The Detroit Lions haven’t been front-page news in a while. The team hasn’t won a division title in 30 years. Detroit last won in the playoffs in 1991. The Lions made just three tournament appearances in the 2000s.
Most losing seasons aren’t suitable for fantasy either. As good as Calvin Johnson was, plus some Matthew Stafford, only one of his teams ranked in the top ten in scoring. Detroit fans have been waiting and suffering for a long time. Even the sudden retirement of two of their iconic players of the past three decades – Johnson and Barry Sanders – before their age-31 seasons shocked the world.
That’s why last year’s 9-8 team drew so much attention. These are no longer the same lions. Five weeks into the new season, Detroit has proven that love.
The team’s motto might be “no stars, just talent.” Even without ADP draft favorites Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameer Gibbs on Sunday, the Lions defeated the Panthers 42-24. This is a fun team, a deep team, a fantasy-friendly team no matter who is on the field. Detroit currently has a record of 4 wins and 1 loss, averaging about 30 points per game.
2023 Lions class filled with fantasy rule breakers
Second contract running back a fantasy afterthought? David Montgomery didn’t play that way here, totaling 129 yards and a touchdown. If the Panthers play harder, Montgomery could post monster numbers.
We thought Monty was an inside player, but he hit the outside on a 42-yard touchdown run. He’s ready to break ADP in the 70s.
Is a rookie tight end a fantasy pick to avoid? Sam LaPorta has been teasing this theme. Laporta ranks among the top 10 tight ends in four of five starts, including two touchdowns on Sunday. He’s a blast for fantasy managers and game callers alike. Don’t mess with those Iowa tight ends.
Quarterback target value options no longer sharp? Jared Goff begs to differ. Goff threw for three touchdowns on Sunday and ran for a fourth, making him a third down at the end of the morning window.
If you need a Week 5 Detroit Lurk pick — perhaps to get over the injury and bye-week blues — a lot of unheralded players are coming in. Josh Reynolds batted a serviceable 4-76-1 line, while Craig Reynolds was spot on (7-52-1 on the ground). At least Kalif Raymond (3-45-0) beat out his yardage anchor.
However, it might take a while for Jameson Williams to get into the fun. He debuted as a sophomore and had no production — two short catches, two total yards, three targets. Keep in mind, last year was a dismal season for Williams, and this summer’s preparation was cut short by injuries. Before I proactively rank or start Williams, I need to see him perform.
Detroit’s success has to do with several ancillary factors and subtle things. The offensive line is one of the five best in football. OC Ben Johnson is a rising star who will certainly be actively pursued by other teams next year. While many teams are trying to protect their turf, Detroit has built up a bit of home-field advantage. Since being traded in 2021, Goff’s quarterback rating has gone up about 20 points in Detroit’s home games.
Goff’s biggest test may come in the next two weeks, when the Lions travel to Tampa Bay and Baltimore. These also include defensive and unfriendly environments. But Detroit made a lot of soft landings in the second half of the season, with those green-shaded opponents highlighting the schedule. The Raiders, Chargers, Bears (twice), Broncos, and Vikings are all considered favorable matchups, with pinball scores likely. Get your dorm room ready. (It’s a shame Minnesota’s rematch is scheduled for Week 18, which isn’t usually relevant for fantasy in standard leagues.)
Of course, assuming that does happen, there will be a lot of people who will need to eat when everyone recovers. But Gove and Ben Johnson appear capable of spreading the focus and supporting several viable options. I’m prepared to start St. Brown, Montgomery, Laporta and Gibbs any week they’re healthy, and Goff and Josh Reynolds at least deserve active consideration. The 2023 Lions are a fantasy scrapbook team with a performance we’ll probably remember. I will save my ticket stubs.
Miami’s offense seems too good to be true
If the Lions are a fantasy fest, the Dolphins are a fantasy dream. Miami has the fastest offense in the league, and the Dolphins’ usage tree is one of the narrowest in the league.
Speed was on full display in the win over the Giants, with D’Von Akan and Tyreek Hill breaking down speed chips. And the usage was very concentrated; against New York, only two running backs had rushing yards, and Tua Tagovailoa targeted just six players.
That leaves all five of Miami’s key fantasy players to reach their targets in Week 5. Achane (12 touches, 165 yards) scored two early touchdowns and Raheem Mostert (12 touches, 78 yards) scored late. Hill and Jaylen Waddle have a similar target share, although Hill (8-181-1) has done more with his opportunities than Waddle (5-35-1). Although Tagovailoa had a few interceptions – one of which was returned 102 yards for a touchdown for New York – we’ll take 308 yards and two scores as the acceptable baseline.
Some theater designers are keen to show off to thousands of actors. That’s just the way the game is played sometimes, but let’s hear it from Mike McDaniel, who gets the ball to his best player.
• Managers Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua both received some pretty good news. Kupp immediately became a difference maker while Nacua maintained a playable market share. Even with the touchdown, Tutu Atwell was a dream throw, assuming no one gets hurt.
• I would be happy if Breece Hall touched the ball 13-16 times, but 25? Oh man, here we go. He can be a league champion, and that goes hand in hand with a strong defense and an offense that needs to run the ball. Hall is physical, has good vision, and will hit a lot of home runs. If we were to re-draft now, he would probably be a first-round pick and never get past the second round. The wheel rises.
• Jaleel McLaughlin doesn’t have the size to fill the bell-cow role, but that doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t at least feature him.He’s easily their best defender, a walking splash game
• Rashee Rice hasn’t secured a profitable route share yet, but he’s making moves toward the Kansas City Circle of Trust. He knows how to win in zone defenses and has earned the trust of Patrick Mahomes. It’s a “waiting” game, but Rice is the long-term receiver I want to keep in this offense.
• While still not vintage Joe Burrow, his play has improved and he’s always targeting Ja’Marr Chase as he gets off the ball. Chase would be a top-six pick in any redraft, and I wouldn’t even fight you if you wanted him as early as No. 2 overall. Tyler Boyd’s goal was beaten by Trenton Irwin, which no one expected.
• My guess is that the Colts’ backfield will end up being a 70-30 to 60-40 scoreline every week in Jonathan Taylor’s favor. But when Zach Moss starts Sunday, it will be easy for the Colts to ease Taylor back into NFL life. Moss isn’t a special pass catcher, but he’s at least proven he’s capable in that area this year.
• It’s been a good year for older receivers, especially target hogs like DeAndre Hopkins and Adam Thielen. Hopkins is the only reliable player in Tennessee’s passing game. Even with nine appearances on Sunday, Chig Okonkwo did not play.
• New England has nothing to play with on offense, not even at running back. Hunter Henry has also dried up. Does Bill Belichick have the time and patience to fill the tank and rebuild? This list is screaming.
• Every Pittsburgh-Baltimore game is a weird rock battle and a mess of fantasy. The best news for both teams (especially the Ravens): The rematch will take place in Week 18, which is irrelevant in most fantasy leagues.
• The Falcons are shooting more aggressively, with Kyle Pitts and Derek London combining to make more than half of their field goals. That’s all we ask, Arthur Smith.
• C.J. Stroud impresses me every week, but I wonder if he throws at times to protect back-to-back interceptions. Sometimes you have to take a chance, push the ball upfield even if that’s the case, or try to lock in long-term and greater returns at the expense of possibly the current game at hand.
• The Giants’ playoff run feels like it happened five years ago. I’ll stream anyone’s defense against the Giants right now.