2020 Detroit Lions Team Preview: Can Matthew Stafford Fuel a Franchise Turnaround?

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Detroit Lions to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
Author:
Publish date:

This is a preview article from our Team Outlook series. If you are already a FullTime Fantasy subscriber, click here to read the expanded outlook.

Unlock premium access to the full outlook by subscribing to FullTime Fantasy where we will help you dominate with our Draft Kit, customized rankings, expert consensus rankings, Preseason Pro, Advanced ADP, Premium forums to ask our experts unlimited questions 24/7 & more.

Check us out! Click here to subscribe now using promo code TD30 for 30% off your first two months!

Coaching Staff

The lifeline of Matt Patricia holding the head coaching job for the Lions long-term hinges on his success this year. Over his first two seasons with Detroit, he went 9-22-1, which came after Jim Caldwell went 36-28 over four years as the head coach.

Patricia worked in New England’s system since 2004, helping them win three Super Bowls. He held the defensive coordinator job for the Patriots from 2012 to 2017.

The Lions brought in Darrell Bevell to run the offense in 2019 after spending the last 12 seasons with the Vikings and the Seahawks as the offensive coordinator. He helped Seattle win one Super Bowl (2013). Bevell has 20 years of experience in the NFL.

Detroit finished 18th in points scored (341) and 17th in offensive yards.

Cory Undlin takes over the defense after coaching the defensive back for the Broncos and Eagles over the past seven seasons. He coached with New England in 2004 before moving onto the Browns and Jacksonville. Undlin has 16 years of experience in the NFL.

The Lions fell to 31st in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed (423). Only once since 1983 has Detroit ranked inside the top ten in points allowed (3rd in 2014 – 282).

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford (RANK - ADP)

Halfway through 2019, Stafford was on pace for 4,998 yards and 38 TDs, which would have been his second-best season (2011 – 5038/41). He set a career-high in yards per pass attempt (8.6) thanks to explosive plays (41 completions over 20 yards and eight over 40 yards).

After a stellar game (406/3) in Week 9, Stafford missed the rest of the season due to fractured bones in his back.

Kenny Golladay (65/1190/11) gives him a developing WR1 while also having viable receiving options at RB, WR2, WR3, and TE. D'Andre Swift should be the missing link at running back, which helps the Lions' offense in all areas.

Overlook player at times with an early draft price (ADP – 98) as the 13th QB off the board. An excellent QB2 with matchup value at the minimum. I set his bar at 4,179 combined yards with 27 TDs and 11 Ints.

The development of TE T.J. Hockenson and RB D’Andre Swift set the tone for Stafford's success in 2020.

Running Backs

D'Andre Swift (RANK - ADP)

As the lead rusher for Georgia over the last two seasons, Swift ran for 2,267 yards on 359 carries with 17 rushing touchdowns. He also picked up 56 catches for 513 yards and four more TDs. His season ended with only three carries for 15 yards over his final two contests.

Even with a productive resume in 2018, he failed to rush for over 75 yards in 10 of his 14 games while working almost in a 50/50 split role with Elijah Holyfield. Swift flashed his explosiveness over a two-game stretch in early November (33/342/3 plus seven catches for 61 yards). He only had one game with over 20 touches.

Last year Swift played well in Week 1 (16/147) while earning a full load midseason over a five-game stretch (647 combined yards, five TDs, and 11 catches on 114 touches). His best success came against Kentucky (21/179/2).

He missed time with a left shoulder issue last year while battling a groin issue in 2018.

Swift may have landed on the best franchise for him to make an impact in his rookie season. In my opening projections, I gave him the lead running back job, which came to 1,320 combined yards with nine TDs and 48 catches. He has an ADP of 45 in mid-June in the high-stakes market as the 23rd drafted.

Kerryon Johnson & Jason Huntley

To read the full outlook, subscribe now using promo code TD30 for 30% off your first two months!

Wide Receivers

Kenny Golladay (RANK - ADP)

Coming into 2019, Golladay had the look of a breakout type wide receiver. He ended the year with a step back in catches (65) and targets (116), partly due to the loss of QB Matthew Stafford for eight games.

Surprisingly, Golladay finished with a spike in TDs (11) and career-highs in yards per catch (18.3) and catches over 20 (22) and 40 (6) yards.

Four of his five games (8/117/1, 5/121, 6/123/2, 4/132/1, and 4/158/1) with over 100 yards receiving came over his first eight games (healthy Stafford).

Even with his success, the Lions only gave him double-digit targets in two games. Golladay is on the verge of being a lockdown top-ten wide receiver. His initial projections came to 77 catches for 1,144 yards and 11 TDs. His early ADP is 28 as the eighth wide receiver drafted.

Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Geronimo Allison & Quintez Cephus

To read the full outlook, subscribe now using promo code TD30 for 30% off your first two months!

Tight Ends

T.J. Hockenson (RANK - ADP)

In his first NFL start, Hockenson posted an impact game (6/131/1), but his success was more of a result of a bad TE defense by the Cardinals.

Over his next 11 games, he caught only 26 passes for 236 yards and one TD on 50 targets. His catch rate (52.0) suggests Hockenson needs more time to develop.

His season ended after Week 13 due to right ankle injury.

In his final season at Iowa in a split role with Noah Fant, he flashed big-play (15.5 YPC) and scoring ability (six TDs on 49 catches).

For now, a TE2 with upside, but he may be tough to time when setting your lineups in 2020. Hockenson has an ADP of 135 in mid-June as the 15th tight end drafted. His initial projections came to 57 catches for 649 yards and five TDs.

Defense

The Lions dropped to 21st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,855) with 13 TDs and seven runs over 20 yards. Runners gained only 4.1 yards per rush while averaging 28.4 rushers per game.

Detroit fell to last in the NFL in passing yards allowed (4,551) with 33 TDs and seven Ints. Their defense finished with only 28 sacks while allowing 72 catches over 20 yards.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DE Romeo Okwara, DT Da'Shawn Hand, DT Danny Shelton, DE Trey Flowers, LB Jamie Collins, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Desmond Trufant, CB Jeff Okudah, S Duron Harmon & S Tracy Walker

To read the full outlook, subscribe now using promo code TD30 for 30% off your first two months!

Team Defense Outlook

Detroit has some interesting pieces on their defense, but they need to put pressure on the quarterback to correct their failure in pass coverage last year. I expect the run defense to be improved while still lacking the overall playmakers to make a push higher than league average as a fantasy defense. Possible matchup value if their cornerbacks play at a high level.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

Unlock premium access to FullTime Fantasy where we will help you dominate with our Draft Kit, customized rankings, expert consensus rankings, Preseason Pro, Advanced ADP, Premium forums to ask our experts unlimited questions 24/7 & more.

MORE FROM SI FANTASY