The Lions were feistier than expected in the first season of the post-Matthew Stafford era, but they were still pretty bad. They'll probably still be pretty bad this season, though if Jameson Williams is ready for training camp coming off his torn ACL, he could be the playmaker this offense is missing. Jared Goff isn't a great QB, but a healthy Williams would give the Lions a pretty dynamic group of playmakers, with potential at every spot on the field to go along with a strong line. It's a good start.
Record: 3 - 13 (31)
PPG: 19.1 (25)
YPG: 322.6 (22)
Pass YPG: 211.6 (18)
Rush YPG: 110.9 (19)
PAPG: 34.9 (15)
RAPG: 25.1 (21)25.3
2021 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 25.3
That's how many PPR points Amon-Ra St. Brown averaged in five games T.J. Hockenson missed last season. He also averaged 22.4 in four games without D'Andre Swift, a stretch overlapped with the time Hockenson missed. In the games Hockenson played, St. Brown averaged just 9.6 points per game, and it wasn't just because of some flukey touchdown luck or something; St. Brown went from 6.2 targets to 11 in the games Hockenson missed.
It would be easy enough to dismiss this as a looter in a riot situation, except St. Brown wasn't just putting up empty stats on high volume. In those five games Hockenson missed in particular, he averaged 8.6 yards per target; over his final six games overall, St. Brown put up a 144-catch, 1,587-yard, 14-touchdown pace, and was even being used at times out of the backfield. Teams knew he was the focal point of the offense and he had six straight with at least eight catches, scoring a touchdown in five of six. ProFootballFocus.com had St. Brown as the second-highest graded rookie wide receiver in 2021, so it wasn't just the Fantasy production that looked good.
Still, it took him quite a while to actually earn a valuable role in the offense, and now Detroit brought in free agent DJ Chark plus Williams, the No. 12 pick in the draft – and a guy many thought would have gone even earlier if not for a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship game. Williams isn't likely to be ready to go for the start of the season, but Swift, Chark, and Hockenson will be, presenting more competition for targets than St. Brown had at any point last season, let alone during his dominant run to close the season.
St. Brown could just be the team's best receiver this season, but it's also possible he was just a flash in the pan on a bad team. Which version of that turns out to be true will play a big part in how valuable he is for Fantasy players this season.
1. (2) Aidan Hutchinson, DE
1. (12) Jameson Williams, WR
2. (46) Josh Paschal, DE
3. (97) Kerby Joseph, DB
5. (177) James Mitchell, TE
6. (188) Malcolm Rodriguez, LB
6. (217) James Houston, LB
7. (237) Chase Lucas, DB
WR DJ Chark, CB Mike Hughes
0 carries, 53 RB targets, 68 WR targets, 5 TE targets
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Jared Goff||PA: 590, YD: 3956, TD: 24, INT: 12; RUSH -- ATT: 44, YD: 153, TD: 1|
|RB||D'Andre Swift||CAR: 196, YD: 824, TD: 6, TAR: 89, REC: 70, YD: 598, TD: 3|
|RB||Jamaal Williams||CAR: 174, YD: 697, TD: 6, TAR: 30, REC: 27, YD: 206, TD: 1|
|WR||Jameson Williams||TAR: 89, REC: 60, YD: 612, TD: 4|
|WR||Amon-Ra St. Brown||TAR: 126, REC: 74, YD: 891, TD: 6|
|WR||DJ Chark||TAR: 83, REC: 47, YD: 612, TD: 4|
|TE||T.J. Hockenson||TAR: 130, REC: 93, YD: 894, TD: 6|
Can D'Andre Swift stay healthy and take a step forward?
Prior to getting hurt in Week 12, Swift was on a 90-catch pace with 1,600-plus total yards, but he's now missed time in both seasons in the NFL due to injuries. Neither has been a serious, long-term type injury, but both have derailed what looked like true breakouts. And it raises the question of whether the undersized back can handle the workload he needs to live up to expectations. There's a very Fantasy-friendly skill set here, a la Austin Ekeler, but Swift is still a risk until he proves he can do it.
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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
Williams underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL in mid-January, so any return prior to October would be ahead of schedule. He'll likely at least be limited in training camp and may not play to start the season, so Williams may struggle to hit the ground running in the NFL. The Lions likely understood that when they picked him, but they clearly believe in the talent to take him as high as they did. If you can be patient - and it might even help Williams if he opens the season on PUP if you can stash him in an IL spot - Williams could be a difference maker in the second half. I'm betting there will be a point where he is the top target on waivers if he isn't universally rostered already.
Hockenson was a pretty big disappointment in 2021, as he failed to blossom into one of the next stars at the position. It's possible he was just overvalued all along, but I think he may also benefit from better complementary pieces around him - Hockenson may never make the leap to the Kelce tier, but he should still be one of the few tight ends capable of earning 100-plus targets, and an increase in efficiency isn't an unreasonable expectation. There's still room for a 75-catch, 900-yard season where he scores a decent number of touchdowns. Hockenson often falls to the seventh round in drafts these days, and I think he's a fine option there at a position where breakouts can often take longer to come to fruition than you might want.
To be clear, I'm not sure which side I fall on with St. Brown's late-season run. I think the truth is somewhere in between -- he obviously benefited from being arguably the only NFL-caliber pass-catcher on his team for a stretch, but he was nonetheless clearly an NFL-caliber player. The problem is, he's being drafted as a No. 2 WR for Fantasy, just behind Mike Williams and just ahead of Amari Cooper and Jerry Jeudy in NFC ADP. I think Jeudy is the more talented player, and he's clearly in a better offense, so if I was going to take one of those guys, Jeudy would be the choice. I'd feel better about St. Brown if he was going closer to the Allen Robinson/Darnell Mooney/Elijah Moore group in the sixth round in ADP.