Golden Tate is expected to play a big role in the Lions offense this season, but it is prized free-agent acquisition Marvin Jones who looks like the club's top wideout. And in recent days, it hasn't been all that close.
On Tuesday, quarterback Matthew Stafford got his first chance to work against a foreign defense, and he went to Jones repeatedly, targeting him with seven of his 14 passes during team drills at a joint practice with the Steelers.
Jones caught six of those passes. No one else had more than two.
"Yeah, I think so," Stafford said, when asked if he were developing a chemistry with Jones. "There's a ton of work to be done between now and the season opener. That's what these days are for."
Jones has been Stafford's favorite target throughout most of camp, with Tate, Anquan Boldin and tight end Eric Ebron also earning a lot of looks. But Ebron is hurt right now, and Tate is battling an uncharacteristic bout of dropsies.
Jones has averaged 3.6 receptions for 48 yards and 0.44 TD in his last 32 games. The 6’2” receiver has been especially good at catching touchdowns (14 in his last 32 games), so he'll be asked to pick up the slack in Detroit after Calvin Johnson's retirement. Used inconsistently in Cincinnati, he should see plenty of work with the Lions, though we expect he'll play second-fiddle to Golden Tate in terms of total targets. Jones’ FP/T (1.03) was average last year, but it was an elite 1.64 FP/T in 2013, when he scored 10 times. If he sees 120 targets at his 2015 FP/T, it would yield 123.6 FP, which are solid WR3 numbers in standard formats. He has upside from there if his TD rate regresses toward his 2013 levels. Given this buzz, his ADP is likely to climb into the 6th or 7th round after hovering in the 8th for most of the offseason. We're generally leery of receivers who change teams in free agency, unless they're getting a promotion, which seems to be the case here.