Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones will help you profit in fantasy on easy-to-overlook Lions

Scott Pianowski
·3 min read

I don’t blame anyone who forgets this, because all of our internal clocks are broken in 2020. But Matthew Stafford was in the midst of a career year before injury wrecked things in the middle of last season.

The Lions were a modest 3-4-1 when Stafford (back, hip) took a seat, but the offense was humming under new OC Darrell Bevell. Detroit was averaging 25.5 points a game, with Stafford (19 touchdowns, five picks) in peak form. Last year goes down as Stafford’s best in a number of key statistics — yards per attempt, TD/interception ratio, passer rating. It was his best sack-avoidance number in six years.

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If you grade all fantasy QBs on their first eight games last year, Stafford checks in as the QB5. In early Yahoo drafting, he’s going as QB13. There’s a buying opportunity here, if you can take the leap of faith that Stafford stays on the field. That seems like a reasonable bet; he’s entering his age-32 season (not old for a quarterback), and didn’t miss a snap between 2011-2018.

The Lions, of course, collapsed without their franchise player. Detroit didn’t win a game after Stafford was forced from the lineup, as the tandem of David Blough and Jeff Driskel was clearly overmatched. Given that the Lions suffered two months with awful quarterback play, it’s miraculous that Kenny Golladay (65-1190-11) posted his much-anticipated breakout year. Golladay was only one of three NFL players to make it to double-digit touchdown catches, along with Cooper Kupp and Mark Andrews.

The fantasy community knows Golladay is a star — he’s the WR7 in current Yahoo drafts, slotting at ADP 25.1. Perhaps there’s room for Golladay to even exceed those lofty expectations, but it’s not a major market inefficiency. I will consider Golladay in the second round all summer, and I’ve already rostered him a few times.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 08: Marvin Jones #11 of the Detroit Lions and Kenny Golladay #19 of the Detroit Lions take the field before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 8, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
While Kenny Golladay (No. 19) gets more hype on the Lions, don't forget about Marvin Jones (No. 11) come draft season. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

But perhaps Marvin Jones is the market’s blind spot, the Lions skill player to actively draft. Jones is currently the 46th wideout off the board at Yahoo, with an ADP of 124.2. Consider some of the curious players he’s slotted behind — Devin Funchess, Tee Higgins, Mike Williams. You have a lovely bargain opportunity here.

Jones was cruising nicely during the Stafford games last year (42-535-6), checking in at WR10. He had a modest 20-244-3 line over the next five games, stuck with the backups, before an ankle injury ended his season.

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You have to take some wear-and-tear risk with Jones, entering his age-30 season. He missed about half of 2018, felled by a knee problem. But the last time we saw Jones on the field for a full year, he was the juicy WR5. I’m not ready to write him off, especially if his quarterback — a plus quarterback — is capable for a full season. You can draft Jones as a presumable fantasy backup, but his upside could make him a set-and-forget starter.

The Lions don’t have a wide usage tree. Golladay and Jones will soak up most of the downfield work. Second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson is gradually rehabbing his injured ankle. Danny Amendola is an unthreatening option as the slot receiver.

Golladay has an expectant ADP, one I’m still proactively considering. But the alluring upside and fantasy value in this passing offense belongs to Stafford and Jones. Let’s get in on this, before the market corrects itself. The time to act is now.