Detroit Lions 2021 Fantasy Preview

Detroit Lions

2020 Record: 5-11

2021 Over/Under: o/u 4.5

2021 Divison Odds : +2000

2021 Super Bowl Odds: +15000

As you prepare for the fantasy season, whether it be your home league, a big money squad or with us at Champions Round, we want you to be as prepared as possible heading into the season. And most of all we want to see you win! 

The Detroit Lions are in a full rebuild in 2021 and the betting odds reflect that. The team is under new leadership with GM Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. The Lions also have a new QB this year as they move on from Matthew Stafford and replace him with Jared Goff. 

The Lions have an atrocious defense that probably won’t improve much this season. Therefore, it seems likely that the Lions offense will be able to produce better stats than one would think given that they’ll be playing from behind a good chunk of the time. That’s not great for Lions fans, but it’s good for fantasy football. Players seem to be staying away from some of Detroit’s best fantasy assets, but I think there are reasons for buy in on the Lions and perhaps extract some value. 

Champions Round “JUICE” Projections

2021 Expected Record: 5-12

2021 Expected Points Per Game: 21.3

2021 Expected Points Allowed Per Game: 29.4

QB

Jared Goff - Rank: QB22

JUICE Projections: 437-662 Passing, 66% Completion, 4478 Passing Yds., 23 TD, 16 INT; 95 Rushing Yds, 2 Rush TD

I think we know who Jared Goff is at this point. He’s certainly not the QB we saw struggle as a rookie, but he’s likely not the top 12 fantasy option we saw in his first couple of years with Sean McVay. Goff is a solid NFL QB who probably only holds fantasy value in SuperFlex leagues and perhaps in Best Ball. 

If Goff had a legitimate good group of receivers, I think I would be higher on him. Again, the Lions are going to be trailing in a lot of games and Goff is going to throw the ball a ton. Empty stats still count for fantasy. However, his receiving group is really terrible and he’ll have to lean on T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift a lot. 

RB

D’Andre Swift - Rank: RB16

JUICE Projections: 190 carries, 836 Rushing Yds, 7 Rush TD; 62 receptions, 450 Receiving Yds, 3 Rec. TD

It seems as though the general drafting public is fading Swift a bit this season. The presence of Jamaal Williams and the comments from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn that he views Swift and Williams as 1A and 1B have pushed Swift down the draft boards. I ask one simple question: Why?

Yes, Dan Campbell has made it known he loves pounding the rock and believes in his offensive line. Yes, Williams is going to get a lot of carries. But this is still a team that is going to be down in a ton of games, something I will continue to repeat. Swift is going to be the receiving back and I think there’s a very good chance he cracks 60 receptions. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have Austin Ekeler-like value by the end of the season. I would be drafting him at the top of Round 3 in redraft leagues and I like him in all formats this season.

Jamaal Williams - Rank: RB36

JUICE Projections: 175 carries, 744 Rushing Yds, 5 Rush TD; 22 receptions, 148 Receiving Yds

Williams is going to have a big role on the Lions this season, especially early on. He could end up being the top goal line back for Detroit, which certainly has value. Given my opinion of Swift, I am fading Williams in most fantasy leagues but I am not against selecting him if he drops a bit, especially if you’re in best balls leagues or are utilizing a Zero or Hero RB strategy. 

A good strategy for Williams if you draft him is to start preparing trade offers. He’s going to have a 2 TD game at some point early in the season, it’s inevitable. When he does, go ahead and offload him to a needy player in your league. You’ll be able to get a nice return for him at that point.

WR

Tyrell Williams - Rank: WR39

JUICE Projections: 64 receptions, 749 Receiving Yds, 5 Rec. TD

Breshad Perriman - Rank: WR64

JUICE Projections: 51 receptions, 654 Receiving Yds, 3 Rec. TD

Amon-Ra St. Brown - Rank: WR87

JUICE Projections: 39 receptions, 398 Receiving Yds, 3 Rec. TD

Quintez Cephus - Rank: WR115

JUICE Projections: 27 receptions, 281 Receiving Yds, 1 Rec. TD

Given the defensive situation and the empty fantasy points available to the Lions this season, you would think the Lions receivers could be fantasy gold. It’s possible. Someone is going to have to catch the ball in garbage time other than Hockenson and Swift. But trying to pinpoint which receiver is going to pop from this group is like betting on roulette. You’re just hoping your number hits. 

Williams, 29, has the best career of the bunch and is a big target for Goff. However, he hasn’t played since 2019 and isn’y exactly young. Can he still beat cornerbacks down the field and make plays at the point of attack? 

Perriman, 27, was very productive two years ago with the Buccaneers and had a decent season for the Jets in 2021, which is saying something given how anemic their offense was. Perriman has the tools to be successful and should see a lot of volume in this offense. I would probably bet on him being the No. 1 receiver this season in terms of target share in this offense. 

St. Brown and Cephus should split time at slot receiver and both were talented college players. Cephus didn’t do much as a rookie but should have a decent role in this offense. St. Brown could be a big hit, especially in dynasty leagues, this season. If there’s any receiver on this team who is going to have a big breakout season, my money would be on St. Brown. 

TE

T.J. Hockenson - Rank: TE3

JUICE Projections: 86 receptions, 915 Receiving Yds, 7 Rec. TD

Hockenson is one of my biggest buys in fantasy this season. The Lions are without a true No. 1 receiver, which means Hockenson will likely dominate target share in 2021. Think about how the Raiders utilize Darren Waller as their top receiving option. Hockenson should see similar volume in an offense that is going to be playing from behind quite a bit. Goff has proven he can support top receiving fantasy options. Everything is pointing up for the former No. 8 overall pick who had a great season in 2020. I would expect a top 5 fantasy season at tight end for Hockenson at the very least if he’s healthy. Moreover, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Hockenson finish as TE2 this year.

TL;DR 2021 Detroit Lions

  • This should be a giant breakout season for T.J. Hockenson
  • Goff isn’t a complete bust at QB, but does he have enough weapons at receiver to thrive?
  • D’Andre Swift is being undervalued in fantasy
  • Guessing which WR is going to pop for the Lions is like playing roulette. You’re just hoping and praying your number hits.

Thanks for reading and good luck in your drafts! Next Up: the Houston Texans!