Fantasy football 2013 draft preview: Detroit Lions team report
Fantasy football draft season is fast approaching. Prep to win your league with SI.com's ongoing preview, including team-by-team breakdowns that examine each club's key fantasy storyline and much more.
Thanks to the combination of Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford (and yes, I am trying to make a point by listing Johnson first), the Lions have ranked in the top five in total offense each of the last two years. Of course, that measures yardage. They fell all the way to 17th in points per game last year, due in large part to the fact that the team did not have a playmaker other than Megatron. They addressed that this summer, adding Reggie Bush in what I believe to be possibly the most significant acquisition any team made in the offseason.
Detroit was desperate for a dynamic running back to pair with the effective-but-plodding Mikel Leshoure. Given their offensive scheme, that running back would have to be an adept pass catcher who is also good in pass protection. And if the aforementioned playmaker to take some pressure off Johnson, all the better. Bush fits those requirements to a tee, which explains why he and the Lions make the perfect marriage of player and team.
Bush is best suited to a team that likes to put the ball in the air, because that will resist the urge to make him a one-trick pony by only using him on passing downs. The Lions have led the league in pass attempts each of the last two years, and Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan have already said they'd like to make Bush a three-down back. It's a perfect match that will pay huge dividends for the Lions, as well as Bush's fantasy owners.
In an offense like this, there's no reason Bush can't duplicate the success the Saints have had with Darren Sproles in the passing game. At the same time, the Lions will call on Bush to run the ball a lot more frequently than the Saints do with Sproles. If Schwartz and Linehan weren't just coach-speaking and truly want Bush to be a three-down back, he should get north of 300 touches this year. Even if Leshoure steals the goal-line carries, 300 touches for an explosive back in this offense could result in a monster season. Fantasy owners may even get some bonus production, as the Lions said he could be used as a punt returner in special situations. He could easily push 1,500 total yards with double-digit touchdowns, and will be a reliable second running back for owners all season.
|Detroit Lions' 2013 schedule|
|Including a look at how the Lions' upcoming foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
The AFC North is tough for any team to navigate, and that was before the Bengals built themselves a pretty nice defense. Add to that two games against the Bears, and the Lions will see plenty of strong defense this season. There are a few cushy matchups here, notably against the Redskins in Week 3, the Buccaneers in Week 12 and the Eagles in Week 14, traditionally the first week of the fantasy playoffs, but that's about it. But this is such a top-heavy fantasy roster with Johnson, Stafford and Bush, that their schedule really shouldn't impact your decisions on draft day.
QB: Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, Kellen Moore
RB: Reggie Bush, Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell
WR: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Mike Thomas, Kris Durham, Devin Thomas
TE: Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Joseph Fauria
|Detroit Lions' 2012 defensive rankings|
The Lions defense was a total mess last year, and that wasn't lost on the front office. They have five new starters in place already, and expect more changes to come in training camp. Despite last year's failures and all the new faces, they could turn it around in a hurry. The pairing of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley gives them what should be a dominant interior defensive line. They addressed a glaring need at defensive end by drafting BYU product Ziggy Ansah with the fifth pick in last April's draft and signing Jason Jones and Israel Idonije, who is coming off a huge season with the Bears.
Detroit also shored up the secondary with offseason acquisitions, adding Glover Quin from the Texans and selecting Mississippi State corner Darius Slay early in the second round of the draft. Quin is a significant upgrade at free safety, and should help shore up a defense that allowed 26 passing touchdowns last year. Slay is a bigger corner, checking in at six feet. He's at his best when he's allowed to be physical, something he'll need to do in a division that features Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Alshon Jeffery.
The linebacker corps returns intact, and it's likely the weakest part of the defense. With Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer, there just isn't a whole lot of excitement for owners in IDP leagues.