Detroit Lions February Scouting Report
Lions report, February 2018: Year in review and free agency preview
QB: 2017 fantasy leader QB Matthew Stafford 4426 passing yards, 98 rushing yards, 29 TD, 10 INT
Stafford was consistent in his yardage total again in 2017. The Lions closed the season with a win at home over Green Bay in week 17, with Stafford lighting up Green Bay for the second time on the season, going for 323 yards and 3 TD passes. People will point out that the Lions swept the Pack and Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in either game, but Rodgers doesn’t play defense folks. The big news from the Lions was the firing of Jim Caldwell and after waiting for the Super Bowl to wrap up, we had the official hiring of Matt Patricia. There was some uncertainty over the fate of OC Jim Bob Cooter, but as expected, Cooter will be sticking around. Stafford is comfortable with him, and if the week 17 game is an indication, this offense can look explosive when taking some deep shots and instead of relying exclusively on the dink and dunk approach. Jim Caldwell’s conservative nature could have affected Cooter’s play calling to a certain extent. Keeping Cooter is a sigh of relief for anyone who was worried about a potential new offensive system. Stafford also played every game for the 7th year in a row. He also just celebrated his 30th birthday and lost the title of highest paid player in the NFL. Backup QB Jake Rudock is an exclusive rights free agent.
RB: 2017 fantasy leaders RB Theo Riddick 286 rushing yards 3 TD, 444 receiving yards 2 TD; RB Ameer Abdullah 552 rushing yards 4 TD, 162 receiving yards 1 TD
Riddick and Abdullah ended up with almost the same amount of total yards on the year, but by the end of the season they were trending in opposite directions. Abdullah was largely ignored by the end of the year and might need a change of scenery. There is no doubt about it, the Lions must upgrade their running game. They finished dead last and they need to evaluate how much is the line, how much is the scheme, and how much is the backs themselves. Drafting a back is a must and it could happen in round 1 or 2. Riddick should be safe as the pass catching back, and RB Tion Green showed some potential. Other than time it’s time to reboot this position. The same crazy facts get repeated on their broadcasts every week about the last 100 yard rusher and so on. Just having an average running game would be helpful. They started by firing the offensive line coach. Patricia is a smart guy and this will be his toughest problem to solve. Technically the Lions have a free agent at this position, barely. RB Mike James who you might remember from Tampa Bay, spent the year on IR and is a free agent but probably not in the plans for 2018. RB Zach Zenner is a restricted free agent but I think it’s time to move on from him. Great guy, but upgrades can be made.
WR/TE: 2017 fantasy leaders WR Marvin Jones 1101 yards, 9 TD; WR Golden Tate, 1003 yards, 5 TD; TE Eric Ebron 574 yards, 4 TD.
I want to give myself a little shout out as my prediction for week 17 was that Tate would have a big game to get himself over the 1000 yard mark and he got it. Tate ended the year with 92 catches. Jones was a consistent deep threat, and the Lions were the only team with 2 receivers over 1,000 yards. WR Kenny Golladay is set to break out in 2018 after showing flashes in 2017. Ebron will return for the 5th and final year of his rookie deal, and he stepped up after being invisible for the first half of the season. WR TJ Jones is a restricted free agent and should be back as he provides depth and does a little bit of everything. Backup TE Darren Fells is a free agent. He scored 3 TDs and I would guess the Lions will offer him a 1 year deal.
D, K, ST: With hardly any significant free agents on offense, it’s the defensive side where Detroit does have some high profile free agents. The biggest one is DE Ziggy Ansah. Ansah had 12 sacks in 2017 which ranked in the top 10 in the league. You would think trying to re-sign him would be a no brainer, but he’s not consistent and has had injury issues. The franchise tag makes a lot of sense here and I think that is the direction they will go in as they don’t have the depth to let him walk, but a long term extension could be scary. DT Haloti Ngata is also a free agent. He could be brought back if he doesn’t retire. The run defense fell apart after he got hurt. Defensive line is a clear need and could be looked at in round 1 of the draft. Other free agents on defense that played a lot include LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Nevin Lawson, and CB DJ Hayden. One thing to keep in mind is that the Lions scored 7 touchdowns on defense/special teams, which means regression is likely in 2018. No issues with the kicking game as PK Matt Prater had another solid season and will return in 2018.
Home: CHI, GB, MIN, LAR, SEA, NE, NYJ, CAR
Road: CHI, GB, MIN, ARI, SF, BUF, MIA, DAL
The Lions along with the rest of the NFC North play the NFC West and AFC East in 2018.
The Lions will draft 20th in the first round of this year’s draft after going 9-7.
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