Jesse James will attempt to hold on to a semblance of a role in the Lions offense in training camp. While he's likely to do exactly that, the odds of him overtaking T.J. Hockenson and becoming a focal point of the Lions offense are quite slim. You shouldn't draft him.
James, who caught two of three passes for five yards in Sunday's season finale against the Packers, finished the 2019 season with 16 catches (27 targets) for 142 yards and no touchdowns over 16 games. Detroit signed the former Steeler in the offseason to help the Lions offense establish its identity in the run game. For the most part, James played his role well. While fantasy owners likely hoped for more production as a receiver -- especially when T.J. Hockenson (ankle) missed time due to injury -- prolific pass-catching has never been James' game and probably never will be. Instead, the 6-foot-7 James excels in opening holes for running backs, and that's exactly what the Lions are likely hoping from James in 2020 and beyond. The 25-year-old tight end is under contract through 2023.
James caught his only target for 12 yards during Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Broncos. After seeing five passes come his way last week, James was much less involved this time around. In fact, he's only gotten more than one target in five of 15 games this season despite regularly seeing a healthy amount of playing time. Logan Thomas will remain the team's top receiving threat from the tight end position during Sunday's season finale in Green Bay.
James caught three of five targets for 31 yards during Sunday's 38-17 loss to Tampa Bay. Both James and Logan Thomas opened the game in the starting lineup and both players commanded roughly two thirds of the available offensive snaps. While James was somehow the only one who made a dent in the stat sheet, Thomas was targeted four times and still has the higher upside of the two. However, it will continue to be difficult to have optimism for either as long as Matthew Stafford (back) remains out of commission.
James caught one of two targets for 23 yards during Sunday's 20-7 loss to the Vikings. Getting the start in place of T.J. Hockenson (ankle), James unsurprisingly failed to match the 11 targets Hockenson saw last week with interim quarterback David Blough. Somewhat more surprising is that James ultimately finished with less snaps than backup Logan Thomas, who also doubled James with four targets of his own. James probably shouldn't have been counted on for fantasy production anyway, but there's at least the possibility for a rebound Week 15 against a weak Buccaneers secondary.
James is expected to serve as the Lions' top tight end for the team's final four games of the season after T.J. Hockenson (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Monday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. James looked like he might have been in store for a significant role with Detroit in 2019 when he inked a four-year, $25 million deal in free agency in March, but he soon became a pricey No. 2 option on the depth chart after the Lions selected Hockenson with the eighth overall pick in the draft a month later. Hockenson's injury clears the way for James to take on more prominence in the game plan, but the veteran most likely will provide his biggest impact as a blocker rather than a pass catcher. With nine receptions for 71 yards this season, James actually ranks third among Detroit tight ends in both categories, as Logan Thomas (11 catches for 120 yards) has seen similar involvement in the passing game, despite playing 156 fewer offensive snaps.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/20||@Green Bay Packers||14||6.78|
|4||10/04||New Orleans Saints||8||6.12|
|14||12/13||Green Bay Packers||14||6.78|
|16||12/27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||23||7.63|
|3 Year Avg||43||30||312||2||15||10.40||43|