I’m going to make a bold statement here and say that the Detroit Lions offense will benefit greatly from no longer having a starter actively sabotage them. That right there is the kind of brilliant analysis that you just can’t get anywhere else. There was clearly much more going wrong with the Lions last season than Titus Young, but that absolutely bizarre saga really illustrates what a perfect storm of strange tragedy last season was for the Lions.
With a mentally ill receiver bent on ruining the team from within, Jahvid Best being banished from professional football due to the NFL’s mysterious rules for medical clearance from concussions, and coach Jim Schwartz ruining a game with his challenge flag gaffe, in true Detroit Lions fashion, the collapse felt less like a football team going through a rough patch and more like a Greek tragedy penned by a most sadistic scribe.
I think the Lions will bounce back from their bizarre 2012 nightmare. Taking the division from the Green Bay Packers might be too much to ask, but I expect them to at least strongly contend for a Wild Card spot. But even if the Lions fall flat on their faces in real life again, there’s still ample cause for fantasy excitement. They have one of the best wide receivers
of all time in the middle of his prime, brand new talent at three positions, and a quarterback who has passed for 10,000 yards over the last two seasons. There’s plenty of good and bad to analyze, so let’s shake off those bankruptcy blues and answer one question: Should you draft him?
(ADP = Average Draft Position. Kickers and defenses are ignored as they should be.)
Matthew Stafford (ADP: Mid-Round 6):
Good news: Stafford has thrown for a combined 10,000 yards over the last two seasons. Bad news: His touchdown total dropped from 41 in 2011 to 20 in 2012. Good news: He has shaken the injury prone label by making 32 out of his last 32 starts. More good news: the addition of likely reception machine Reggie Bush means the Lions have every intention of making their franchise quarterback the league leader in pass attempts for a third year running.
The stars are aligning for Stafford to put up about 5,000 yards again, and the law of averages and overall talent of his receivers point toward him putting up a touchdown total that’s somewhere between his 2011 and 2012 totals. He isn’t as rock-solid reliable as other quarterback mainstays, but he’s great value as a sixth rounder.
Should you draft him?
Reggie Bush (ADP: 23rd overall):
Y’all have lost your dang minds. I know running back is an inherently thin position and relatively unimpressive backs will go before studs at other positions, but Reggie Bush is going
ahead of Drew Brees and Demaryius Thomas in standard drafts. That is bonkers. He should challenge for the league lead in receptions among running backs and totally makes sense as a second rounder in points-per-reception drafts, but the injury risk, lack of goal line opportunities, expectation of only about a dozen or so carries a week, and the fact that this is Bush we’re talking about here just doesn’t make for a player who is worthy of a second-round pick in my eyes.
Considering Bush’s injury history, Mikel Leshoure’s ability to bang and Joique Bell’s receiving skills, the Lions would be wise not to lean on Bush too heavily. I’m sure Bush will be the most heavily featured back on the roster, but the type of full workload you’re expecting out of your No. 2 running back shouldn’t be there.
Should you draft him?
Mikel Leshoure (ADP: Mid-Round 10):
Last season he scored nine
touchdowns but averaged a poor 3.7 yards per carry. The signing of Reggie Bush shows you the kind of confidence the coaching staff has in Leshoure, but he’s still the No. 2 back and more ideal goal line rusher. If the Lions are smart they’ll implement a timeshare in order to keep Bush healthy through the season. Ten touches a week with goal line work sounds about right and makes for low-end flex appeal, and he’ll gain more value if something happens to Bush. Top 15 running back upside doesn’t exist for him, because if Bush gets hurt Joique Bell will still be in the mix, and even in a scenario where Leshoure is completely alone you would have an underwhelming talent in an offense that doesn’t run very much, but he’s still a usable play with potential to outperform his average draft position.
Should you draft him?