Actions speak louder than words. So when Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn talked about improving the running game, I was hardly moved. But after the NFL Draft, their actions are saying the same thing.

This offseason the Lions have hired Jeff Davidson to coach the offensive line, signed LeGarrette Blount, spent their top draft pick on offensive lineman Frank Ragnow and their second pick on running back Kerryon Johnson. While the Lions have often taken a lineman in the first round, everything else points to at least a small change in the way they attack opposing defense. If they do, it will take some pressure off of Matthew Stafford on the football field, but put more pressure on his efficiency for Fantasy purposes.

Stafford's 565 pass attempts last season were the fourth most in the NFL. It was also the lowest total he's had in a full season. Stafford made up for the small drop by posting a career-best 7.9 Y/A and an above average 5.1 percent touchdown rate. The issue is that is pretty close to the ceiling in terms of what you can expect from him, so any further drop in attempts is almost certainly going to lead to a drop in production.

*Rankings expressed below are in terms of expected Fantasy points. This is a part of our actual Fantasy Football rankings but not a direct correlation to my rankings. Things like injury risk, upside, etc. factor into rankings but they're not being talked about here. This is simply an expectation as the team is currently constructed.

PLAYER

EXPECTED FP

POS. RANK

EXPECTED PPR FP

POS. RANK

Marvin Jones

137.4

#22

200.4

#29

Golden Tate

126.4

#34

212

#23

Kerryon Johnson

127.3

#36

147.9

#42

Matthew Stafford

317.2

#11

317.2

#11

Theo Riddick

93.7

#45

154.5

#37

Kenny Golladay

116.7

#45

143.8

#46

Breaking down the touches

Jim Bob Cooter has been with the Lions since 2014, so you won't find a tendency of running the ball to back up the team's talk. The Lions have ranked 30th or 31st in the NFL in rush attempts each of the past three years and no better than 26th in terms of yards per rush attempt. While I am willing to believe what I've seen so far this offseason to a certain extent, I don't believe you can project the Lions as a "running team". I've got the Lions slated for 376 rush attempts this year, which would be their most since 2014. It will also keep them solidly in the bottom third of the league. 

Giants touches
Player RuSHARE RuATT ReSHARE TGT REC TD
Kerryon Johnson 50% 188 5% 28 20 6
Theo Riddick 15% 56 14% 79 61 4
LeGarrette Blount 25% 94 0% 0 0 4
Marvin Jones 0% 0 19% 107 62 6
Golden Tate 0% 0 21% 119 85 5
Kenny Golladay 0% 0 16% 90 54 5
Luke Willson 0% 0 10% 56373

Of note: 

  • It's one thing to expect the Lions will increase their rush attempts. It's quite another to project how they'll split them up. Johnson certainly has upside beyond these numbers, especially if he can get off to a fast start.
  • Marvin Jones is due for regression after last year's breakout campaign...unless the targets increase. Jones averaged 18 yards per reception and scored once every 11.8 targets. For his career those numbers are both right around 15. How would that change things if everything else remains the same? He'd go from 61-1,101-9 to 61-915-7. That's a big swing in value.
  • The Lions didn't get a huge share of targets to tight ends when they had Eric Ebron. Now they seem more intent on have run blockers at the position, so I project they'll be one of the lowest in the league in terms of tight end targets.

The Leftovers

It's easy to forget but Ameer Abdullah is still on this team. At least for now. Whether you believe Abdullah's struggles are a symptom or a cause of the Lions' running problems is a moot point for now. The best case scenario may be that he's released and picked up by a team that loses a running back in training camp. I wouldn't be cutting him in Dynasty leagues until the season starts, but his future has never looked more bleak.