Detroit Lions July Scouting Report
With training camp just getting underway, we have a few bits of news from over the last month, so in this report we will look at some of the training camp battles, questions, and storylines to follow over the next few weeks.
QB: There was some talk over the last month that QB Matthew Stafford may have played through broken bones in his back last season. Stafford clearly had a decline in his fantasy numbers. The thing is, I don’t think better health will guarantee that he puts up better fantasy numbers. He needs to bounce back and play better than he did last season, and I think he will. But as I have talked about during this offseason, I don’t see that translating into fantasy points. We are all sort of waiting to find out what the offense will look like under new OC Darrell Bevell. Most people think he will adapt the scheme to the talent and set up weekly game plans to attach opponents’ weaknesses. So I expect Stafford to have some big games, but Bevell’s offenses tend to be run heavy, so the days of the gunslinging Stafford throwing the ball 700+ times in a season are in the past.
RB: We had some fairly big news breaking just as I was about to start typing up this month’s report as the Lions announced they had released RB Theo Riddick. In last month’s report I said I had a feeling Riddick might not make the 53 man roster, so I am not shocked by this move. The timing is a little odd, but the Lions needed to open a roster spot to make room for the recently signed DT Mike Daniels. I guess they figured letting Riddick go now would get his salary off the books rather than risk an injury with a guy who they are prepared to move forward without. There was some talk that he might not be a good fit for Bevell’s offense. I have always been a Riddick fan and I expect another team will give him a look. But his performance declined last season and we all know the NFL is a tough business. What does this do to the depth chart? It could mean RB Kerryon Johnson gets more involved in the passing game. He was very capable at catching the ball last year, and I think he is underrated in most fantasy rankings right now. RB CJ Anderson will still get some carries. RB Zach Zenner can do a little bit of everything, including play special teams. Finally, 6th round rookie RB Ty Johnson now has a clear path to making the team if he has a good preseason, but I wouldn’t expect him to be involved much unless there are injuries.
WR/TE: Most of the rankings I have looked at have WR Kenny Golladay ranked higher than WR Marvin Jones, and I am not going to argue with that. Golladay is an ascending player, and I think he is a better all around receiver than Jones. But their fantasy points could end up being closer to each other than you might think, so if Jones slips to the later rounds of your draft he could be a good value. I know things can change quickly in the NFL, but this group of tight ends is completely new to the roster and that might be unprecedented. We don’t know what to expect exactly, but I am counting on the history of rookie tight ends struggling to put up big numbers when it comes to the expectations for rookie TE TJ Hockenson. I suppose if you are in a league where you start two tight ends, you could draft Hockenson late as he does have upside. I just think we will need to wait until 2020 or 2021 to see it. We think the Lions will use two tight ends as their base offensive formation, but I could actually see TE Jesse James getting more targets than Hockenson.
K/DST: On defense, the big news was that DT Damon Harrison and CB Darius Slay reported to camp after skipping the earlier minicamps and OTA workouts. I mentioned the signing of DT Mike Daniels earlier. This defense is setting up to be the clear strength of the team. There are some questions in the secondary, but the front seven was pretty good in the second half of last season, and it has been fortified with free agents and draft picks.
I may try to visit the Lions training facility to watch a practice if my schedule will allow it to happen. The first preseason game is Thursday August 8 at home against the Patriots. I will recap that game and more in the next report.
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