Fantasy football is a beloved game. As the NFL season approaches, many fantasy players begin to prepare for another year of ups and downs. Owners are completing countless mock drafts, perfecting draft strategies, and building up giddy excitement. Of course, hometown leagues try to ensure they can get Lions fantasy football players on their teams.
The Detroit Lions have quite a few fantasy football-relevant players this season. The fantasy season is still a couple months away. Their average draft position (ADP) could vary between now and then. In the meantime, let’s preview four Lions players and what they bring to the table in fantasy football.
RB D’Andre Swift
After only playing in 13 games in 2021, Swift finished the season as the RB15 in PPR (impressive) and the RB24 in Standard scoring leagues. If healthy, Swift would have easily cracked the top 10.
2022 looks much more optimistic for Swift, not only in fantasy, but also in real life. He will be a featured back behind an elite offensive line. Swift also gets a ton of valuable pass-catching work, which is part of the recipe for fantasy football success.
Many have called for a breakout season for Swift, which is very possible considering the environment he is in. If Swift does have a great season, it will translate to fantasy as well.
As a general fantasy rule, do not buy into the training camp hype and the typical “he looks good” coach speak. However, Swift can be an exception, especially because of the mold of the offense and because there is no immediate competition under Swift.
Swift is currently being drafted in the late-first and early-second rounds (RB8-9), so there is a high cost to get him. In PPR scoring, Swift easily has RB1 upside, and you should be comfortable with that price tag. In Standard scoring, that path is still there, but you will have to rely more on rushing yards and touchdowns to have a positive performance.
The only concern for Swift, as with any running back in fantasy, is injuries. Swift missed five games in 2021 with a shoulder injury. Swift will be an exciting fantasy prospect this year, and his potential is through the roof. It would not be shocking for him to finish the season as the best Lions fantasy football producer.
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
Simply put, St. Brown was a league winner in 2021. Despite being a non-factor for most of the season, St. Brown was one of the hottest players in fantasy when it mattered. In his last six games, the rookie WR totaled 560 receiving yards and 6 TDs. This helped him become the PPR WR3 from Weeks 13-18.
As a fourth-round pick, St. Brown finished second among rookie WRs in receptions (90), only behind Miami’s Jaylen Waddle (104), who they drafted 6th overall. One could argue St. Brown only emerged due to the injury absences of both Swift and TE T.J. Hockenson. It is still a remarkable feat what St. Brown did in an offense lacking in talent. His stock will drastically rise in fantasy this season.
St. Brown is currently being drafted in the mid-rounds as the WR30 in PPR and the WR34 in Standard. He will likely end up being a high-end FLEX player with the potential for weekly WR2 upside.
The Lions did add a couple WRs this offseason, signing D.J. Chark and drafting Jameson Williams 12th overall. Both of these moves, in addition to a healthy Swift and Hockenson, could eat into the volume St. Brown had during this monster stretch.
People will need to ease their expectations a bit, but St. Brown can still get plenty of opportunity in this offense. With Williams potentially sidelined going into the season, St. Brown will be crucial for this Lions offense.
Fantasy players are going to reach for St. Brown in drafts, but if you can be patient with the board and let him come to you, he can be a great value pick this season.
TE T.J. Hockenson
T.J. Hockenson severely underwhelmed in 2021 after being highly-regarded in the pre-draft buildup. After starting hot the first two games of the season, he quickly simmered. He never eclipsed 100 receiving yards in a game and went on an eight-game cold streak without a touchdown. Even when the offense was struggling, Hockenson could not be counted on. He would later miss the last five games on the season after undergoing thumb surgery.
There are only a small handful of TEs worth the early draft capital, and for those who drafted Hockenson early last year, they were burned. Hockenson finished the season as the TE15 in PPR and the TE17 in Standard scoring. For comparison, Hockenson finished as the TE5 (PPR) and TE6 (Standard) in 2020.
From a fantasy perspective, Hockenson is facing the early consequences. He is currently being drafted in the middle rounds as the TE7-8. It is not hard to finish as a top 10 fantasy TE, but Hockenson seems to be regressing to a tier of TEs where you might be better off passing on. Hockenson may never be the top 3-5 TE the fantasy community expected, but he can still be a solid, consistent TE.
The 2022 season does have important implications for Hockenson, as he is playing on the 5th year option on his rookie contract. He will need to prove to the Lions he is worth extending long-term. This may be beneficial for fantasy players, as Hockenson will have a fire under him to perform.
If you are unable to draft Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, George Kittle, or Darren Waller, you might be better off punting the position until the end of the draft. However, Hockenson will have appeal to teams who are not as patient, in which case he will pay some dividends. This Lions offense should be better, which bodes well for Hockenson.
WR Jameson Williams
As previously mentioned, there is a chance Williams begins his rookie season on the PUP list. This would knock him out for the first six games of the season.
Similarly to how St. Brown came through for fantasy owners at the end of the season, Williams has that same opportunity. The late rounds of fantasy drafts are used as dart throws for upside, and Williams fits the bill. He is a player you can stash on your IL until he gets activated and see what happens.
Williams is in many ways the most talented WR on the Lions roster. If he shows any flashes of that elite speed and agility when healthy, he will elevate the Lions offense to a completely new level.
Owners are drafting the former Alabama wideout as the WR62-63. There is even a chance he goes undrafted due to him not being available at the start of the season. Williams would still be worth the late round draft pick.
WR D.J. Chark is actually going ahead of Williams in fantasy drafts. Chark could be a serviceable option and potentially a FLEX play early in the season. However, Williams would have more end-of-season upside as he overtakes Chark and St. Brown in volume priority.
If Williams does go undrafted in fantasy leagues, keep a close eye on him during the season. He could prove to be a must add free agent later in the season. Do not write off this Lions fantasy football player.