Lions Fantasy News
Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 3:14am
One of the players making a big early impression in a position of competition is Lions wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Tucked in a tight battle with Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross and Corey Fuller for receiving spots behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, Ogletree has spent time with the top unit both days as the No. 3 receiver. This comes on top of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi singling him out during the spring as someone who impressed him. Ogletree has speed as well as the ability to make catches both over the middle and the sideline. Johnson, meanwhile, called Ogletree “smooth” when discussing him Tuesday.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 11:02am
Detroit Lions tailback Mikel Leshoure acknowledges there was a point last season when he realized he would not get an opportunity to play under the old coaching staff.
But he says he never wavered in his belief that he can be a productive NFL tailback, if given an opportunity. And he says he'll find that opportunity this year, whether it's in Detroit or elsewhere.
"I feel like I'll get a role somewhere," he said, when asked after practice Monday whether he'd prefer to move on if he can't land a job in Detroit. "So I'm going to think about that right now."
Leshoure was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, then led the Lions in rushing a year later. But he plummeted down the depth chart in 2013.
Reggie Bush was signed in 2013 and the emergence of Joique Bell pushed Leshoure down the chart. Now this season, there is hype around sixth-round draft pick Theo Riddick. Seems like Leshoure may have to get a fresh start somewhere else.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 8:23pm
Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron was with the first and second teams, but he had some drops on a lackluster first day. The Lions also showed plays where Ebron and tight end Brandon Pettigrew lined up out wide.
Golden Tate's stay on the physically unable to perform list was a short one as the Detroit Lions announced the wide receiver has been cleared to return to the field, hours before the team's first training camp practice.
Tate, who injured his shoulder during an OTA practice earlier in the offseason, was placed on the PUP list as a precaution when he reported to camp on Tuesday.
The sure-handed Tate is coming off his best professional season, catching 64 passes for 898 yards and five touchdowns for the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. The hope is Tate can be a nice complement to Calvin Johnson. Tate's ranked 33rd among our WRs and we consider him a WR3 with upside, provided he can connect with QB Matthew Stafford.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 10:59am
The "Summer of Matthew Stafford" is garnering some positive reviews.
New Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he's been impressed with Stafford's improvement from minicamp to the beginning of training camp.
"He is getting better," Caldwell said, per The Detroit News' Josh Katzenstein. "His command of the offense has been good."
"I was impressed when he came back that first of all he did not miss a beat," Caldwell added. "He's a very, very smart guy. You could tell he's worked at it even during the summer."
One reason Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi were brought in was to help improve Stafford's sometimes wayward mechanics, which were often excused by the last regime. The head coach said his quarterback has displayed positive developments in that area.
Stafford comes in ranked 5th among our QBs this year, but he's got an ADP of sixth round. You definitely have some quality options if you want to pass on taking Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers early in drafts, and signs point to Stafford being one of them.
Saturday, July 26, 2014, 4:25pm
Although he is just a rookie, Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews already talks and acts like a 10-year veteran. Part of the reasoning for that could be that during this last month, when other players were resting and preparing for training camp, Matthews sought out the advice of some of the best receivers in the NFL in Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. "People put a lot of stock into the first day of training camp, but (succeeding in the NFL) is about who can sustain and who can make it through the season," Matthews said. "That is what I went to train with A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson for. To learn about longevity, learn about being a professional over a long period of time."
When new OC Joe Lombardi was in New Orleans, the Saints mixed in three or four backs each game, as well as a fullback, and each back had a variety of assignments. The most likely scenario in Detroit is for Joique Bell to play the Pierre Thomas role as the “starter” who receives the bulk of the inside carries, particularly on first and second down, while also being involved in the screen game. Reggie Bush fills into the Darren Sproles role as a player who’ll receive some carries but often line up as a receiver and be dangerous on third down. The most carries Bush had during his five seasons in New Orleans was 157, and even though he’s a better runner now, he’s still most effective in space. Then there’s Theo Riddick, who will earn more playing time because of his versatility as a runner and potential slot receiver. Riddick looked great during the offseason, and after being the No. 3 back out of camp last year, there’s no reason to expect a change in 2014. If the Lions use their backs like the Saints, there will be many times where two backs will be on the field together. Bell and Bush could both be in the backfield, Bush and Riddick could line up out wide, Bell could be out wide with Riddick in the backfield — the options are endless.
The uncertainty starts with Bush, who averaged 15.9 carries per game last season compared to the 8.7 carries he saw in five seasons with the Saints. Even though his role was different while in New Orleans, he averaged 10.0 PPG in standard formats (RB18-type numbers) and 14.9 PPG (RB11 numbers) in 60 games with the Saints, though his catches may be under pressure if Theo Riddick lives up to the hype. Bell figures to be a good value in the 5th round, but Bush's role is harder to pin down. He should be a solid RB2 in PPR formats if Lombardi uses Bush in the same role as he had while with the Saints.
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 12:30pm
Expect to see a lot of two tight end sets by the Lions, which will give them an opportunity to mix things up pre-snap and move pieces around. Ebron can play in-line, in the slot and outside, which will give offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterback Matthew Stafford a lot of options after reading defenses. Ebron gives Stafford something he hasn’t had from that position in his five years in Detroit. In Ebron, Stafford has a tight end that can take a five-yard pass and turn it into an 80-yard touchdown. He also has a player who can run by defenders down the seam and create mismatches from the tight end position.
The Lions want Ebron to fill the Jimmy Graham role in new OC Joe Lombardi’s offense, so he should see playing time immediately despite the presence of Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria. Of the 21 tight ends who have been drafted in the first round in the last 10 years, 14 have managed to play at least 14 games. They averaged 35-371-2.6, or #31 TE numbers. (Oddly enough, that's where Brandon Pettigrew finished in 2013.) It usually takes a while for a young tight end to make a fantasy impact, though there has been the occasional exception. Jeremy Shockey (#3 TE in 2002), Heath Miller (#11 in 2005) and Dustin Keller (#14 in 2008) all posted TE1 or fringe-TE1 numbers as rookie first round picks. Cam Cleeland, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and John Carlson all had a TE1-type impact as rookies even though they weren't drafted in the first round. Ebron is an intriguing TE2-type in a potent offense, but he's no shoo-in to make a big fantasy impact in his first season, especially if he’s struggling to learn the offense, which was the case in OTAs.
Jason Garrett says Tony Romo hasn’t suffered any setbacks and expects the Dallas Cowboys’ franchise quarterback to be a full participant during Thursday’s first practice of training camp. Romo was limited during all of mini camp and organized team activities after having back surgery in December.
Much has been written about how Romo will thrive under new “Passing Game Coordinator” Scott Linehan. Under Linehan, the Lions threw the ball 62.2% of the time in the last two seasons. Over the same span, the Cowboys threw it 64.3% of the time, so the Cowboys may not be that much more "pass happy" under Linehan, though the number of plays they run could increase, helping the offense as a whole. The Lions have averaged 1,105 plays in the last two seasons, while the Cowboys averaged just 968 plays, so Detroit ran 14% more plays than Dallas over that span. This bodes well for Romo and Co. Hopefully that back holds up.
Wide receivers Golden Tate and TJ Jones will all open camp on the physically unable to perform list. Tate, Detroit's prized offseason acquisition, didn't participate in the team's mandatory minicamp in June. At the time, he proclaimed he fully expected to be healthy for training camp. "100 percent (I'll be ready)," Tate said. "100 percent. No doubt about it. We'll see the doctors today and talk about whatever we need to talk about. Go from there. I want to be out there, though." The Lions awarded Tate a five-year, $31 million deal in free agency. Durability has not been an issue in recent years. He's missed just one game the past three seasons.
The shoulder injury is a bit worrisome, but we're still expecting Tate to have a strong season as the Lions' WR2.
Thursday, July 17, 2014, 11:18am
WR Golden Tate is the best No. 2 the Lions have had in Calvin Johnson’s tenure with the team. No disrespect to Nate Burleson, but he was more of a possession receiver. Tate can catch a five-yard pass and turn it into 80 yards. That’s nice to have in the bag when double coverage rolls Megatron’s way. Tate is also sure-handed. He’s dropped just seven passes in four years. The Lions have led the league in dropped passes the last two seasons.
Tate had the #29 FP/T (1.21) in 2013, which was right on his three-year average. Tate saw 99 targets last year, which was a career high. He has back-to-back top 35 seasons to his credit, and he did that with just 5.4 T/G. He’s likely to see around 7.0 T/G in a pass-happy offense. (The Lions threw it 51% more than the Seahawks did in 2013.) And he’ll get to play opposite Calvin Johnson, ensuring that he’ll be seeing single coverage on virtually every play. He’s a fantasy WR3 with upside, assuming he and Matthew Stafford develop a good rapport. For more on his potential in the Detroit offense, click here.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 6:04pm
Golden Tate had an outstanding season in 2013 and parlayed that into a big-money deal with the Detroit Lions. But a Seahawks three-receiver formation of Doug Baldwin, Percy Harvin and Jermaine Kearse can be better with Harvin instead of Tate.
Sidney Rice, Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood are also in the mix, but this beat writer apparently believes that Jermaine Kearse will be the firstr to see snaps in three-WR sets.
Monday, July 14, 2014, 2:12pm
The nuances of Golden Tate's decision to leave Seattle for Detroit are coming to light. "I hated being tackled (last year) because I didn't know when my next ball was going to come," Tate said in an interview Monday with ESPN's First Take. "I have a chance to catch more balls and make Pro Bowls (in Detroit)." Tate had more receptions than any other Seahawk last season with 64. His 64 receptions and 898 yards were both career highs for Tate, but he was still left wanting in a run first, heavy on the defense franchise. Ironically, he felt his catch thirst could be quenched by becoming another team's No. 2 guy.
The Lions ranked No. 3 in the NFL last season in passing, averaging 280.1 yards receiving per game. They threw the ball 214 times more last season (634 attempts), than the Seahawks (420 attempts), who ranked No. 26 out of 32 overall in passing, the story pointed out. Tate ranks 31st on our list making him a high-end WR3. The key will be a good rapport with QB Matt Stafford.
It's hardly a surprise to say that WR Calvin Johnson is good or that he is the key cog in the Lions' attack. But, as training camp approaches and anticipation ramps up over promising young players like TE Eric Ebron and RB Theo Riddick and concern grows over Matthew Stafford's progress, it should not be forgotten how important it is for Johnson to have a good camp and come out of it healthy. The Lions' scoring offense ranked 13th in the NFL last year with an average of 24.7 points per game. But in the games Johnson missed at Green Bay and at Minnesota, the offense struggled greatly and scored a combined 22 points.
Megatron had minor surgeries on a finger and a knee after the season, and the team has been cautious with his offseason work. He looks completely healthy. Of course, Johnson will likely be an early-to-mid first round pick later this summer in your league. We project him for 9 TDs and over 1,600 yards as well as over 100 catches.
Appearing on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast earlier this week, Lions backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky corroborated Joique Bell's account of Theo Riddick as uncoverable in offseason practices. With new coordinator Joe Lombardi importing the Saints offense to Motown, Riddick is expected to play the Darren Sproles role in a three-headed backfield. "I'm telling you, if he doesn't have 50 catches this year, I'll be surprised because he's going to have opportunities and he's very talented at it," Orlovsky said. "I think he's going to play that Sproles role, for sure." It strains credulity that a timeshare running back would have more receptions (50) in his second season than snaps (49) in his first season, but Orlovsky insists there are specific packages drawn up to put the ball in Riddick's hands. "He's going to have eight passes a game," Orlovsky said, "whether they're screens, whether they're one-on-ones, whether they're checkdowns, where they're going to be pass plays called for him."
If Riddick sees as large of a role as Orlovsky predicts, it's going to put a dent in the workloads of Bell and Reggie Bush. We can envision a three-headed RBBC since Lombardi comes from the Saints, but we'll see how much buzz Riddick is generating in camp now that Bell is completely healthy.
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