It’s time to start thinking about fantasy football, and we have started going team by team to let you know what each NFL franchise can do for your fantasy squad. You can click here to see if your team has been previewed yet. If it isn’t there, chances are it’s coming soon. We have finished the NFC and AFC West, the NFC and AFC South, the NFC and AFC East, and now move on to the NFC North.
*Rankings are based on a 12-team, standard scoring format.
2011 RECORD: 10-6
2012 BYE WEEK: 5
TOP DRAFT PICKS: (1) Riley Reiff- OT- Iowa
(2) Ryan Broyles- WR- Oklahoma
(3) Dwight Bentley- CB- Louisiana-Lafayette
QUARTERBACK: Besides Cam Newton, no quarterback drafted outside the top 10 produced as much as Matt Stafford did last season. His first healthy season saw him put up over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. He has established himself as an elite quarterback for fantasy purposes, and will be drafted as one this year. Having Calvin Johnson on the field makes him even more valuable, and if they can both stay healthy, a repeat performance isn’t out of the question. Shaun Hill is the backup, and if Stafford suffers an injury, he becomes a QB-2 to look at. Stafford is an unquestioned QB-1, and will probably go in the first 3 rounds, just behind Brees, Brady, Rodgers and perhaps Newton.
RUNNING BACK: I, like most people, expected Detroit to add something in the draft or free agency at running back. It appears they are comfortable with the guys they have though, despite question marks on all of them. Jahvid Best should be the starter, but will start the season on the PUP due to concussion symptoms. Even if he does come back healthy at some point., he will likely see a split load. Mikel Leshoure will probably be the beneficiary of the rest of the carries, though he will be suspended for the first two games of the season for a marijuana charge. He also missed last season with an injury. Kevin Smith was brought back to Detroit last season, and made the most of things in his limited time on the field. He also has a pretty lengthy history of injury. Keiland Williams saw a little action last year, and is a decent receiver out of the backfield, but barring another injury-riddled season he won’t see much time this season. None of these guys should be drafted as a starter for fantasy purposes. Leshoure holds the most interest for me, and if you can get him late he should start to shoulder most of the load starting in week 3. See who is healthy coming into the season, but none of these guys are worth a high draft pick.
WIDE RECEIVER: We all knew Calvin Johnson was a great receiver, but a full season with a halfway decent quarterback showed us how great he can be. Megatron put up career highs last season, averaging 105 yards and a touchdown per game. The only worry I have is whether or not the dreaded Madden Curse hits him. He is the top wide receiver in the game, and it isn’t really close. Titus Young will probably slide into the #2 role for Detroit this year. He put up over 600 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. Nate Burleson is trying to squeeze a tad bit more out of his career. He had 73 catches and 757 yards last year, but only had 3 touchdowns. Ryan Broyles, a second round pick out of Oklahoma, is coming off an ACL tear in November. He may not play a lot early, but he is cleared to start football activities, and could work his way into the #2 role very quickly. He has very sure hands and is an excellent route runner. If he shows he is healthy, he becomes interesting to me as a late round pick. Calvin Johnson is the first wide receiver off the board in every format. He will go in the first round of all drafts. Young is a low-end WR-3 option and Burleson is a backup.
TIGHT END: Brandon Pettigrew, like Johnson, saw his potential truly reached last year with Stafford at the helm. He put up 777 receiving yards, but only 5 touchdowns. He is more valuable in a PPR format, as he caught 83 balls last year, but his YPC average is a little low. While he isn’t a top tier tight end, he is definitely worth a starting fantasy job. Tony Scheffler saw limited time last year, but made the most of it when he scored a touchdown in three straight games. If Pettigrew goes down, he becomes a tight end to consider. Look at Pettigrew as a low-end TE-1. Don’t draft Scheffler, but keep an eye on his production and jump if Pettigrew goes down.
KICKER: Jason Hanson is really old. Luckily, he still plays for a very good offense, in a dome. He is good enough to warrant a draft pick and will benefit from the rest of his team’s production.
DEFENSE-SPECIAL TEAMS: The Lions are dealing with a lot of off the field issues, especially on defense, this offseason. Assuming everyone plays, they should be a pretty solid defense. Ndamakong Suh is a monster, but is also a bit of a wild card. While I like their personnel, keep in mind they have two games against the Packers and two against an excellent Bears offense on the schedule. Look at them as a low-end starting defense, but it may be best to draft them with a willingness to drop them.