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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Detroit Lions

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Finally, after two years, we got to see what the Lions offense would look like with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson healthy. It was an offensive bonanza, and we only hope for a repeat performance this year.

To recap, Stafford passed for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as he played 16 games for the first time in his three-year career. He had at least 20 Fantasy points in 11 games, including at least 32 points in his final three outings, which helped many owners in the playoffs. Stafford connected for multiple touchdowns 12 times and had at least three touchdowns in seven starts. He also threw for at least 250 yards in 12 starts and topped 300 yards in eight contests, including a 520-yard outing at the Packers in Week 17.

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With Stafford healthy, Johnson went nuts. He had career highs in catches (96), yards (1,681) and touchdowns (16). He had double digits in Fantasy points in 12 games, and he topped 15 points in nine games, including three in a row to close the year. During those three games against Oakland, San Diego and Green Bay, Johnson combined for 24 catches, 560 yards and four touchdowns.

The duo enters this year as potential first-round picks in the majority of standard leagues. Johnson will definitely be taken in Round 1, and he should be drafted as a Top 10 overall selection. In PPR drafts, Johnson is likely a Top 5 overall pick (save your argument on the Madden Curse for someone else because I'm not worried).

Stafford will likely be drafted by Round 2, and he's a Top 5 quarterback. If Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady are all drafted early in Round 1 then Stafford might be taken that high as well, along with Cam Newton.

It should be another fun year for the Lions, who have a tremendous amount of weapons. We're looking forward to the backfield battle between Mikel Leshoure, Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith, and Titus Young will try to unseat Nate Burleson as the starting receiver opposite Johnson. Brandon Pettigrew also continues to mature as a quality Fantasy tight end.

But Stafford and Johnson lead this offense, and if both remain healthy we could be looking at another season of huge points in the passing game and plenty of quality production for Fantasy owners.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Matthew Stafford 2
Running Backs
Mikel Leshoure 7
Jahvid Best 8
Kevin Smith ND
Keiland Williams ND
Wide Receivers
Calvin Johnson 1
Titus Young 6
Nate Burleson ND
Ryan Broyles ND
Tight Ends
Brandon Pettigrew 10
Tony Scheffler ND
Kickers/Defense
Jason Hanson 14
Lions DST 13
ND - not expected to get drafted

Sleeper ... Mikel Leshoure, running back
The Lions will have a three-headed backfield this season with Leshoure, Best and Smith, but Leshoure should be the best of the bunch. He could be in line for a big season if he's 100 percent healthy following last year's Achilles injury. Best is a star when healthy, but concussion problems could ruin his career. And Smith is more of a safety option in case the other two struggle. But Leshoure has the chance to shine. He will miss the first two games of the year with a suspension after he was arrested twice for allegedly using marijuana, and that will lower his value on Draft Day. But that also should keep him fresh, and he will avoid a tough matchup in Week 2 at the 49ers. Leshoure is a good combination of size (6-foot, 233 pounds) and speed, and he could reach 1,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns. We like him as a No. 3 Fantasy running back with upside, and he should be drafted in Round 7 or 8 in most formats. Best might get drafted first, especially in PPR formats, and he remains a No. 3 Fantasy option also. And Smith is worth a late-round flier in case the other two struggle.

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Breakout ... Titus Young, wide receiver
There is plenty to like about Young this year, especially the way he closed his rookie season in 2011. Young did the majority of his damage from Week 8 on with 33 catches, 398 yards and all six of his touchdowns in his final nine games. The yardage definitely needs to improve, but Young should see more playing time, especially if he starts ahead of Burleson. Young had at least seven targets in three of his final four games, and Stafford should start to rely on him more this year following a full offseason of work. We consider Young a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues, but he could turn into a starting option in deeper leagues. Young should be drafted with a mid-round pick.

Keeper-league target ... Ryan Broyles, wide receiver
The Lions took Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles with a second-round pick in the NFL Draft. The pick appears to be based on talent more than need considering the depth of their receiving corps, but they got a pretty good player in Broyles. He went down with a torn left ACL in November, but not before he became the NCAA leader with 349 career receptions. Broyles completed his senior season for the Sooners with 83 catches, 1,157 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine games. He hopes to be ready for training camp, but the Lions can basically redshirt him as a rookie with Johnson, Burleson and Young healthy. We could see Broyles eventually replacing Burleson, and it's never a bad idea to get a receiver of Broyles' talent in an offense with a quarterback like Stafford. He is probably not worth drafting in most standard leagues, but he should be a mid- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and an early- to middle-round selection in rookie-only drafts.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
STL @SF @TEN MIN bye @PHI @CHI SEA @JAC @MIN GB HOU IND @GB @ARI ATL CHI
The schedule is phenomenal for the Lions' passing game. There might be three matchups against tough secondaries with only a handful more against stiff pass rushes. And it's definitely not that much harder for their run game -- if they can develop one. Where it gets sticky is in Week 6 when they play four road games in five weeks. That could grind them down a little, but it's made up for with three straight home games against the Packers, the Texans on Thanksgiving and the Colts as a post-Turkey week feast. They'll play outdoors a lot early on but finish with seven indoor games in their final eight.

Training camp topics

The Lions only real question will be who starts at running back between Leshoure, Best and Smith. Best will start the first two games with Leshoure out, and if he plays well he could hold onto the position, especially if he stays healthy.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Jahvid Best 84 carries, 27 catches
Maurice Morris 80 carries, 26 catches
Calvin Johnson 96 catches, 1 carry
Kevin Smith 72 carries, 22 catches
Nate Burleson 73 catches, 11 carries

But we are counting on Leshoure to be the workhorse rusher for the Lions and work at the goal line. Best will be used as a change of pace option, and he should play on receiving downs. Smith will get some touches, but his Fantasy value will be limited.

At receiver, the Lions will give Young a chance to start ahead of Burleson, but they will use three-receiver sets a lot this year. If Broyles is healthy, we could see four-receiver sets as well. Even though Burleson has limited Fantasy value, he's still worth taking with a late-round pick in deeper leagues.

The good thing for the Lions this year is Stafford is healthy, and concerns over his shoulder woes are behind us. We can now sit back and marvel at his talent, and hopefully he has another year for Top 5 overall Fantasy production.

Injury update

Leshoure (Achilles; probable for the start of training camp) ... Best (concussion; probable for the start of training camp) ... Broyles (knee; probable for start of training camp) ... Stephen Tulloch (knee; probable for start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery - not just for football but it makes my everyday life feel better so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


 
 
 
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