Before training camp gets underway, I wanted to go through the NFC North and look at players whom you might want to keep an eye on to see where their fantasy football value is trending. These players can either be trending towards fantasy relevance or complete irrelevance.
This article addresses players who are in the latter group.
To start, we’ll look at two players from the Detroit Lions whom I would be hesitant to lock into your opening day roster, whether that’s for a redraft league or for a dynasty league. Fantasy season is just around the corner, and it’s time to start building those big boards.
LeGarrette Blount, RB
For years, LeGarrette Blount has been a fantasy football headache. Except for 2016, Blount has been a touchdown vulture that was consistently punching it across the goal line after players you may have started did all the work to get it that close. Although Blount got the majority of the carries, an October trade for Jay Ajayi cut into Blount’s overall usage. Blount ended the season with 173 carries while Ajayi and Corey Clement each accounted for 70 and 74 carries, respectively.
While the 31 year-old continues to pick up short-term contracts (1 year, $2 million from the Lions), I’d expect his production to be more along his last season with the Eagles and not like his 18-touchdown season with the Patriots. In New England, he was the main option with Dion Lewis only playing 7 games and James White being a passing-down back. In Philly he found himself in a timeshare at the position and will likely find he’s in the same situation again.
Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah have gone back and forth with the position with neither really showing enough to be a top fantasy option. New rookie Kerryon Johnson led the SEC in rushing yards last season — his first as the lead back — and is an explosive back who can run inside and out. The kid can play. Johnson should get every opportunity to take the lead back position with Blount providing support to grind out tough yards.
While Blount can be a touchdown machine, it’s hard to imagine he recaptures that magic. And he doesn’t provide enough in the passing game to make up for a lack of rushing yards.
Luke Willson, TE
This one is a little more obvious because Willson has never been a world beating tight end. Granted, he’s never been the primary starting TE for a team, so if he wins the starting job in Detroit, sure, maybe he’s worth a look. Last year, it was Jimmy Graham (the new Packers tight end) who took all the touchdowns in Seattle, but even when Graham was just a red zone threat, Willson never stepped up to be the guy between the 20s.
Willson has never scored more than 54 fantasy points in a season and never received more than 40 targets. Last season, Willson ranked #35 among fantasy points scored by tight ends. Tied with Cardinals TE, Ricky Seals-Jones, who started just one game, and Stephen Anderson, who started 5 games and began the season as the 3rd tight end on the Texans depth chart. The Lions lost starting tight end, Eric Ebron, to free agency and while he wasn’t always a top tight end option (#15 among fantasy points scored by tight ends), he was certainly a better option.
It’s easy to get bold in your fantasy drafts and hope you hit a diamond in the rough, but there are better options at these positions around the league and within the NFC North. Hope this helps if you were slowly talking yourself into one of these guys.