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Offseason Primers: Detroit Lions

Senior Fantasy Writer
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When you pair a phenom like Calvin Johnson with a big-armed passer like Matthew Stafford, of course you're going to have a powerful offense. But that didn't quite happen for the Lions in 2012.

Yes, Johnson set an NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season. Fantasy owners loved that part of his game, but they hated the five touchdowns he scored all season. Five. He had 16 in 2011 when the Lions averaged nearly 30 points per game. But that number dwindled down to 23.2 points per game -- and that's with a semblance of a running game.

2012 Touches Leaders
836 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Mikel Leshoure 249 (215 car., 34 rec.) 29.8%
Joique Bell 134 (82 car., 52 rec.) 16.0%
Calvin Johnson 122 rec. 14.6%
Brandon Pettigrew 59 rec. 7.1%
Tony Scheffler 42 rec. 5.0%
Nate Burleson 35 (27 rec., 8 car.) 4.2%
Titus Young 35 (33 rec., 2 car.) 4.2%
Ryan Broyles 22 rec. 2.6%
All Others 138 16.5%

Johnson isn't entirely to blame for the scoring drought in Motown. An early-season injury left Nate Burleson sidelined for the season and put into motion a brutal domino effect among other Lions receiving threats. Titus Young went bonkers, lining up in the wrong places and running the wrong routes on purpose. The coaches couldn't trust him, opening the door for rookie Ryan Broyles. Broyles tore his ACL, opening the door for Tony Scheffler to contribute more, but he couldn't ever really grasp the gig. That prompted the team to utilize Kris Durham, who played with Stafford at Georgia. He wasn't great. Brandon Pettigrew played 14 games but posted some of his worst career numbers. Suffice to say, a lack of help in the passing attack didn't help Stafford and Johnson avoid tough coverage downfield or particularly in the red zone, thus hurting the Lions on the scoreboard.

In 2011, the Lions ranked 29th on the ground, averaging 95.2 rush yards per game. There was minimal improvement in 2012, as they put up 100.8 yards per game and ranked 23rd overall. Mikel Leshoure led the way, starting 14 games, but didn't run with much explosiveness very often as his 3.7 rushing average would indicate. The back working alongside Leshoure changed throughout the year and not one really stuck, so it only made sense that the Lions added Reggie Bush this offseason to boost their production from the position. Bush was versatile, productive and on the field a bunch for the Dolphins over two years, things the Lions had to like about him when they signed him. His addition means a noticeable subtraction in playing time for Leshoure and the other running backs still on the roster for the Lions.

Expectations aren't as good for the Lions' defense. The unit is thin on pass rushers and if they can't get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks then it's going to be bombs away on the secondary, which is also thin. Making matters worse is the offense, which figures to remain its usual explosive self (despite the point decline). Their ability to put points on the board will force rivals to do the same from week to week.

It should result in a lot of high-scoring games for the Lions, especially with 10 games indoors and a pretty good schedule for the passing offense.

Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles -- Bounce-back candidates

2012 Target Leaders
740 pass attempts
Calvin Johnson 205 27.7%
Brandon Pettigrew 100 13.6%
Tony Scheffler 84 11.4%
Joique Bell 68 9.2%
Titus Young 56 7.6%
Mikel Leshoure 48 6.3%
Nate Burleson 43 5.8%
Ryan Broyles 33 4.5%
All Others 103 13.9%

In shallow leagues (10 owners or fewer), neither of these guys will get picked unless owners have a roster space specifically for injured players. In that case, Broyles would be worth nabbing and stashing. In deeper leagues, perhaps specifically PPR leagues, it might not be a bad idea to go after Burleson with a late-round flier. The appeal to both of these guys is fulfilling what was missing in the Lions offense a year prior: A good set of hands opposite Calvin Johnson. Burleson served as the No. 2 receiver averaging 4.5 receptions per game before breaking his leg. Broyles got his opportunity soon thereafter only to suffer his second torn ACL in as many years. His return might take a while, opening the door for Burleson to not only open the year as the No. 2 receiver again but keep that role for the rest of the season. Neither player has crazy upside but both have appeal as Fantasy reserves to begin the year.

Brandon Pettigrew -- Bust

There isn't a lot to be jazzed about with Pettigrew, but because there aren't many tight ends to be jazzed about in the first place, he's going to get drafted. Last year was a nightmare for him as drops highlighted four-year lows in catches, yardage and touchdowns. The only thing nice about his 2012 was that he finished among the Top 10 in tight ends in targets with 101. Wait ... that's actually not very nice in comparison to his 2011 when he finished second among tight ends in targets and was tied for third-most in 2010. In a year when the Lions were weak at receiving options outside of Megatron, Pettigrew should have had more. For years he's had this potential to be outstanding and he just hasn't broken through to the levels we all had hoped. If you draft Pettigrew to be your backup or a platoon starter with one of your last three picks, it's not bad. Anything higher than that and you're playing with fire.

Matthew Stafford -- Draft Day Value

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Matthew Stafford 35-45 overall
Reggie Bush 40-50 overall
Mikel Leshoure 80-90 overall
Joique Bell Undrafted
Calvin Johnson 8-15 overall
Nate Burleson Late-round pick
Ryan Broyles Late-round pick
Brandon Pettigrew Late-round pick
Jason Hanson Late-round pick
Lions DST Undrafted

A year ago Fantasy owners were nabbing Stafford on average with the 12th pick in drafts with grand expectations. While he didn't meet said expectations -- he scored 17 fewer total touchdowns and had one more interception than in 2011 -- he still was in a position to post huge numbers. Injuries and a focus by the opposition to shut down Calvin Johnson made things hard on Stafford, particularly in the end zone. Yardage-wise he was fine, ending up 71 yards shy of where he finished up a year prior, though throwing an NFL-record 727 pass attempts helped that cause. Point is, Stafford's receiving corps will get shored up this offseason, his offensive line could get even better, Megatron isn't going anywhere and the offensive scheme won't suddenly become run-heavy even though Reggie Bush joined the roster (Bush can catch, you know). Stafford should be in excellent shape to get close to 5,000 yards again with at least 32 total touchdowns. And best of all, you can land him no sooner than the third or fourth round of your draft, making him a bargain compared to where he went last year.

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

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Player News
Chiefs' Jamaal Charles admits he was a little shaken up by hard hit
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:13 am ET) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was involved in a violent collision with Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers while scoring a touchdown during Sunday's game. Both players were sent to the turf, but Flowers left with a concussion and Charles stayed in the game.

Though, Charles admitted during a radio interview with ESPN that maybe he was dealing with symptoms of a concussion.

"It definitely hurt," Charles said, per ProFootballTalk.com. "It’s like, I woke up -- I mean, like, a couple plays later I was seeing light bulbs, like, light bulbs around my eyes, and I was trying to catch them. But I was in the game so I was like, ‘Alright, let’s get the ball and run again.'"

Charles added he tried to avoid going through the league's concussion protocol. Charles left a Chiefs' playoff game in January due to a concussion.

"I didn’t have a concussion, but it definitely was a hit that shocked me," he said. "But I don’t think I had to go through the concussion protocols and all that. I didn’t want to go through that again because of what happened in the playoffs. I was definitely fine, I think I came out pretty good."


Theo Riddick returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Lions running back Theo Riddick, who missed Week 7 with a hamstring injury, returned to practice Wednesday ahead of Sunday's game in London. It appears Detroit will have its top three backs -- Joique Bell, Reggie Bush and Riddick -- available against the Falcons.

Reggie Bush able to practice Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:06 am ET) Lions running back Reggie Bush, who was hampered by an ankle injury Week 7, practiced Wednesday as the team prepared for Sunday's game in London against the Falcons. Bush has guaranteed he'll play.

Three Lions tight ends held out of practice Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:06 am ET) Lions tight ends Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria were all held out of practice Wednesday.

Ebron (hamstring) and Fauria (ankle) continue to be sidelined due to injuries that kept them out Week 7 vs. New Orleans, and Pettigrew appears to be sidelined due to an ankle/foot injury he sustained Sunday against the Saints, according to MLive.com.


Lions WR Calvin Johnson not ready to practice
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was unable to practice Wednesday due to a lingering ankle injury. Johnson has made the trip to London for Sunday's game against the Falcons, but his status for Week 8 remains up in the air. 

Johnson has missed the last two games due to the ankle injury. He has totaled 22 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns in five games. Following Sunday's game, the Lions will be on a bye before returning to action Week 10 vs. Miami.


Report: Ray Rice files grievance against Ravens
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Running back Ray Rice has filed a grievance against the Ravens challenging the team's decision to terminate his contract in early September, Pro Football Talk reports.

Rice is arguing that the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows just one penalty per infraction. The league suspended the former Raven two games after reviewing the domestic-violence incident, but after a second video of the same incident was brought to light in the public forum, Rice was cut by the team and suspended indefinitely by the league.

Rice's grievance against the league is set for Nov. 5 and 6, while his grievance against the Ravens doesn't have a scheduled date for resolution. He'll look to seek the salary he would have earned if he had been reinstated in Week 3 in his grievance against the Ravens.


Arians: Cardinals TE Troy Niklas unlikely to return in Week 8
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians indicated Tuesday that tight end Troy Niklas (ankle) is unlikely to play in Week 8 against the Eagles, FOXSports.com reports.

Niklas has missed the last two weeks after suffering an ankle sprain. He has one reception for 16 yards on the season.


Report: Patriots expected to sign DE Alan Branch
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) The Patriots are expected to sign free-agent defensive end Alan Branch, the Boston Globe reports.

Branch was released by the Bills after a DUI arrest in August. The Patriots reportedly are going to be without defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) for about a month, leaving a need to add depth on the defensive line.


Report: Patriots DE Chandler Jones (hip) out multiple weeks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones missed practice Tuesday with a hip injury and is expected to be sidelined for about a month, the Boston Globe reports.

Jones recorded four tackles and a sack in the team's Week 7 win over the Jets last Thursday after entering the contest listed as probable. He has posted 4.5 sacks over six games this season.


Panthers LB Luke Kuechly to avoid fine after ejection
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly will not be fined for making contact with an official during his team's Week 7 loss to the Packers, NFL.com reports.

Kuechly was ejected from Sunday's game after the incident, which the linebacker contends happened because he wasn't aware it was an official pulling him from behind after a play. Panthers coach Ron Rivera disagreed with the decision to eject Kuechly and predicted the linebacker wouldn't face a fine.


 
 
 
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