That's because the team signed Anquan Boldin on Tuesday to a one-year deal.
Boldin isn't going to replace Johnson. Neither is fellow free-agent signee Marvin Jones or Golden Tate. But those three receivers, along with Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah out of the backfield and Eric Ebron at tight end give Matthew Stafford plenty of options. And it could be a fun passing attack for Fantasy owners.
Stafford was the No. 9 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues last season with 4,262 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and 159 rushing yards and a touchdown. He takes a huge hit with Johnson gone since he accounted for 88 catches, 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns, which is 28 percent of Stafford's yards and passing touchdowns.
But I wouldn't be surprised if Stafford leads the NFL in pass attempts this season. He was No. 7 last year with 592, which was 70 off the leader in Philip Rivers (662). The Lions could struggle to run the ball as we saw last year with Abdullah, and the defense could put them in plenty of comeback efforts. Stafford was fifth in pass attempts in 2014 with 602, fourth in 2013 with 634 and first in 2012 with 727.
He's clearly not afraid to air it out if needed, and that volume will help his Fantasy value. He's not someone you want to target as a starter, but he could easily fall into quality production as a high-end backup. After adding Boldin, I moved Stafford to No. 13 in my quarterback rankings.
Tate takes a slight hit with Boldin's addition, but he's still a solid No. 2 Fantasy receiver worth drafting in Round 5. He's played well whenever Johnson has missed time, and that should help his cause this season. In 2014, Tate had four games with double digits in Fantasy points during a five-game stretch when Johnson was banged up and averaged 15.2 Fantasy points over that span, which shows you his upside.
Jones is a quality reserve receiver with the chance to be a No. 3 option in deeper leagues. He played well last year in Cincinnati with 65 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns on 102 targets, and he scored 10 touchdowns in 2013. He's worth a pick in Round 9 in most formats, and if he gets the majority of Johnson's targets from last year (150) then you might have a steal in that spot.
As for Boldin, last year was a disaster for him in San Francisco with 69 catches for 789 yards and four touchdowns, but he averaged 84 catches, 1,121 yards and six touchdowns the previous two seasons. He'll be 36 in October and isn't an elite talent at this point in his career, but he's worth a late-round flier in deeper Fantasy leagues. He should be a quality No. 3 receiver for the Lions.
His addition impacts Ebron, who had some positive moments in 2015 with 47 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns on 69 targets, but he needs to be more consistent to help Fantasy owners. Ebron is only worth a late-round flier in most leagues.
As for Riddick and Abdullah, not much changes for their outlook this season. Riddick remains the passing-downs back for the Lions, and he did well in that role last year with 80 catches for 697 yards and three touchdowns and 43 carries for 133 yards. He's worth a late-round pick in standard leagues, and he's a potential flex option in PPR with a mid-round pick.
Abdullah will also see time on passing downs, and he had 25 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown as a rookie in 2015. He just needs to improve as a rusher after he had 143 carries for 597 yards and two touchdowns. There's clearly plenty of potential there, and he should benefit with Joique Bell gone, although Zach Zenner or even Stevan Ridley could take away carries. Still, Abdullah is a high-upside pick in Round 6 based on his role.
Fantasy owners will clearly miss Johnson and his dominance now that he's retired. But the new receiving corps in Detroit could be fun to watch and potentially productive after adding Boldin to the mix.