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Dynasty Capsule: Detroit Lions

As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a precursor to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford

In his first two seasons in the league, the oft-injured Stafford showed elements of potential, but also a tendency to get injured. While playing in just 13 of a possible 32 games over his first two seasons, Stafford had respectable numbers of 2,802 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Owners wanted more and hoped to get it.

Patience paid off.

In 2011, Stafford became only the fifth player in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards, posting an amazing 5,038 of them with a completion percentage of nearly 64%. Toss in an insane 41 touchdown passes (7th all time in NFL history) and you had a season for the ages, but somewhat under the radar considering what Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers accomplished.

Moving ahead, the sky’s the limit for Stafford. He has the best receiver in the NFL in Calvin Johnson and a host of other skill players who do nothing but elevate his stock. At just 24 years of age, he promises to be a truly elite building block for dynasty owners for the next decade or more if he can just stay upright.

Stafford’s current dynasty ADP puts him towards the back end of round two, behind players like Rodgers, Cam Newton and Brees. However, if he can stay healthy and continue to put up numbers even close to those he posted last year, he’s a bargain at that point in the draft and has the ability to outscore any of those aforementioned players in any given season.

Now, can he just stay on the field?

Shaun Hill

There aren’t many dynasty league players who believe in handcuffing their quarterbacks, but Hill may make the best case on why it could be a good idea for three very different reasons.

First, Stafford has a history of being injured. It’s simply the truth. Though he made it through last year unscathed, there’s no guarantee he can do it again. After all, he’s only made it through an entire season once in three tries.

Second, Hill is a pretty good quarterback in his own right. While he’s no superstar, he’s always played very admirably whenever called upon. He boasts a career completion percentage of nearly 62%, has a respectable touchdown-to-interception ratio of 39:23 and has a solid career quarterback rating of 84.7. In short, he’s no scrub.

Finally, if he’s called upon, he’d be throwing to Calvin Johnson – that’s enough to merit a spot start or two in my book.

Kellen Moore

If there’s one thing that Moore is, it’s a winner. After all, he holds the all-time record for wins by an FBS quarterback with a ridiculous 46 during his tenure at Boise State.  Unfortunately, there are some other things that Moore is, too – he’s undersized, has a weak arm, and a player who is struggling to keep up in OTAs. He’s not worth rostering, even if you’d love to see the slipper fit, so to speak.

Running Backs

Jahvid Best

Ugh.

There’s no doubting Best has an enormous amount of talent. He’s quick, fast, elusive and surprisingly strong. Simply put, he’s a nightmare in the open field, as highlighted by his 163 yard performance against the Bears last year posted on just twelve carries.

Unfortunately, Best may be the biggest risk/reward pick in all of dynasty leagues based on his history of nasty concussions. After his season was cut short by one last year, many doubted he’d ever even play again, especially in light of the horrible one he had while playing for California a couple years before.

At just 23 years of age, Best is attempting to rekindle his career. He’s said to be healthy again and ready to be a big part of a committee attack with Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith. In fact, it’s being said his recovery has gone even better than expected. As the most talented back on the roster, Best again has a great chance to be a fantasy factor, but you’re always going to think you’re one play away from losing him for an extended period of time again.

The scarier (and even more frustrating) thing is that if he’s healthy, you’re looking at a top ten dynasty back.

Mikel LeShoure

We focused on Leshoure in yesterday’s sleeper spotlight.

Kevin Smith

After being a highly regarded rookie pick out of Central Florida in 2008, Smith did nothing to disprove the notion that post-Barry Sanders Detroit was where running backs go to die after quickly flaming out after two and a half uninspiring seasons. He battled various knee and shoulder injuries during his tenure and looked anything but elite even when he was healthy.

Enter 2011.

After going unsigned all the way into November, the Lions re-signed Smith off his couch after Best went down with his latest concussion. The results were staggering as he ran for 140 yards, caught four balls for another 61 yards and scored three touchdowns in his first start for the Lions. Stranger things have happened, but only on nice evenings in Roswell, New Mexico back in 1947.

Unfortunately for Smith, nagging injuries were again part of the story after a severely sprained ankle limited him after Thanksgiving last year. On the plus side, he looked like a completely different runner last season.

Going into 2012, Smith is on a one year deal and is clearly third on the depth chart at the moment. However, when you consider the sketchy history of both Best and Leshoure, there’s still some sneaky upside with Smith. At worst, he’s going to be part of a three man rotational backfield and get a handful of touches. At best, he may just find himself at the top of the depth chart – that sounds like a player worthy of a roster stash in my book.

Joique Bell

The former Saint finds himself in a battle to make the roster, but he does have some ability and is still young. Monitor his progress (and that of those above him on the depth chart) during the preseason. Nothing is certain in this backfield, so file the name away for now.

Jerome Harrison

Remember when he was a dominant force for the Browns a few years back? Yeah, that’s really about all to talk about at this point.

Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson

The Lions blew it with Charles Rogers and Mike Williams in the draft and were criticized by some for taking yet another receiver in the top ten of the NFL Draft when they took Megatron with the second overall pick in 2007. In the end, Johnson was worth all three of those picks they spent in an effort to find an elite receiver.

Johnson is coming off an unbelievable season where he posted 96 catches, 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. That type of stat line from a 26-year old receiver has owners salivating at what he and Matthew Stafford will be able to do for the next five-to-seven years or beyond. Put it this way, he’s the only receiver who you could look at and think he could conceivably have a shot at a 2,000 yard season one day. Think that sounds ridiculous?  If you count the playoffs, Johnson had 771 receiving yards in his last four games alone.

There really isn’t much more to say about Johnson. He’s the unquestioned number one receiver in dynasty leagues (or any fantasy league for that matter) and only the Madden Curse stands in his way from posting another magical season.

Johnson should be considered heavily as the number one overall pick in all leagues since he’s clearly the best receiver the NFL has seen since Jerry Rice.

Titus Young

The Lions have been searching for a nice complement to Calvin Johnson and think they have it in Young. He had a solid rookie campaign last year when he recorded 607 yards on 48 catches, but what’s more impressive is the fact he caught four touchdown passes in the team’s final four games and was targeted ten times in their playoff loss to New Orleans.  While the numbers he posted in his rookie season may not blow you away, you can see he has the “it” factor written all over him.

With Matthew Stafford at the helm and Calvin Johnson drawing attention from two, three or maybe even four defenders, the field is going to be wide open for Young to make his mark this season. It’s been said that he can’t be covered in recent team practices and he’s already pushing Nate Burleson to start this year.

The cat is most likely out of the bag in regards to Young in your league, but if it isn’t, it’s time to pounce. Young is in a prime position to be a solid contributor in dynasty leagues as early as this year. Even as the WR2 on his own team, there are enough yards and scores to go around to make him very relevant – just think about what Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson can do.

Nate Burleson

Burleson has been a fantasy tease for the better part of the last decade. In his nine year career, Burleson has shown the ability to post some great games, but has also been maddeningly inconsistent. He’ll be 31 years old next month and will really be pushed by Young in camp. We fully expect Young to win the job sooner, rather than later, and that’s likely going to be the end of Burleson’s dynasty relevance, especially if Ryan Broyles is healthy enough to battle him for slot duties. At this point, he’s worth a roster spot as a player who could earn a spot start on your dynasty team, but that could change quickly for the worse.

Ryan Broyles

If you were to list the favorite individual players of the staff here at DLF, Broyles would be towards the top of the list. A torn ACL ended his senior year at Oklahoma, but only after he posted 349 catches for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns during his career as a Sooner. Though undersized at 5’10” and 192 pounds, he has an amazing heart and will to win that can’t be measured. Seeing him get hurt last season was simply awful.

Going into this season, Broyles is working hard and is said to be ahead of schedule on his recovery. He’ll likely begin the season on the PUP list, but that’s just fine in the eyes of his dynasty owners. When healthy, though, here’s a player who could really be a factor in PPR leagues.

At this point, Broyles is going in the late second to early third round of rookie drafts. While his injury recovery and small stature carry some risk, this is one player I wouldn’t bet against. In a few years, he could be a real rookie draft steal.

Maurice Stovall

He’s amazingly still in the league after his disastrous tenure in Tampa Bay. Look elsewhere for sleeper candidates.

Jarett Dillard

Sigh. There was a time when Dillard was a solid sleeper candidate. His college numbers were off the charts, but if you can’t make it in Jacksonville, it doesn’t bode well for your career.

Tight Ends

Brandon Pettigrew

Pettigrew was solid last year, posting 83 catches for 777 yards and five scores. He doesn’t possess elite speed or play making ability when compared to the league’s truly elite players like Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, but you could certainly do worse at the position. He’s squarely in the third tier of dynasty tight ends with the likes of Fred Davis, Aaron Hernandez, Antonio Gates and Jason Witten.

Tony Scheffler

There’s no doubting his talent, but there just aren’t enough balls to go around to make two tight ends legitimate fantasy factors in Detroit. With Young developing, Broyles coming back quickly from injury, Pettigrew being targeted a ton and Megatron carrying the load, Scheffler is simply an afterthought and only worth a roster spot in a very deep league.

We’ll continue our team-by-team capsules with the Green Bay Packers up next.

Ken Kelly
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10 years ago

Thanks guys! In my most recent superflex startup draft, I picked at 1.06 and had both Stafford and Megatron available to me. After much deliberation, I went with Calvin. Whereas I felt I could get Stafford-ish production from my QB in round 2 (Romo), as you said, there are NO wide receivers like Calvin!

On a funnier note, who would have thought we’d see the day when I’d have difficulty choosing between two DETROIT LIONS in the first round!

Reply to  Ken Kelly
10 years ago

Thanks! If we didn’t have the ability to flex a 2nd QB, I have no doubt he’d have been long gone. But as it was, 4 of the first 5 picks were QB’s, so I was able to get the guy I wanted!

Danton Goulet
10 years ago

I am a Detroit native and huge Lions fan but you know what makes me sick to my stomach every time I think about it? My first Dynasty league draft was the year Megatron was a rookie and it came to me to pick a WR and the 2 best available were both Lions. Now I had only played in 1 other redraft league in my whole entire fantasy playing career so I was not even close to understanding players values and potentials and all that kind of stuff. So yes I chose ‘Ahem’ Roy Williams over Megatron ‘Ahem’ with the premise that at least I know what I am getting with Williams. I get that sinking feeling every time I think about how different my team would be had I made the right decision there.

10 years ago

Is Stafford’s ADP really that late? In most of the startups I’ve seen, he’s usually gone by the 2nd round.

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