Fantasy Football Booms/Busts 2018: The Detroit Lions

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Fantasy owners seeking RB value in the middle rounds should chase down Lions rookie <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/31013/" data-ylk="slk:Kerryon Johnson">Kerryon Johnson</a>. (AP)
Fantasy owners seeking RB value in the middle rounds should chase down Lions rookie Kerryon Johnson. (AP)

As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Former Hello Kitties.

It’s a new era in Detroit with Matt Patricia, and his famous soup strainer, in charge. In terms of potential return on investment, who among the Lions pride are you fondest of?

Brad – KERRYON JOHNSON. Trivia Time! The last two Detroit rushers to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season were … Reggie Bush (2013) and, a blast from the past, Kevin Jones (2004). To say the least, running the football in Detroit has been an arduous task on par with scissor-trimming a lawn. Under Patricia, a defensive-minded, RBBC-committed coach, that narrative, however, may soon change.

“Saquads” Barkley, Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice and others are greenhorns receiving more hype, but Johnson shouldn’t be overlooked. Though occasionally timid on interior runs last season with Auburn (2.90 YAC/att), the youngster features a legitimate three-down skill set. He’s a fluid, cut runner who bursts off-edge, is very competent as a receiver and blows up blitzers behind the line. His high football I.Q. and versatility have already generated much praise with the coaching staff.

Unsurprisingly, Patricia is all about week-to-week and situational matchups, which will force many owners to pass on Johnson. In hindsight, that will look like a terrible miscalculation. The rookie will work side-by-side with LeGarratte Blount and Theo Riddick, but 13-15 touches per game is entirely realistic. At his very affordable 99.3 ADP (RB42), he’s one of the virtual game’s finest mid-round targets. Expect final numbers in range of 190-825-40-320-6, a total similar to what Lamar Miller (RB21) accomplished in 2017.

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Liz – KENNY GOLLADAY. Evans has Pryor. And I have Babytron. A dynamically skilled size/speed prospect whose lack of pedigree depressed his draft stock, Golladay opened the season with an exclamation point. Converting four of seven targets for 69 yards and 2 scores, it appeared as though Detroit had found its next big X receiver.

The hype came to screeching halt, however, when Golladay suffered a hamstring injury heading into Week 4 and was kept off the field until Week 10. Sidelined from practice and missing reps put the young player at a clear disadvantage, though he did manage to close out the year with 80 yards and a score in his final outing.

Due to his limited playing time, it’s hard to discern much from the Huskie’s 2017 stats. What his tape reveals, however, is a player with break-away speed who can wreak havoc in the red zone. The fact that Matt Stafford likes throwing to him obviously helps as well. Already creating buzz in minicamps, and with Eric Ebron now in Indy, Golladay is poised for a second-year breakout. FF: 80-1,000-10

Oppositely, which player should fantasy owners avoid like Gronk trade tweets from fake Adam Schefter accounts?

Liz – LEGARRETTE BLOUNT. One of the first tenants of fantasy football is to avoid chasing touchdowns. So don’t draft Blount. His most impressive stats last year came from red zone carries (#14) and goal line carries (#8). Yet he only had two rushing scores on the season. He may be the luckiest man in football – earning Super Bowl rings in back-to-back years – but he’s no longer a realistic fantasy option. Entering his age-31 season, he’s no more than insurance for Detroit. Kerryon Johnson is the future of this backfield.

Brad – MARVIN JONES. A textbook post-hype sleeper in 2017, Jones kicked down doors and roundhouse punched the competition. He routinely torched defenders downfield, soaring to new statistical heights. He finished No. 5 in yards per target (10.3), No. 6 in fantasy points per target (2.10) and WR13 in total per game output. Largely dependent on long-bomb conversations – he logged just an 18.9 percent target share in ’17 – and with Golladay’s likely step forward, Jones’ odds of even sniffing ’17 are rather bleak. The chance Alex Ovechkin stays sober over the next month or three is better.

Jones may seem like a bargain at his 50.6 ADP (WR25), but looks, they are often deceiving. Michael Crabtree, Corey Davis and Will Fuller, available roughly 20-25 picks later, possess far greater profit potential.

In reality, Richie Rich, Matthew Stafford, could afford an entire fleet of exotic McLaren sports cars, and park them sideways, but yearly salary doesn’t mean squat in fantasy. At his 110.9 ADP (QB10) is the well-off passer OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED ?

Brad – PROPERLY VALUED. Sitting on a gold adorned throne, Stafford is one of the virtual game’s true consistency kings. Once considered Faberge-egg fragile early in his career, he’s finished No. 11 or better in overall QB production seven of the past eight seasons. Efficient downfield (No. 3 in deep-ball completion% in ’17) and on play action, he’s become a more accurate passer under the Cooter’s direction. For those who play the QB patience game on draft day, he should be priority numero uno. Another tally around 4200 passing yards and 30 total touchdowns is inevitable, especially with Detroit’s offensive line enhancements.

Liz – PROPERLY VALUED. Matt Patricia may be the team’s new HC, but Jim Bob Cooter is still the OC. Since being promoted from QBs coach in 2015, Cooter has elevated Stafford’s game by moving to a quick passing offense. Clearly the change agrees with Stafford as his interceptions have decreased (10 in 2016 and 2017) while his YPA (7.9 in 2017) and completion percentages (65.7% in 2017) have increased.

The trend figures to continue as the Lions upgraded their offensive line and backfield via the draft, adding C Frank Ragnow in the first round, OT Tyrell Crosby in the fifth, and RB Kerryon Johnson in the second. Furthermore, Stafford will continue to have four top-notch receiving threats in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, and Theo Riddick. A top-eight fantasy producer for three consecutive years, Staff has earned a top-ten ranking.

Bring the blitz on Twitter. Follow Brad (@YahooNoise) and Liz (@LizLoza_FF).

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