Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Breaking down the Detroit Lions thru fantasy football eyes

Quarterback: Jon Kitna took every snap in 2006, so it's Kitna or bust. No one else is worth considering. The backups are JT What's-His-Name, a NFL Eurpoa reject who has 1 game in 2004 with the Packers on his NFL resume, and Dan Orlovsky, a 5th round pick who's only experience under center is 2 garbage time appearances in his 2005 rookie season. Let's just say a QB was drafted in the 2nd round for a reason. Why the now out for the season Drew Stanton was that pick is fodder for another post...

Jon Kitna: He claimed before camp started that he was going to throw for 50 TD's in 2007. Confidence is one thing, hubris and delusion are another thing altogether.

But in regard to his fantasy prospects, it depends one stat. Turnovers. Keep this in mind. If your league deducts points for turnovers, and in 2006, Kitna was a turnover machine, it can turn a nice point production day from your QB into a lousy one.

Kitna will throw for over 4000 yards and 20+ TD's. In a Mike Martz run offense, that production is pretty much guaranteed. You'd think, with the over emphasis of the passing game in Martz's offense, Kitna would toss 35+ TD's. Unfortunately, he will find some way to kill a drive.

Expect Kitna to be amongst the league leaders in sacks and turnovers. He'll be sacked 50-60 times, have 10 fumbles, and throw, at the very least, 20 picks. You can book it, guaranteed.

You also have to take into the fact that the Lions have had red zone issues for YEARS. The Lions struggle mightily to get the ball across the goal line, via pass or run. This preseason exhibition season, up to this point, has proven no different.

In a moment of weakness, I was able to pick up Kitna off the fantasy waiver wire early in the 2006 season. I didn't have to play him much, as I had Drew Brees, but when I did, turnovers killed his point production.

So when it comes to Kitna, it's "Caveat emptor." He'll put up some gaudy ass yardage stats, but it will be the emptiest stats in the NFL. At best, he's a fantasy backup QB. when you do have to start him, hope that it'll be one of those few games where he keeps the turnovers to a minimum. Start Kitna regularly at risk to both your sanity, and team's point production.

Running back: Pick ANY Detroit Lions running back at your own risk. My adivce? Just don't do it. Trust me, scratch any Lions RB off your fantasy cheat sheet. You'll thank me later.

Kevin Jones: I've been sucked into the Jones hype since his dominant 8 game stretch in 2004. I drafted Jones as a #2 back the past 2 seasons, and was burned by his below average production the past 2 seasons. I've overrated him for the last time.

Jones is a powerful back with good speed and hands. But his inconsistent production, combined with Martz's typically bizarre red zone play calling, and his slow recovery from a severe lisfranc injury, makes Kevin Jones my fantasy kryptonite.

No one knows if he'll ever be the same back after such a severe foot injury. For example, Lions linebacker Teddy Lehman hasn't been the same player since his lisfranc injury, and his injury happened 2+ seasons ago. Even if Jones is healthy enough to start the season on the 53 man roster, which is highly in doubt, Tatum Bell will be the Lions number 1 back.

Odds are Jones misses the first 6 weeks of the season while on the PUP. When he does come back, he won't be close to full strength, and will have more rust on him than a '81 Chevette after a Michigan winter. If he can ever make it back to his '04 form, it won't be till the 2008 season.

Tatum Bell: The Lions clear number 1 running back. That's all well and good, but that's comparable to being a first place winner in the Special Olympics. There really isn't much competition.

Still, I think Bell is just a backup, at best, on any fantasy team. Why? Let's count the reasons.

The Lions o-line has been awful for a decade. The Lions suck in the red zone. Mike Martz will throw the ball 70% of the time. TJ Duckett was signed as a short yardage back, and will poach TD's in goal line situations. Considering that I, an arthritic 40-something, could run for 1000 yards in Denver's offensive scheme, we don't really know how good Bell will be when left to his own devices to find running room. Orlandis Gary sure worked out well for the Lions, right?

Just like Jones, Bell is fantasy kryptonite to me.

TJ Duckett: He claims that he's not a short yardage back. Yet that's how Duckett was used by Atlanta, and will be by the Lions. And in his first crack at poaching a TD in the preseason exhibition season, he fumbled the ball away. Duckett fits right in with the Lions...

Duckett will see short yardage and red zone duty. He may even score a few TD's. But pick him at your own risk, because barring injury, he's behind Bell, and a healthy Jones, on the depth chart.

Brian Calhoun: Yeah, right. If he's on your radar, you're either waaaay too into fantasy football, and have a monstrously deep RB chart with every NFL back listed, or you're fucking loony. Calhoun's nothing more than a 3rd round, Matt Millen drafted, bust.

Receivers: We've been told for years that the Lions' receiving corps were top notch. Before last season, the Lions' receiving corps blew chunks. Last season, the receivers were pretty damn good. The top 2 WR's, Roy Williams and Mike Furrey combined for 180 catches and nearly 2400 yards, but only 13 TD's.

Williams should of had that many on his own, but we are talking the Lions. The lack of receiving TD's from such a prolific passing offense is just another way the Lions' red zone ineffectiveness bites fantasy owners on the ass.

Roy Williams: Had a breakout season in 2006. Expect more of the same in 2007. Several highlight reel catches, a fair share of dropped passes, a ton of yards (1300+), and a TD number that won't match his overall production as a number 1 receiver (Under 10).

There's several reasons why. The presence of Calvin Johnson and Mike Furry, Mike Martz's odd play calling, Williams' penchant for dropping passes, Jon Kitna's scatter arm. Williams is a number 2 fantasy WR till he proves otherwise.

Mike Furrey: No no one saw his great 2006 season coming. It was an amazing season for a converted safety. But 98 catches, 6 TD's, nearly 1100 yards? If you say you saw that sort of production, you're an outright liar, or The Amazing Kreskin.

Despite the numbers he put up in '06, Furrey is now the number 3 option, thanks to his being demoted to the slot position with the drafting of Calvin Johnson. But in a Mike Martz offense, the slot sees plenty of action. He runs 3 wides the vast majority of the time. I expect Furrey will run wild catching underneath passes with Williams and Johnson stretching defenses deep.

So he'll still be quite productive. Just don't expect many touchdowns. The few the Lions do manage to get will go to the aforementioned Williams and Johndson.

Calvin Johnson: Much is expected from the number 2 overall pick. But how often does a rookie wide receiver have a breakout season? For every Randy Moss or Anquan Boldin, there are 15 Herman Moore's. Not to dis number 84, as he was a great receiver, but if you remember, Moore was a huge bust as a rookie. He dropped so many passes, there was talk he needed to have his eyes examined.

I doubt Johnson will be that disappointing in his rookie year. But I don't expect fireworks, either. As good as he may be, for this season, CJ is the number 2 guy. Williams is a proven quanity, and Kitna will look his way (Before he gets sacked, or throws a pick) first.

One thing to keep in mind is that Johnson is so big, and so physical, much like Moore, he could be unstoppable on end zone fade routes. In the mid 90's, Scott Mitchell thrived by throwing fade patterns to Moore. Mitchell would throw the ball up for grabs in the corner of the end zone, and 99% of the time, Moore would bring it down.

You'd think the current Lion brain trust would do the same with Johnson. He would be a TD machine, if they could take advantage of CJ's freakish physical attributes. We haven't seen it yet, let's hope Martz is keeping the fade in his hip pocket till the regular season.

Johnson is worth drafting, but not till the later rounds. But you know someone will take Johnson too high in your fantasy drafts. Don't be that guy.

Tight end: Tight ends (And fullbacks, for that matter) are useless in a Martz run offense. What "Tight ends" the Lions do have are actually H-backs, a hybrid fullback/tight end, who don't much of anything other than block. Dan Campbell led the Lions with 21 catches and 4 TD's. He's a desperation option late in a fantasy draft.

Lions defense: Only take the Lions D if you get points for most time spent on the field, or most 3rd down conversions given up. The Lions D doesn't manufacture turnovers, or sack QB's. Not exactly a recipe for fantasy success....

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