Lions Fantasy Roundup

Although many fantasy football fans may not realize it, the Lions have played a crucial role in fantasy circles for the last couple of years. While you may not see too many Detroit players gracing the starting rosters of fantasy teams, they have nonetheless had a huge impact. Unfortunately, it was for the wrong reasons.

For the past few seasons, the Lions factored into fantasy strategy not by who was playing on the team, but rather by who was playing against them. If you had a choice between two running backs, you would of course start whoever was playing the Lions. Need a defense to plug in on a bye week? Whomever the Lions were playing would usually be a good choice. The only Lions to consistently make a starting roster last year were wide receiver Calvin Johnson and kicker Jason Hanson.

This is not to say that the Lions were devoid of other fantasy talent, or at least potential talent. Calvin Johnson quietly tallied 1,300 yards and 12 TDs last year. Kevin Smith flashed some of that same potential down the stretch, averaging close to 100 yards per game and a touchdown for the last three contests of the regular season. This year, both promise even greater heights because they will each enjoy a full season as the undisputed starters at their positions (unless Maurice Morris has the camp of his life).

Owners should pencil in Calvin Johnson as a second round pick in most 12-team leagues. Smith will fall into the second or even third tier of running backs, but because that position is such a premium in fantasy football, I don’t expect him to fall much further than the third round in most drafts. If he is there in the fourth round, grab him and gloat to your friends.

Johnson, Smith and seemingly immortal kicker Jason Hanson (seriously, I think he may be a Highlander), should all find places in your starting lineup if you are fortunate enough to land them on your team. There are certainly other Lions with the potential to put up big numbers this year (QBs Culpepper and Stafford and TE Pettigrew), but there are too many unknowns to even take a flyer on them as backups for now (although I am fairly certain that at least one of my Lions fanatic fantasy mates will once again go for an “All-Lions” team).

Just as we are hopeful that the Lions will have a better real-life performance this year, we can also hope that our Lions players will have some major fantasy impact in 2009 – and not in just the “I wonder who is playing the Lions next week?” sense.

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