Detroit Lions February Scouting Report
Year in review and free agency preview
QB: 2022 fantasy leader QB Jared Goff 4438 passing yards, 29 TD, 7 INT
The Lions are going into the offseason on a high note after winning 8 of their last 10 games to go from 1-6 to 9-8, including the season finale where they went to Green Bay and beat the Packers to crush their playoff hopes. A big reason for that finish was QB Jared Goff, as he improved in 2022 compared to 2021, increasing his yardage and TDs, and decreasing his INTs. He did not throw a pick over the final 9 games. The chances the Lions draft a quarterback in this upcoming draft, with the Rams pick at 6 or their own pick at 18, would seem to be slim. If you could promise me that you could draft the next Patrick Mahomes you would have to do it. But for now we will assume the Lions will not have any of the incoming rookies rated high enough on their board to take that high, as Goff would appear to be the guy they will build around moving forward. Personally, I was not the biggest Goff fan but I am coming around a bit. I still think he has some limitations. If the 2022 season reflects his ceiling, then I think you can win with him if you have a really good supporting cast. Some great news in that OC Ben Johnson, who had some head coaching interviews, is staying with the Lions for 2023. He was a big key in maximizing Goff's strengths and had the magic touch in his play calling for most of the year. Backup QB Nate Sudfeld, who never played because Goff was healthy all year, will be a free agent. The Lions are serious about contending in 2023, which means it is time to invest in a quality veteran backup.
RB: 2022 fantasy leaders RB Jamaal Williams 1139 total yards, 17 TD, RB D'Andre Swift 931 total yards, 8 TD.
Williams will be entering free agency after a career year. He sounds like he wants to stay, and I think the Lions want to keep him around. He is an emotional leader of this team and a fan favorite as well. But the money has to be right. The 17 TDs are impressive, but they were mostly short yardage. Williams isn't an explosive runner (4.1 yards per carry in 2022) and doesn't give you much in the passing game. The Lions could try to re-sign him before free agency opens, but if he gets to the open market and a team wants to overpay him, he could walk. Swift played 14 games, and was limited in many of those. He has 1 year left on his rookie deal so you can expect him to play a role in 2023, but the role will depend on what happens with Williams and any possible additions in the draft or free agency. Swift only had 99 carries on the year, but was 2nd on the team with 48 receptions. RB Justin Jackson did a nice job in limited playing time and is also entering free agency. I don't think he will be a high priority to bring back, but it is possible.
WR/TE: 2022 fantasy leaders WR Amon-Ra St. Brown 1256 total yards, 6 TD, WR DJ Chark 502 yards, 3 TD, WR Josh Reynolds 479 yards, 3 TD, WR Kalif Raymond 616 yards, 0 TD, TE Brock Wright 216 yards, 4 TD.
Not listed in the names above is WR Jameson Williams, who had an explosive TD catch against the Packers in the season finale called back due to a penalty, so the official stats will show he only caught 1 pass in his rookie year. This was according to plan as he was recovering from his knee injury. He will be everybody's sleeper for the 2023 fantasy season. St. Brown is rock solid in the slot. Williams will be the deep outside threat. Who will be the other outside receiver? Chark will be a free agent and you could argue that he is the Lions highest profile free agent. His numbers weren't great but he missed 6 games. He is clearly not a candidate for the franchise tag, as the Lions are not expected to tag anyone to be honest, but I think the Lions will try to bring him back. The Lions got a total of 12 TDs from the tight end position in 2022, a surprise after trading TJ Hockenson. But it is a position they could look to upgrade this offseason.
D, K, ST: As mentioned earlier, using the franchise tag this offseason is unlikely. The biggest free agents on defense are DL John Cominsky, LB Alex Anzalone, and S Dashon Elliott. Good players, but not worthy of being tagged. Elliott probably leaves, and there are also three corners hitting free agency, so the Lions will really need to add talent in the secondary. I've seen mock drafts that have them taking a corner at 18, which would make sense. PK Michael Badgley will be a free agent. He had a decent season, but similar to backup quarterback, it's time to end this revolving door of the last few years and invest in a kicker that you can trust to win you a big game. Fans around here know that Jake Moody of Michigan is one of the best kickers in the draft and he would be a nice fit.
Home: CHI, GB, MIN, CAR, ATL, LV, DEN, SEA
Road: CHI, GB, MIN, TB, NO, KC, LAC, DAL, BAL
The Lions along with the rest of the NFC North will play the NFC South and AFC West in 2022. The road game against Kansas City is a candidate to be played in Germany as the Chiefs have been designated as the home team for a Germany game. I'd look for at least a couple of prime time games with the Lions expected to continue rising in 2023.
The Lions will draft 6th and 18th in the first round of the draft. The 6th pick is from the Rams as the final piece of the Matthew Stafford trade, and the 18th pick is a result of going 9-8, tied with Pittsburgh for the best record among non-playoff teams. Going defense with both picks is very possible, but we have many mock drafts to come.
I will be back next month as we dive into free agency and any other news.
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