2020 Fantasy Preview: Detroit Lions

Bryan Sweet continues the 2020 Team Preview series with a fantasy-focused look at the Detroit Lions.

Detroit Lions


In 2019, the Detroit Lions found themselves somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to offense, finishing 17th in yards per play (5.4), 22nd in yards per carry (4.1), and 15th in yards per pass attempt (6.4).  Matthew Stafford was having arguably his best season through the first half of the year, on pace for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 TDs against 10 INTs (106 QB rating), before a back injury sidelined him for Detroit’s final eight games.  Injuries would become a theme for the Lions as Kerryon Johnson was also limited to just eight games, Marvin Jones was lost for the season in week 13, and T.J. Hockenson was only able to muster 12 appearances suffering through a litany of ailments.

Detroit will look very familiar on offense heading into 2020 as the only notable departure was guard Graham Glasgow who signed with Denver.  Stafford will have familiar faces Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola as the primary wide receiver trio and will look for improvement out of second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson.  Jesse James will see the field when Detroit elects to go with two TEs.  Kerryon Johnson will have a new backfield mate in rookie running back D’Andre Swift out of Georgia.  There is no clarity at this point as to how Johnson and Swift will divvy up the rushing duties.  Detroit’s defense underwent significant changes in the offseason and could underwhelm again, putting the onus on the offense to keep the team in games.




Matthew Stafford
ADP: 110.6, QB13

As mentioned in the intro, Matthew Stafford was on pace through the first half of 2019 to finish with his best season since 2011 when he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TDs.  Entering 2019, Stafford was Detroit’s ironman, starting all 16 games the previous eight seasons despite reports of tiny fractures in his back that bothered him near the end of the 2018 season.  Stafford was finally forced from action following the team’s week nine game against the Oakland Raiders as a result of, perhaps not surprisingly, broken bones in his back.  Stafford has indicated his back is now fully healed, however, and he will be under center for Detroit in week one, barring any unforeseen setbacks.  Stafford will be a welcome sight for Lions fans after eight games of Jeff Driskel and David Blough to close out the 2019 season.


Best Case Scenario

Stafford picks up where he left off in 2019 and makes a run at 5,000 yards and 40  TDs.  The Lions snap a streak of three seasons without a playoff berth and take advantage of the NFL’s expanded playoff format for the 2020 season as a wild-card representative for the NFC.


Worst Case Scenario

Detroit’s new parts on defense can’t get on the same page as the coaching staff and the weight of the season falls on Stafford’s shoulders.  Stafford struggles with inconsistency from his receiving corps and an uptick in INTs leads to a subpar season.  HC Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn are relieved of their duties as Detroit misses the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.


2020 Projection: 560 attempts, 364 completions, 4,368 yards, 32 TDs, 12 INTs; 31 carries, 102 yards, 1 TD.


Running Back


Kerryon Johnson
ADP: 106.4, RB46

Kerryon Johnson came into 2019 as a breakout candidate after a rookie season that saw him average 5.4 yards per carry and nearly four targets per game despite being shortened by injury after 10 games.  Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the only thing that remained constant was an injury-shortened season.  Johnson mustered just 3.57 yards per attempt and was limited to just two targets per game in the eight games he played (he missed weeks 7-14).  Johnson can certainly be labeled as “injury-prone” as he has suffered numerous injuries dating back to his high school days.  To compound matters for Johnson, the Lions used a high second-round pick on Swift out of Georgia.  Johnson is currently penciled in as the starter, and limited offseason workouts will work in Johnson’s favor, but Swift is certainly a threat and likely to steal touches as the season progresses.


Best Case Scenario

Johnson explodes out of the gate and holds off the rookie for the season and stays healthy.  He sees more involvement in the passing game and becomes a true threat in all phases of the game, accumulating 1,400 total yards and double-digit TDs to finish as a low-end RB1.


Worst Case Scenario

Johnson succumbs to yet another injury or is unable to separate from Swift and loses the majority of touches to the rookie.  Johnson becomes a viable backup but doesn’t see enough action to be reliable for fantasy owners.


2020 Projection: 205 carries, 825 yards, 5 TDs; 35 targets, 25 receptions, 325 yards, 1 TD.


D’Andre Swift
ADP: 60.5, RB29

D’Andre Swift profiles as a complete back out of Georgia and could immediately challenge Johnson for the bulk of the work.  Swift is small (5’8”) but not slight (212 pounds) and has good enough speed (4.48 forty-yard dash) to handle both the rigors of between the tackles runs as well as stretch plays designed to get him in space.  Also, Swift was a competent receiver at Georgia, reeling in 73 receptions during his three-year tenure.  Unfortunately for Swift, it could be argued his O-line at Georgia was better than the one that will be paving the way for him in Detroit.  A shortened offseason program is also a con for the rookie, although history suggests the RB position is the easiest to adapt to in transitioning from college to the NFL.  Swift looks likely to start the season as Johnson’s backup but could emerge as the preferred option by midseason.


Best Case Scenario

Swift picks up on the nuances of Detroit’s offense and excels on the field during the offseason to the point the coaching staff has to bump him ahead of Johnson on the depth chart.  Swift’s explosiveness gives Detroit an option they haven’t had since Reggie Bush, and they become a more run-oriented team as Swift finishes as a high-end RB2.


Worst Case Scenario

Swift struggles behind a lackluster offensive line and never gets the chance to usurp Johnson as the lead back.  The Lions continue to lean on the arm of Stafford to stay in games and Swift contributes enough in the receiving game to make neither Detroit running back trustworthy for fantasy owners.


2020 Projection: 125 carries, 565 yards, 5 TDs; 75 targets, 45 receptions, 675 yards, 3 TDs.


Wide Receiver


Kenny Golladay
ADP: 25.3, WR7

Kenny Golladay has seen an increase in his yardage (477-1,063-1,190) and TD receptions (3-5-11) in his first three seasons and has established himself as the clear-cut #1 receiving option in Detroit.  Golladay has great size (6’ 4”, 214 lbs) and has surprisingly good speed (4.50 forty-yard dash) for a player his size.  Golladay led the NFL in TD receptions in 2019 (11) and averaged 18.3 yards per reception, and remember he only had Stafford for eight games last season!  Golladay’s biggest knock is his lack of opportunities in the Detroit passing game.  Golladay was 21st in targets (116) last season, but only 86 were catchable.  On the plus side, Golladay also led the league in deep targets (37), defined as targets of 20 yards or more.  Golladay’s TD rate (16.9%) seems unsustainable, so a downtick in TDs seems likely barring an increase in targets in 2020.


Best Case Scenario

Golladay creeps into the top 10 of targets and continues to frequently find the end zone en route to another Pro Bowl season.  He once again leads the Lions in all receiving categories and easily finishes inside the WR1 ranks.


Worst Case Scenario

Golladay sees his target share dip with the emergence of Hockenson and Swift as viable options in the passing game.  Jones also gets in a full season, further cannibalizing Golladay’s numbers.  Golladay’s TD rate comes back to earth and he finishes as a solid WR2.


2020 Projection: 110 targets, 62 receptions, 1,045 yards, 8 TDs.


Marvin Jones, Jr.
ADP: 97.3, WR38

Marvin Jones has been the perfect complement to Golladay – when he’s been able to stay healthy.  Jones missed seven games in 2018 (knee) and three in 2019 (ankle) with Detroit and missed the entire 2014 season (foot) as a member of the Bengals.  Jones is heading towards the twilight of his career and is in the final season of his contract with Detroit, but still profiles as a solid weapon as the team’s #2 wide receiver.  Jones eclipsed 1,000 yards in his last fully healthy season (2017) and scored nine touchdowns – a total he matched last season in 13 games.


Best Case Scenario

Jones plays all 16 games and reaches 1,000 receiving yards for the second time in his career.  He combines with Golladay to form one of the best 1-2 WR tandems in the NFL and finishes as a weekly WR2 option.


Worst Case Scenario

Jones loses more time to another injury and Father Time catches up with the nine-year veteran.  The Lions get more out of the ground game than expected and Hockenson and Swift evolve into reliable options in the passing game.  Jones finishes as a WR4 and the Lions elect to not re-sign the soon-to-be 31-year-old veteran following the season.


2020 Projection: 90 targets, 52 receptions, 715 yards, 6 TDs.


Danny Amendola
ADP: 183, WR75

Danny Amendola is not going to wow you with his measurables (5’ 10”, 186 pounds), speed (4.68 forty-yard dash) or elite yardage or touchdown totals (career 38 receiving yards per game and 21 career TDs) but he is going to make tough catches over the middle or convert a third-down when you need him to.  Amendola is a scrappy WR who knows what is required of him and does it well.


Best Case Scenario

Amendola becomes Stafford’s favorite target due to the attention drawn by Golladay and Jones and has one of his best seasons to date.


Worst Case Scenario

Amendola struggles to carve out a role in the Detroit offense as the team looks to live and die by explosive plays.  He loses time to newcomer Geronimo Allison and is an afterthought in the offense.


2020 Projection: 83 targets, 57 receptions, 585 yards, 2 TDs.


Tight End


T.J. Hockenson
ADP: 144, TE14

T.J. Hockenson entered the NFL as one of the most highly-touted rookie TEs in recent memory.  His combination of receiving and blocking was fawned over by analysts everywhere and those high praises seemed to be in order after a week one coming out party that consisted of six receptions for 131 yards and his first NFL TD.  The reality of being a rookie TE soon took over and Hockenson struggled through injuries and inconsistencies to compile 26 more receptions, 236 more yards, and one more TD the rest of the season.  Hockenson missed the final four games with an ankle sprain and the expectations for his second season are considerably lower.  Does Hockenson turn the corner this year into the elite TE everyone expected or does he need more time for things to slow down for him if they ever will?


Best Case Scenario

Hockenson moves into the upper tier of TEs and quantifies the potential he showed coming out of Iowa.  He becomes a threat in the red zone and is a viable every-week option for fantasy owners.


Worst Case Scenario

Hockenson just can’t grasp the speed and complexity of the NFL and shows the week one breakout of 2019 was an aberration.  He struggles with injuries again and is unreliable for fantasy owners.


2020 Projection: 80 targets, 49 receptions, 604 yards, 4 TDs.


Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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