him after the blistering start, props go to you. But many owners held onto Jones hoping that it would last throughout the year. Coming into 2017, his target share will likely stay in a similar spot after the departure of Anquan Boldin, but don’t expect the gaudy numbers he produced early on. Jones may get drafted by some as a WR3, but his value should put him in the WR4 range. Don’t discount Eric Ebron either, a solid TE who can post TE1 numbers on a weekly basis.

The running game for the Lions leaves a lot to be left desired. There isn’t a true starter in the bunch between Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, or Ameer Abdullah. The season will start off with Riddick and Abdullah splitting first team reps, but neither will separate themselves in the battle for touches. The only value here resides in Riddick’s ability to catch balls out of the backfield. In PPR formats, Riddick could be drafted as a RB3, but that’s about as high as you can go with any of these back’s values. Abdullah could hold some value as a late round flier in standard scoring leagues, but you can’t expect much from him on a weekly basis. Zenner and Washington will go undrafted and only hold some appeal if there are injuries in front of them.

Team Ranks:

Passing Offense- 256.9 YPG (11th)

Running Offense- 81.9 YPG (30th)

Points Per Game- 21.6 PPG (20th)

Top Fantasy Performers:

QB- Matt Stafford, 267 points

RB- Theo Riddick, 99 points

WR- Golden Tate, 124 points

 

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