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Mining your way to fantasy gold - Lions Edition

In today's Fantasy Feature, I take a look at the lovable Detroit Lions.  In 2008, the Lions had an impressive 0-16, the only of its kind in NFL history.  Despite being winless, the team had some young fantasy options that carry over into 2009.  If you're thinking about loading up with Lions on draft day, I hope "loading up" means adding one.  Before I go on to my forecasts, I want to go out on a limb.  Right here, right now, I say the Lions win 5 games in 2009; a couple of their fantasy players can help you win too. 

Lions to mention:

  • Calvin Johnson WR - Avg. Selection* 19, 100% drafted
  • Kevin Smith RB - Avg. Selection 44, 100% drafted
  • Brandon Pettigrew TE - Avg. Selection 143, 100% drafted
  • Bryant Johnson WR - Avg. Selection 103, 3.3% drafted
  • Matt Stafford QB - Undrafted

*-100th selection = 10th pick round 10 (10 man); 6th pick round 9 (12 man); 3rd pick round 8 (14 man)

After the jump I unleash Megatron's stats, forecast and other goodness from the Detroit Lions...

They call him Megatron

Calvin Johnson

Johnson. Is. A. Beast.  He may even be the best wide receiver in the NFL, which is a bold statement, because he's only played two seasons.  To avoid argument, I'll say Megatron is one of the best 3 WRs in the NFL, and certainly one of the top 3 in fantasy football as well.  The man in Motown scored 3rd amongst WRs in 2008, behind Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson, on an 0-16 squad.  In 2009, you can expect the Lions to have a better formula to success (thanks to Jim Schwartz), but it won't prevent Megatron from hauling in a pile of yards and TDs.  Looking for a negative on Johnson?  Don't bother, in fantasy prime time (weeks 14-16), he amassed 258 yards, with 2 TDs (around 16 fantasy ppg).  The Georgia Tech product is certainly worth drafting in the top 20. Fantasy Forecast: 1400 total yards, 14 TDs

Another draftable Lion

Kevin Smith

The first interesting stat about Kevin Smith's 2008 season:  he had six games with 20 or more carries.  The second interesting stat: he scored 8 TDs; thirdly, he mustered 1262 total yards.  I also forgot to mention that Smith only lost 1 fumble in 2008.  While Smith only had two 100 yard games, and no multi-TD contests, he still produced consistently.  This guy has fantasy stud written all over for him, but unfortunately he plays for the Lions so you may be frightened about taking him.  Do not hesitate if you have a chance to grab Kevin Smith around pick 40, the investment will pay off.  I usually recommend against drafting multiple players from the same time, and there's no exception here.  If you miss out on Calvin Johnson, don't be shy about drafting Smith.  Unlike other rookies, Smith thrived near season's end last year, gaining 420 total yards and scoring 3 TDs in the final four weeks.  Fantasy Forecast: 1300 total yards, 9 total TDs

Don't Worry About Them

Matt Stafford

Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, the top two rookie QBs of 2008, finished 15th and 17th in fantasy scoring amongst QBs in 2008.  I'm not sure you can pencil Stafford in for a top 20 finish in 2009, because it's not so clear cut he'll be starting from day one.  However, if he does start from week one, you'd be better off seeking another QB's services.  Starting a rookie QB in fantasy football probably won't get you to the playoffs, even though Ryan and Flacco lead their NFL teams to the playoffs.  Stafford may very well be a solid fantasy option one day, especially if he develops signficant chemistry with Calvin Johnson.  Fantasy Forecast: 12 games started, 2500 pass yards, 15 TDs, 15 INTs

Bryant Johnson

But you have Bryant Johnson on your sleeper list for 2009?  As 49er fans, we know the deal on this Johnson; he receives a lot of hype, but doesn't put up the numbers.  In Arizona he was "overshadowed" by Fitz and Q, but when he came to San Francisco, he was "overshadowed" by a tree branch (as in, he didn't have much competition, but failed to step up).  Johnson's career high in yardages is 740, with 4 TDs (2006); since he's joining the Lions in 2009, I simply cannot predict a career year for B.J.  It may not be impossible for the guy to rack up 700 yards, but I'm saying its unlikely, even across from the other Johnson.  Fantasy Forecast: 500 total yards, 2 TDs

Motor City Sleeper?

Brandon Pettigrew

The myth sometimes around Rookie QBs, is that they'll often look for Tight Ends in the passing game, because they are adjusting to NFL speed and rely on checkdowns often.  Looking at the top 2 rookie QBs again, Ryan didn't have a decent TE to throw to, and Flacco helped Todd Heap produce his lowest total when participating in 16 games in a season.  Both QBs did fairly well, so it may be foolish to put stock in Pettigrew right out of the gate based on the reason that Stafford (potentially the starter) will be looking for Pettigrew all season long.  Pettigrew might be a decent start when your TE1 has a bye week, but I wouldn't expect John Carlson numbers out of Brandon in 2009.  Fantasy Forecast: 450 total yards, 3 TDs

Ask the Nation

Would you consider drafting Jason Hanson as your Kicker?  While his totals in 2008 were down, he still hit 95.5% of his FGs (but was FG-less in 5 games).  In 2007, he totalled 29 FGs and had 6 contests with 3 or more FGs total.  Hanson used to be Detroit offensive MVP, until big ol' Calvin came rolling into town.

(all fantasy stats are based on 2007-2008 Yahoo! Standard Public league scoring, regular season stats from Yahoo! and PFR)