Some offenses are known as fantasy football gold mines, like the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are stacked with a top-5 player at quarterback (Patrick Mahomes), wide receiver (Tyreek Hill) and tight end (Travis Kelce). This key trio also has a solid supporting cast surrounding it, including a talented running back tandem of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Damien Williams, and excellent depth at WR with Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman.
In total, Kansas City currently has five players with an NFFC average draft position inside the top-70. That’s more than any other team.
The Detroit Lions, however, are also a loaded offensive unit for fantasy football purposes entering the 2020 season, but are extremely underrated.
I’m not saying Detroit is on equal standing to Kansas City, that is not the case. Nobody is. I’m saying the Lions should be viewed as a ‘Chiefs Lite,’ but are not currently getting the recognition they deserve.
It’s funny how easily people forget how the Lions’ offense was rolling prior to Matthew Stafford’s injury last season. Through the first eight weeks, Stafford was a top-10 fantasy QB, Kenny Golladay was WR15 and Marvin Jones Jr. was WR18. Detroit also went blow-for-blow with Kansas City in Week 4, narrowly losing 34-30.
By Week 9, Detroit’s offense was decimated by injuries. Stafford didn’t return while starting running back Kerryon Johnson only appeared in two games the rest of the season. First-round rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson battled through ailments all year prior to being shut down for good in Week 12.
To put it bluntly, it was a total mess. The team predictably struggled in Stafford’s absence, failing to win another game the rest of the season with Jeff Driskel and David Blough at QB.
Entering 2020, however, Stafford is fully healthy. Hockenson will be entering his second season with his injury-plagued rookie campaign behind him, and the team solidified its run game with the addition of D’Andre Swift.
So why are the Lions being undervalued in fantasy drafts ?
Let’s start with Stafford. In NFFC leagues, Stafford is currently being selected as QB14. In five of the past eight seasons, Stafford has finished as a top-10 QB (including Week 17) and a top-12 QB an equal number of times (not including Week 17). Only six other active QBs have been able to finish in the top-12 five or more times over the past eight years. If you wait on QB, Stafford’s consistency is exactly what you are looking for.
At running back, the selection of Swift as the No. 2 RB off the board in this past draft signals to me that the Lions have a new starter. I highly doubt Swift is ever a true workhorse in the NFL considering his college usage (15.7 touches per game at Georgia last season), but I think he’ll be the main guy in this backfield. His ADP of RB24 in NFFC leagues since the NFL Draft is fair, and there’s certainly room for upside given his talent.
Johnson was awarded the chance to be the lead back in Detroit last season but he exceeded 60 rushing yards in just one of his eight outings. He’ll still likely receive decent volume, as I see this tandem working similarly to Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray of the New Orleans Saints.
Golladay’s ADP is exactly where you’d expect it to be. The WR9 in PPR last season is currently being selected as the WR8 in NFFC leagues. In season-long drafts, however, Jones Jr. is the best bargain you can find at wide receiver. Jones Jr. has received 90+ targets in three of his four seasons with the Lions. In each of his past two healthy campaigns with Detroit (missed seven games in 2018 with a knee injury), he’s finished as WR12 (2017) and WR24 (2019) in PPR leagues. He was still a back-end WR2 last year despite having Driskel and Blough at QB for half of the season. With Stafford ready to return and the Lions doing very little at WR this off-season, Jones Jr. is currently being selected as WR43 in NFFC leagues. That’s just wrong.
Entering year two healthy, Hockenson, a tight end who can do everything at the position, is being slept on. Hockenson had a rookie season that couldn’t have played out any worse. With Stafford back under center, Hockenson can easily emerge as a primary receiving option given the shortage of passing game threats. Currently being selected as the TE15 in NFFC leagues, there is an enormous amount of upside.
With the exception of Golladay, every projected starter in the Lions’ offense offers sizeable upside given their ADP. The ceiling of these players may not be as high as the starters on the Chiefs, but unlike Kansas City, Detroit’s key offensive members are coming at discounted draft positions.
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