2024 Detroit Lions Fantasy Preview

2023 Stats (Rank)

Points per game: 27.1 (5th)
Total yards per game: 394.8 (3rd)
Plays per game: 66.9 (2nd)
Pass Attempts + Sacks per game: 37.5 (13th)
Dropback EPA per play: 0.11 (7th)
Rush attempts per game: 29.4 (7th)
Rush EPA per play: -0.01 (6th)

Coaching Staff

Dan Campbell always had grit. A tight end selected in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Giants, he entered the coaching ranks shortly after his playing career, starting as an intern with the Miami Dolphins in 2010. In 2015, then the tight ends coach of the Dolphins, Campbell was named interim head coach four games into the season. Under Campbell, the Dolphins went 5-7, including a 20-10 victory over the New England Patriots in the season finale. Miami opted to hire Adam Gase and Campbell was off to New Orleans, where he received a crash course as an assistant under Sean Payton. Looking back now, it’s no surprise Campbell mentioned biting the opponent’s kneecaps in his very first press conference as the head coach in Detroit.

Brian Daboll and Kevin Stefanski have won Coach of the Year honors each of the last two years respectively, but no coach can claim to have been better than Campbell over that time. In 2022, Campbell’s Lions recovered from a 1-6 start to win eight of their last 10 games, including a 20-16 win at Green Bay on Sunday Night Football to eliminate the Packers from playoff contention in Aaron Rodgers’ final game with the franchise. In 2023, Detroit tied the franchise record for wins with 12, clinched their first division title since 1993 and advanced to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1991. After instilling a culture based on resilience, Campbell’s Lions didn’t lose consecutive games for the first time since 1972. The 21 wins in a two-year span is a franchise record made even more impressive coming on the heels of the Matt Patricia (13-29) era and a 3-13-1 season in Campbell’s first year in 2021. Coach of the Year is a single-season award, but the Lions’ turnaround in the last year and change has been nothing short of remarkable. Since Week 8 of the 2022 season, Detroit is 22-8 including its two playoff wins and Campbell’s Lions were one half away from reaching the Super Bowl in only his third year.

Campbell can lean on a unique group of assistants that includes a whopping nine accomplished former NFL players, including most notably Aaron Glenn (defensive coordinator), Antwaan Randle El (receivers), and Mark Brunell (quarterbacks). Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson didn’t play in the NFL, but the former walk-on quarterback at North Carolina was on the Dolphins coaching staff when Campbell was the interim head coach. That familiarity informed Campbell’s decision to keep Johnson, who coached tight ends under Patricia, in Detroit when he took the job in 2021. The two have formed a bond with the Lions and over the last two offseasons Johnson has recommitted to continuing to oversee a top offensive unit in Detroit rather than accept a head coaching opportunity elsewhere.

Passing Offense

QB: Jared Goff, Hendon Hooker, Nate Sudfeld
WR: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Donovan Peoples-Jones
WR: Jameson Williams, Antoine Green
WR: Kalif Raymond, Tre’Quan Smith
TE: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra, James Mitchell

The Lions rewarded Jared Goff with a four-year, $212 million extension this offseason. Cast aside by the Los Angeles Rams in the trade for Matthew Stafford, Goff resurrected his career and earned long-term security in Detroit. Since Week 13 of the 2021 season, among quarterbacks with at least 800 attempts, Goff ranks eighth in completion percentage (66.6), third in yards (10,149), fourth in yards per attempt (7.5), fourth in touchdowns (70), sixth-fewest in interceptions (21), and fifth in rating (99.6).

In 2023, Goff was second in passing yards, seventh in yards per attempt and seventh in completion percentage. There’s no question he can succeed in this offense, but he was only QB11 in fantasy points per game last year (min. 10 games). Kirk Cousins, Kyler Murray and Anthony Richardson are back this year plus the incoming rookie class of quarterbacks and that’s how Goff ends up going off the board as the QB16 in drafts currently.

Goff’s home/road splits in 2023 were interesting to say the least. In eight home games last year, Goff averaged 21.7 fantasy points per game. In four road games that were in a dome, he averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game. In five road games that were outdoors, he averaged 13.3 fantasy points per game. Those splits should’ve made the decision to start or sit Goff fairly simple. In 2024, the schedule plays right into Goff’s hands. The Lions will play nine home games and five road games in a dome. He’ll only play outdoors on the road three times all season and one of those games will be in San Francisco.

Last offseason, Goff sent Johnson a text that read simply, “St. Brown. Huge year.” It wasn’t exactly a bold prediction, but he was right. Amon-Ra St. Brown had 119 receptions (2nd in the NFL), 1,515 yards (3rd), and 10 touchdowns (4th) on his way to first team All-Pro honors. The Lions locked up the former fourth-round pick with a four-year, $120 million extension this offseason. After playing together for three years, the Goff-St. Brown duo is one of the best in the league. Their chemistry is at the point where St. Brown doesn’t need to create separation from defenders for Goff to find him with his pinpoint accuracy. St. Brown showed up when it mattered most down the stretch of the 2023 season coinciding with the fantasy playoffs. He had at least 100 total yards and a touchdown in each of the last four weeks of the season. St. Brown remains the focal point of the offense in 2024.

Jameson Williams is going to be a bigger part of the offense this year. Williams missed the first four games last year with a gambling suspension, but his route percentage was 60 percent over the last seven games of the regular season. That increased to 78 percent in the Lions’ three playoff games. Detroit let Josh Reynolds, who was second in targets among Lions wide receivers last year, walk in free agency and chose not to make any serious additions at the position.

The path for Williams to be the No. 2 WR in the offense is clear. In May, Campbell referred to Williams as a man on a mission and noted that the receiver has improved everywhere. Goff mentioned that Williams has become extremely hard on himself and holds himself to a really high standard. GM Brad Holmes has stated that draft picks should be judged after three years and Williams, who Holmes traded up to select 12th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, is entering his third year. While Williams’ numbers in his first two seasons are underwhelming, he still possesses the elite speed that fueled his breakout at Alabama when he had 1,572 yards on 79 receptions (19.9 yards per reception), 15 receiving touchdowns and two kick return touchdowns. In that one season, Williams had more touchdowns than Ladd McConkey had in three seasons at Georgia and more yards than Keon Coleman had in his two years at Michigan State and Florida State. Williams is still being drafted after both rookie receivers, which is likely a mistake, especially in best ball formats where his boom or bust profile is advantageous.

Sam LaPorta set the rookie tight ends record for catches with 86 while finishing with the fourth-most yards (889) of any rookie tight end and second-most touchdowns (10). While the Lions were criticized for trading T.J. Hockenson, they were able to save cap space and upgrade at tight end when they drafted LaPorta. Elite tight ends aren’t easy to find and given his heavy usage in one of the league’s best offenses, LaPorta has an argument for TE1 in both redraft and dynasty formats.

Running Game

RB: Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Craig Reynolds, Sione Vaki
OL (L-R): Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Frank Ragnow, Kevin Zeitler, Penei Sewell

Prior to last offseason, Ben Johnson mentioned that the Lions left a lot of meat on the bone in the running game. Johnson told the media that, “We could’ve had eight, nine yards when we were still at three or four.” Despite Jamaal Williams rushing for over 1000 yards and a franchise record 17 touchdowns and D’Andre Swift rushing for over 500 yards and five touchdowns in 2022, the Lions felt that upgrades were necessary in the backfield.

Detroit pounced on David Montgomery in free agency, signing the then 26-year-old to a three-year, $18 million contract. Montgomery is two years younger than Williams and had a proven track record of four years with at least 800 rushing yards as the starter for the Bears. He was a clear upgrade over Williams, who was a fan favorite with a bright personality but hadn’t gained even 600 rushing yards in any of his four seasons with Green Bay before he came to Detroit.

With Swift entering the final year of his rookie contract, many expected the Lions to use him alongside Montgomery. Detroit shocked the football world at the 2023 NFL Draft when they selected Jahmyr Gibbs 12th overall, which led to Swift’s exodus via a trade to the Eagles. Holmes was so excited by the team’s selection of Gibbs that he accidentally elbowed Campbell in the stomach during the draft room celebration. A shifty back with every move in the book, Gibbs proved to be on a completely different level than Swift in just his first year in the NFL.

Johnson’s words proved prophetic. Detroit’s rushing offense went from 11th in yards and 15th in yards per carry with Williams and Swift in 2022 to fifth in yards and fifth in yards per carry with Montgomery and Gibbs in 2023. Running backs matter when you have one of the best offensive lines in all of football, which the Eagles seemed to take to heart as they decided to upgrade from Swift to Saquon Barkley this offseason. There’s no more meat left on the bone in Detroit, Gibbs and Montgomery are eating it all. Montgomery is one of the best value backs in drafts while Gibbs is a borderline first round pick.

Win Total

DraftKings has the Lions’ Over/Under at 10.5 wins, which is probably at least one win too low. Detroit is running back one of the best offenses in the league with the same offensive coordinator and likely a more involved Jameson Williams. While the Lions extended Goff, St. Brown and right tackle Penei Sewell with big contracts, they spent the offseason improving their defense. Holmes acquired Marcus Davenport, D.J. Reader, Cartlon Davis, and Amik Robertson and drafted Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. That’s four new cornerbacks to address their biggest weakness. Last year’s star rookie Brian Branch is likely to play more safety as part of the remaking of the secondary. An improved defense should keep the Lions at last year’s level when they won 12 games and had a controversial close loss at Dallas.

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