Lions' fantasy questions for the offseason

Posted Feb. 08, 2012 @ 12:33 p.m.
Posted By William Del Pilar

Tenth in a series                                                                     

The Lions are a fantasy points bonanza. Matthew Stafford will enter the 2012 season as an elite QB after throwing 41 TD passes, and it's accurate to say that he hasn't reached his potential yet as the offense is young and still growing. There are running back questions and fantasy owners would like to know who will complement Calvin Johnson at wide receiver.

What happens with the Lions RB carousel of Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith and Mikel Leshoure? 

There is no guarantee that Best will return from a series of concussions. That means Smith, who's a free agent, could re-sign with the team — he reportedly hopes to be back. He brings greater value than Maurice Morris, who is also a free agent. Best has playmaking talent but the team will have to use him in a committee format should he return, considering his concussion history.

The plan, if Best and Leshoure are healthy, is to pair Best with Leshoure, who could handle the heavier load, making Best an all-purpose back. Smith, if re-signed, would have a minor role but a role nevertheless. Why? All three players are injury-prone and a dreaded committee is likely to happen — think of the Saints' RB situation from this past season. Going into 2012, LeShoure is the best option for snaps, as he could be back by training camp from his injury.

Regardless, look toward the middle rounds as a starting point for the Lions' backs, with the offseason playing an important role in increasing or lowering their values. 

Who steps up as a complementary wide receiver?

Calvin Johnson is one of the league's premiere wideouts and is in line for a new contract, considering he counts $22 million toward the cap in 2012. He ended with an average of six catches for 105.1 yards and one TD on 9.9 targets in 16 games — elite numbers. There's no doubt he makes Stafford a better player with his ability to win most one-on-one battles and make difficult catches.

The real question is, who will be the No. 2 option? Rookie Titus Young ended with 48 catches for 607 yards and six TDs on 85 targets and dominated some games relative to Nate Burleson. Burleson ended with 73 catches for 757 yards and three TDs on 110 targets. This high-powered offense gives both players value but the team likes Burleson in the slot. Young's natural growth might lead to him seeing more snaps than Burleson, which gives him greater fantasy value. The downside: outside of Johnson, the receivers will be inconsistent. Though they warrant weekly consideration, there aren't enough footballs to go around. Young would be a solid mid-round pick unless he begins to get overvalued, which could happen as certain players gain hype as draft day gets closer.

TE Brandon Pettigrew: What is TE Brandon Pettigrew's real value?

The problem with Pettigrew is two-fold. Not only does he have to battle the wide receivers for targets, but fellow TE Tony Scheffler is a TD vulture as well. Pettigrew was second on the Lions in targets (126) and had an average of 5.2 catches for 48.6 yards and 0.3 TDs in 16 games. He had five TDs, but Scheffler caught six, and the threat of Scheffler taking some TDs continues into 2012. That lowers Pettigrew's value to second-tier status. However, he gains it back in point-per-reception leagues considering he had 83 catches in 2011.

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