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Detroit Lions July Scouting Report
James Hintz

With training camp about to get underway, we will look at some of the training camp battles, questions, and interesting numbers to look at over the next few weeks.

QB: I have perused some additional rankings from the experts, and it seems like the majority of them slot QB Matthew Stafford right around 12 or 13, perhaps give or take a couple spots. It’s an interesting year at the quarterback spot in fantasy football, with the emergence of the young dual threat guys now mixing in with some aging veteran pocket passers. I guess Stafford, who is now 32, fits in with the aging veterans, but at 32 he is in his prime years. There is no reason to think he is in decline as the only concern is if his back will hold up. As usual, we’ll be praying that the offensive line can come together because it’s a line that doesn’t have elite talent on paper. Last year we thought OC Darrell Bevell might try to install a run heavy offense, but Bevell and Stafford clicked from the start and I think Bevell learned how to call plays to take advantage of Stafford’s strengths. We saw a lot of deep balls last year and that should continue as long as there is some semblance of a running game to set up play action.

RB: It will be all eyes on rookie RB DeAndre Swift in camp. The Lions have invested in the running back position without much success for two decades. Swift was consistent at Georgia, averaging over 6 yards per carry in each of his three seasons. He will be splitting the load with RB Kerryon Johnson, but we will probably be guessing what the percentages will look like, especially now without preseason games. Swift is a different body type than Kerryon as Swift is 4 inches shorter. Some have wondered about Kerryon’s upright running style but I think the biggest thing will be sharing the workload to keep both guys healthy. I saw someone point out that Kerryon has dealt with injuries for five straight years now going back to Auburn, but I usually give running backs the benefit of the doubt when it comes to injuries. The rest of the depth chart will be a combination of big RB Bo Scarbrough, the tiny rookie RB Jason Huntley, and last year’s 6th rounder RB Ty Johnson.

WR/TE: Still no word on a contract extension for WR Kenny Golladay but I would expect something before week 1. There is not a lot of variance in Golladay’s ranking among the various experts I looked at as he usually appears in the 7 to 9 range. If you follow some of the advanced tracking data that the NFL collects these days, it shows that Golladay is among the worst in the league at separation from defenders, but Golladay has proven he can make contested catches and Stafford isn’t afraid to throw to him even if he’s covered. He averaged over 18 yards per catch last year but he is also a frequent target in the red zone. I like WR Marvin Jones as a player but I have a weird feeling that he might fade a bit this year. WR Danny Amendola will probably have a few good games as the slot receiver. Meanwhile, TE TJ Hockenson offers so much upside and could be a huge bargain. I realize he really only had one good game last year, and it was against an Arizona defense that ended up being leaky against tight ends all year long, but I have to believe he ends the year as a top 10 tight end. Any deep sleepers among this group? Probably not. Rookie WR Quintez Cephus is a safe bet to make the team but is more of a long term guy. If injuries hit maybe we see something from veterans WR Marvin Hall and/or WR Geronimo Allison. Remember the wild card is WR Jamal Agnew who is moving over from defense.

K/DST: I came across an interesting stat about the Lions kicking game, the Lions have ranked between 10th and 14th in kicking points four years in a row. Consistency I guess? But the fact that PK Matt Prater is so good on the long kicks gives him a boost in the rankings. As for the Lions defense, that might be the biggest storyline heading into this season. It’s very obvious that HC Matt Patricia is on the hot seat. He has a reputation as a defensive mind, but the results so far during his tenure in Detroit have been poor on that side of the ball. They must fix the defense because Stafford and the offense can only carry the team so far. Until we see reason to believe differently, selecting players who are facing the Lions defense will be a good strategy.

Normally I would look forward the first preseason game and give you observations from that game in my next report. But like a lot of things these days, we’ll have to wait and see what sort of news will develop with the Lions over the coming weeks.


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