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Fantasy Football Team Preview: Detroit Lions — Breakouts, Busts and Sleepers

Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Matt Patricia era in Detroit was an utter disaster, as the Detroit Lions struggled through a 13-29-1 overall record through three seasons. The team moved on from both Patricia and longtime quarterback Matthew Stafford this offseason, ushering in a new era led by head coach Dan Campbell along with (for now) former Rams first-overall pick Jared Goff

Fantasy football expectations are low for the Detroit Lions in 2021: PFF's 29th-projected offense boasts fantasy's 31st-ranked ADP. Still, there’s reason to believe usable fantasy options will emerge from this group based off sheer volume — Goff ranks eighth all-time in passing yards per game (263.3).

More of PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football tools here: 
Fantasy Football Draft Kit | Rankings & Tiers | Draft Guide | Cheat Sheets
Projections | Strength of Schedule | Expected Points Weekly Finishes


Goff wins when he's allowed the luxury of a clean pocket — he was PFF’s 14th-graded quarterback from a clean pocket (86.5) in 2020 and ranked ninth in yards per attempt (8.2). Behind PFF’s 10th-ranked offensive line, Goff will be able to work within a solid structure and keep the Lions’ offense on the field.

However, it will take a lot more than keeping him upright to vault Goff into anything close to starting fantasy quarterback territory. The statuesque quarterback adds almost zero value as a rusher, having never rushed for more than 130 yards in a season, and his lack of fantasy-friendly throws almost ensures he’s going to post low touchdown totals. The Los Angeles Rams ranked 31st in end-zone passes and 29th in deep targets under Goff in 2020. 

They also scored a touchdown on only 21.9% of their drives — 20th in the league. Based on the average number of drives per team last season, the drop-off from Stafford to Goff could easily result in a decrease of 10 touchdowns in 2021, making the Lions a strong bet to be a bottom-five scoring offense. 

Detroit’s offense will move away from the Stafford staples: deep quarterback dropbacks and deep pass attempts. While Goff struggled the past two seasons, he has been solid when passing between 10-19 yards, ranking third in yards per attempt (11.3), second in passing yards (2,991) and 11th in PFF passing grade (91.1) on these throws.

The Lions also don’t project to be overly pass-heavy or fast-paced. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn’s track record with the Los Angeles Chargers saw his offense rank average across the board in pass rate on early downs, passing plays per game, total plays and pass-rate under neutral game script. 

The Lions will likely skew more toward the run game with one of the league’s better one-two punches at the running back position in D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. During Lynn’s one stint as offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills, his offense ranked almost dead last in pass-play rate. 

There will be certain scenarios where Goff will be forced to air it out, as Detroit will be rolling out PFF’s 24th-ranked defensive line and 30th-ranked secondary — garbage time points will be a real thing in 2021.  

No player will benefit more in the games when the passing volume churns up than the Lions’ projected No. 1 target, T.J. Hockenson


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