Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In Part 12 of the series, we head back to the NFC North and check out the struggling Detroit Lions. The young Lions were 2-14 in 2009, finishing fourth in the division. They scored just 16.4 ppg on offense (27th among 32 teams) while yielding a league-high 30.9 ppg on defense.
Matthew Stafford - Stafford took a physical beating last year (shoulder, knee), because of an ineffective offensive line, yet management focused primarily on defense in the draft, which admittedly needed a lot of help too. So, it will be a struggle for Stafford to stay on the field for 16 games again this year. He does have some decent weapons, if he can avoid the pass rush, with Calvin Johnson, newly acquired Nate Burleson at receiver and Cal rookie Jahvid Best at tailback. Stafford averaged 226 ypg passing as a rookie and should be able to improve on that number, though not as much as we would like because of the offensive line woes. He shouldn't be a full-time fantasy starter this season, but could be a spot starter against weaker defenses. He's currently the 18th quarterback off the board with an ADP (Average Draft Position) of 126.
Jahvid Best - The same offensive line problems that plague Stafford, also make it tough to get a running game going. Best was also "injury-prone" in college (missed eight games, including two bowl games, during his three seasons at Cal) which doesn't bode well for his playing all 16 games. Still, if he can step on the field each week, he should get between 200-225 carries and another 40 touches in receptions. That could translate to 1,100-1,200 in combined yards from scrimmage and a solid fantasy value. He's currently got an ADP of around 55 and could be a solid No.2 fantasy running back.
Kevin Smith - Smith, who suffered a knee injury last year which cut his season short, is not likely to be ready to play ball when the season begins. He'll likely be a placed on the PUP list and miss at least the first six games of 2010. Which makes his early mock draft ADP of 150 confusing. I would certainly not draft him that high.
Maurice Morris - Morris has shown flashes of ability over his eight-year career, but not enough to earn a full-time starting spot. However, unless Smith is ready to run on opening day, I'd rather "handcuff" Morris to Best at the draft. And given Best's injury-prone status, that would seem to be a must for anyone who drafts the former Cal Bear running back. Neither Aaron Brown or DeDe Dorsey will have any fantasy impact in 2010.
Calvin Johnson - Considering Johnson's talent and the lack of it in their other receivers last year, it's amazing that he was only targeted 136 times (9.2 per game). That speaks to his being double and triple-teamed and the Lions' offensive line problems. The Lions' goal should be to get Johnson the ball at least 12 times per game which would put him among the league leaders. It would also be getting the ball in the hands of their most talented offensive weapon - always a good idea. He's currently got an ADP of 17, down from 12 last year. As a late-second round pick he'll be a solid value.
Nate Burleson - Burleson has flirted with being a decent fantasy receiver (2004, 2007), but for the most part he's disappointed owners. Despite the big five-year, $25 million contract, he'll likely disappoint owners again this year if you pick him as your No.2 receiver. The only good news I can point to is because of the Lions' porous defense, they'll be behind a lot and have to throw the ball. Think 55-725-3. He's got an ADP of 155.
Dennis Northcutt - Neither Northcutt or Bryant Johnson will have much fantasy value in 2010. Both caught 35 ball last year, but barring injury, won't get enough targets to be "fantasy-worthy." Derrick Williams should see the field primarily as the team's kick returner.
Brandon Pettigrew - Pettigrew may or may not be ready to open the season after a knee injury ended his rookie year in Week 12. He's got plenty of talent, but in the tight-end rich 2010 season, won't have much fantasy value. He's got an ADP of around 200.
Tony Scheffler - Scheffler caught 14 touchdowns over the past four seasons in Denver and possesses good hand. The Lions might even use a lot of two tight end formations to help with their blocking issues, so Scheffler could see the field a decent amount, but again the league is well-stocked at the position and he'll have little fantasy value.
Jason Hanson - Hanson has always been a reliable kicker, but last year hit only 21 of 28 field goal attempts. Add in the Lions' offensive troubles and you see why he finished 22nd in fantasy points among kickers. There are plenty of better opportunities out there than picking Hanson.
The defense finished dead last in yards-per-game (392.1) and points (494) and earned just 94 fantasy points, 27th best in the league. Despite drafting a future star in Ndamukong Suh and a solid cornerback prospect in Amari Spievey and signing veteran DE Kyle Vanden Bosch off the Titans roster, this team has a long, long way to go before becoming "fantasy-worthy."