2022 NFL Preview: Detroit Lions

The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!

The 2021 Detroit Lions were not good. Like didn’t get a win until Week 13 not good. After a 2020 season that saw them at 5-11, they traded away Matthew Stafford who immediately went on to win a ship. That shows you right about how bad the Lions are. Getting Jared Goff made them worse, not better. They also let a supremely talented yet oft injured Kenny Golladay walk. He went on to have a career-worst season with the Giants, and it made room for a new receiver room.

They ended the season on a high note though, with wins over Arizona and Green bay in their last four games. This should give the Lions’ fans hope for the future.

Off-Season Changes

The Lions had an off-season that for the most part was ho-hum. They did kill the draft, but didn’t do anything with their excess cap money in free agency. They managed to bring back their entire coaching staff minus Anthony Lynn, who essentially lost his job during last season when they removed his play-calling duties. Keeping these younger players in a system for several years will do nothing but help their development.

Taking a deeper dive into the draft, the Lions won repeatedly. They had the best player in the draft fall to their No. 2 spot in Aiden Hutchinson. He had been destroying people in Ann Arbor, so moving him to Detroit was not only a no-brainer from a fan perspective, but a super win for a defense in need of an edge rusher.

That wasn’t their only first round splash. They pulled the trigger on a trade that moved them into 12 and they took Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams. Jameson was short listed for best wide receiver of the class, but tore his ACL in the College Football Playoff Championship Game which dropped his stock just enough to pull off a coup.

After the first round, they didn’t let up. They took Josh Paschal, an edge rusher from Kentucky with pick 46, safety Kerby Joseph at 97, a Hock handcuff who is also recovering from an ACL tear in James Mitchell at 177, linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez at 188, pass rush specialist James Houston at 217, and old man Chase Lucas at 237. While those might not be household names at the moment, if the Lions make a turn around this season, a few of them will be a big reason.

Fantasy Prospects

Here’s where things get tricky. The Lions got to see Amon-Ra St. Brown show out as the season went on last year, so he’s locked in as a starting receiver. How much use is he going to see? Probably quite a bit because Goff is terrible and needs an underneath guy that can get open in a hurry to bail him out. They brought in another oft injured wide receiver in D.J. Chark. The hype there died at the draft when they took Jameson.

I’ve got Amon Ra maxing out as a low end WR2 with a floor of low end WR3. There’s a lot going at the position nowadays which makes the varience on mid-level players large. I’m taking Jameson everywhere I can get him. Even if he sits the first couple games, he has the potential to bust the game wide open. As of the writing of this column, he’s being taken as the 62nd receiver off the board. I’ve got him closer to low end WR3 and higher in best ball. If Goff can resemble a starting NFL quarterback this season, he’s going to be exciting. Chark carries more value as a handcuff to Williams than as a player.

With Chark and Williams on the outside and Amon Ra underneath, where does outstanding tight end T.J. Hockenson fit in? He’s going to move around, as is the Lions’ system. With all the other mouths to feed, he’s going to settle into a third tier tight end option in fantasy, somewhere around TE8.

Head coach Dan Campbell has made the running back position murky. He has made it clear they’re looking to take a load off of D’Andre Swift. He’s still going to get a lot of late round work, but with Jamal Williams, second year Craig Reynolds, and newly signed Justin Jackson sharing touches, I feel he’s being drafted too high. He’s currently RB8 in ADP, but I’d like him more in the RB14 range.

Unless you are in a 32-team league, don’t draft Goff. Maybe as a third quarterback in a Superflex league. Expecting anything more from him at this point in his career is foolishness.

Prediction

The Lions are getting better. But better still isn’t good. Maybe in a couple years when all this youth hits it’s peak and Rodgers and Cousins are long gone, they will be. But they aren’t right now. Anything over six wins would be huge for the franchise. I just don’t see it.

I have them at 6-11 this year, but with a much brighter future.

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