2012 Fantasy Football Outlook For The Detroit Lions

For most of us, August means heading out to the lake with the fishing rods, gathering up the family and friends for a few more barbeques, and just flat out enjoying the dog days of summer with loved ones before the season changes.

Oh, and the return of football.

For me, though, August means sitting in my bedroom in basketball shorts with a family-sized box of cereal, a gallon of milk, and a bowl that won’t see the dishwasher for an unspeakable amount of time, hovering over my laptop doing fantasy football mock drafts and tediously adjusting my player rankings.

Yep, it’s also the return of fantasy football.

And for the first time since the phenomenon that is fantasy football swept the nation in the mid-to-late 1990’s, the Detroit Lions have a roster oozing with fantasy potential. Allow me to break down the fantasy football outlook for these six Detroit Lions as your draft draws near:

Calvin Johnson - WR - Expected Round Selected - Mid-First Round

A boatload of adjectives come to mind when thinking of the 6’6, 235-pound freak show of an athlete that is Calvin Johnson. But to save some time rummaging through the old family thesaurus, let's just settle on the word "best". He is the best wide receiver in all of football

[caption id="attachment_418" align="alignright" width="300" caption=""Megatron" Calvin Johnson's 105.1 yards per game was tops among NFL receivers last season. (Credit: Fernando Escovar)"]"Megatron" Calvin Johnson[/caption]

and the best wide receiver in all of fantasy football. He may very well be the best overall player in football. But that’s for another day and another column. “Megatron” has chalked up over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdown grabs in three of the past four seasons, topped off by his monstrous 1,681 yard/16 touchdown campaign last season, which included a mouth-watering 96 receptions. He’s in the same offense with the same quarterback throwing to him as last year and is in the prime of his career. Take him anywhere in the first round and you won’t regret it.

Matthew Stafford - QB - Expected Round Selected - Second Round

After facing much scrutiny before the 2011-2012 season due to his injury-riddled first two years in Detroit, all Matt Stafford did was come out last season and become the fourth player in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards. And he did so in style, adding 41 touchdown passes and a 63.5% completion percentage to his resume. In fantasy football drafts taking place in the state of Michigan, Stafford will likely be drafted in the first round. But elsewhere, with fellow quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady firmly cemented as veteran fantasy studs, expect Stafford to go somewhere in the early-to-mid second round. I won’t condemn you, though, if you choose to reach for him anywhere between the 6-12 picks of the first round. Stafford laid the injury concerns to rest last season when he competed in all 16 games. His ceiling is sky high.

Jahvid Best - RB - Expected Round Selected - ????

Yes, I’m aware that the above “expected round selected” section reveals no number at all, and is in fact just a serious of question marks. The Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy football rankings each have Jahvid Best going somewhere in the sixth or seventh round, respectively. For me, that’s just absurdity. Best has tugged at the heartstrings of Lions fans for a couple of seasons now, flashing the open-field speed and ankle-breaking cutback moves that led to his first round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. But in between those flashes have come long, agonizing injury spells. His most recent battle with a severe concussion has kept him out of action since week six of last season. He hasn’t participated in any kind of football activity to date. As far as this nerd is concerned, Best is off-limits. His return to the field is absolutely up in the air and at this point, the only way he should be on your team come draft day is if he slips all the way down to the final three rounds.

Brandon Pettigrew - TE - Expected Round Selected - Late Seventh/Eighth Round

Perhaps the most frustrating offensive player on the entire Lions roster, due to his uncanny ability to drop the football, is Brandon Pettigrew. But in 2012-2013, Pettigrew could be a major steal if selected somewhere around his average draft position, which currently sits toward the end of the seventh round according to those Yahoo! and ESPN rankings. Pettigrew has gone on record of saying that he has "goals to make it to the Pro Bowl" this year and despite the drops, he has caught a staggering 184 balls in his first two seasons as a pro. Those of you playing in PPR (points per reception) leagues have to be licking your chops at that statistic. He’s locked into a major role on one of the top five passing offenses in the game. You could do much worse at the tight end position.

Titus Young - WR - Expected Round Selected - 11th Round

Just as is the case for Matthew Stafford, Titus Young will likely be drafted far before his average draft position by Michiganders. Sorry, but we just can’t contain our excitement. A second round draft choice by the Lions in the 2011 draft, Young battled nagging injuries during the first half of last season before becoming one of the team’s most dynamic players down the stretch. Showcasing his dazzling downfield speed, Young caught four touchdowns in three of the Lions final four games. His ability to stretch the field will make him a focal point in this year’s offensive attack. If you snagged him anytime in the ninth round, I wouldn’t blame you. We could be looking at a major sleeper here, folks.

Kevin Smith - RB - Expected Round Selected - 12th Round and beyond

It’s not as clear-as-day to the rest of the nation as it is in the Motor City, but due to Best’s lingering concussion issues and Mikel LeShoure’s nagging hamstring injury, Kevin Smith figures to be the starting running back for the Lions come NFL Opening Day. Smith is not without injury concerns of his own, as he missed one game late last season and the better part of two others due to leg and ankle injuries. But, in fantasy football, if you’re a starting running back, room will be made for you. His draft stock is sure to rise once we get closer to the regular season and the depth charts become more concrete.

Other Lion fantasy notables:

  • Wide receiver Nate Burleson caught a highly-respectable 73 balls last season and should be taken around the same time as Young, in the tenth or eleventh round. But he isn’t getting any younger, and comes with much less upside than Young.

  • Mikel LeShoure should be treated with caution much like Best, as he has been injured for nearly 100% of his young professional career. Hands off until at least the 12th round.

  • The Lions defense could have a bit of a bounce-back year in 2012-2013. They’re ranked in the middle of the pack of fantasy defenses, which would slot them at an average draft position somewhere in the 12th or 13th round. The effectiveness of this defense rests squarely on Ndamukong Suh’s bulky shoulders. If he plays more like rookie-Suh than sophomore-Suh, expect more sacks and even more interceptions for the Lions D.

I certainly do not advise you to draft a team full of Lions, as that is dangerous for anyone biased to any team. But when you do consider pulling the trigger on someone sporting the “Honolulu Blue and Silver“, hopefully this analysis will help you make your decision with clarity and confidence.

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