Detroit Lions July Scouting Report
With training camp about to open, we are going to look at the latest news and also how the depth chart is shaping up at the skill positions. We will look at some of the training camp battles, questions, numbers, and storylines to follow over the next few weeks.
QB: I was looking at the career stats of QB Matthew Stafford, and I thought it was interesting to see how consistent his yardage totals have been over the last 3 seasons (4257 in 2014, 4262 in 2015, 4327 in 2016), averaging 4,282 yards over that stretch. This came after a 3 year average of 4,885 yards per season between 2011 and 2013. So I would say you pretty much know what you’re getting with Stafford in fantasy football as one way or another he’ll likely end up around 4,300 yards again. The offense should look similar to last year where the ball gets spread around, and you’ll have backs and tight ends involved along with the wide receivers. The lack of an elite receiver keeps Stafford ranked below the top tier fantasy quarterbacks, but he does project as a low 1 or strong 2 because of the aforementioned consistency, and also his durability. There is nothing new to report on Stafford’s contract situation. Just to reiterate, 2017 is the final year of his contract. We saw Derek Carr get his big extension, and we saw Kirk Cousins and the Redskins go the franchise tag route. We’ll find out as camp moves along which of these two directions Stafford and the Lions are heading.
RB: The key number here is 2, as in that’s how many games RB Ameer Abdullah played in 2016. It’s worth a reminder that he played in all 16 games in 2015, so it’s not that odd that the Lions are showing faith in him to be their lead back in 2017. It’s worth noting that the Lions have not had a running back gain over 100 yards in a game since Reggie Bush did it in 2013. That’s a streak of over 50 games if you’re counting. So while Abdullah is a nice sleeper this year, don’t set expectations too high. As for RB Theo Riddick, the number to look at is 5.1. Could that be his yards per carry? Nope, it’s his receptions per game over the last two seasons. He is still going to be PPR gold as long as his wrist has recovered from the surgery he had after last season. Keep an eye on him in camp. RB Dwayne Washington has more physical tools than RB Zach Zenner, but Zenner was more productive last year. They’ll battle for the 3rd spot in the running back rotation. I actually have RB Matt Asiata just missing the cut in my latest 53 man roster projection. If he ends up on the good side of the roster bubble he could steal some goal line carries.
WR/TE: Much like Stafford, WR Golden Tate has been consistent, at least with regard to his receptions. He’s had 99, 90, and 91 in his three seasons with the Lions. He got off to a slow start last year but was still the go to guy. He gets the ball on so many short routes that it’s safe to assume he’ll be around 90 catches again with his yardage depending on his yards after catch. WR Marvin Jones has two key numbers, 482 and 448. He had 482 yards in the first 4 weeks, and 448 the remainder of the season. Which Jones shows up in 2017? Well, I would expect him to be around 1000 yards. We’ve heard all the right things from him in the offseason about how he knows what he needs to do better to avoid the slump he went into, like strengthening his legs to improve against press coverage and avoid those nagging injuries that slowed him. As for TE Eric Ebron, the key number is 1, as in that’s how many TD catches he had last year. Technically he scored twice as he did score on a handoff at the goal line in one game, but you get the point. Will he ever be a more of a red zone threat? I don’t really think so, and this obviously keeps his fantasy value lower than you might think. How much of an impact could rookie WR Kenny Golladay have? Anquan Boldin had 67 catches and 8 TDs last year. I’d consider it a successful rookie year if Golladay produced half of those numbers. Behind him the 4th and 5th receiver jobs are wide open.
K/DST: If there is a number to know for PK Matt Prater, it’s 7. Prater made all 7 of his 50+ yard field goal attempts in 2016 and is a great pick in leagues where you get big points for longer field goals. On defense, the number to look at is 72.7. That is the completion percentage allowed by the Lions defense last year, sadly an NFL record. I’m not sure how much that will improve in 2017 because some of that is scheme, but the linebacker unit looks stronger on paper so the underneath coverage should be better in 2017.
The Lions have announced their full training camp practice schedule and some practices are open to the public. I may try to make plans to head out there to watch a practice if my schedule will allow it to happen. The first preseason game is Sunday August 13 at Indianapolis against the Colts. There will be plenty of things to discuss in the next report.
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