Sleepers, Busts and Bets: The 2022 Detroit Lions


Tyler Loechner and Josh Larky continue with the 2022 Sleepers, Busts, and Bets series to preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming year. Next up: The Detroit Lions.


Tyler and Josh will list their picks with confidence in “The Answers,” then expand upon their picks with more detailed reasoning in “The Explanation.”

(Follow along with the whole Sleepers, Busts and Bets series here.)

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Loechner: Jameson Williams
Larky: Jared Goff

Biggest Bust

Loechner: T.J. Hockenson
Larky: Amon-Ra St. Brown

Boldest Bet

Loechner: Jared Goff Top-15 fantasy QB
Larky: D’Andre Swift Top-5 PPR RB


The Explanations


Loechner: Jameson Williams

It should go without saying that this sleeper pick is predicated on Jameson Williams being full-go by the start of the season, or at least by late September or early October. Williams would almost certainly have been the No. 1 WR to come off draft boards if it weren’t for his ACL injury.

Early FTN Fantasy projections have Williams finishing outside of the top-60 fantasy WRs. In other words, he’ll be borderline unrosterable in most fantasy leagues if these projections end up being right. But there’s a legitimate chance these projections get flipped completely on their head given Williams’ huge upside. He caught 79 balls for 1,572 yards and 15 TDs with Alabama last year, making his mark as the best deep threat in the game. He averaged a ridiculous 19.9 yards per reception.

The explosive-play ability, draft capital and efficiency comp it makes me think of? Justin Jefferson, who took absolutely no time at all to make his mark in the NFL.

Larky: Jared Goff

This sleeper take requires proper framing: By calling Jared Goff a sleeper, I am most certainly not suggesting he can be a top-12 option at the position. I expect Goff to be a competent contributor in leagues where you start 2 QBs, and I believe he can provide streamable weeks off the waiver wire in traditional leagues when bye weeks and injuries hit. He’s a late-round target of mine in best ball, as well.

Goff did nothing particularly well in 2021, aside from playing just well enough to firmly lock in the starting role for 2022, in a Lions offense that I can now comfortably say should be at least average. The Lions have a top-five offensive line, so Goff should have plenty of time to find his reads and make unpressured throws.

The skill position core is a massive upgrade from 2021, too, which should benefit Goff considerably. Last year, D’Andre Swift missed a chunk of time toward the end of the year with a shoulder injury, T.J. Hockenson was shut down for the final month of the year, and Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus barely played. Heading into 2022, Goff still has Swift in the backfield, along with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Hockenson. Added in free agency was DJ Chark, along with Jameson Williams being added in Round 1 of the NFL Draft. 

Goff’s weapons are definitely above average, and possibly top 10 in the league, depending on how Jameson Williams’ recovery from an ACL tear goes. I’m betting on Goff to pump out over 4,000 passing yards and 25-plus passing touchdowns behind a strong offensive line with above-average weapons.


Loechner: T.J. Hockenson

T.J. Hockenson fantasy football

T.J. Hockenson is a popular player to rank in the top six among tight ends for 2022. It makes sense. There’s Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, George Kittle and Kyle Pitts clearly ahead of him. Probably Darren Waller too. But then Hockenson makes sense in the six spot.

The problem is, it’s a tier gap — and a pretty big one. Which means you’ll likely overspend on Hockenson. Is he a fairly safe bet to finish top 10 at TE? Sure. But is he a safe bet to beat out all of Waller, Dalton Schultz, Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz and Rob Gronkowski (if he plays)? No. And none of them costs as much.

Yes, he was the fantasy TE6 on a per-game basis in Weeks 1-13 prior to his injury last year. Hockenson was a top-10 option at the position in six of 13 games last year. But he finished outside of the top 20 in five of the other games. 

And after Hockenson got hurt in Week 13, Amon-Ra St. Brown exploded into relevance. Then the team added DJ Chark and drafted Jameson Williams. D’Andre Swift returns as well. The target for competitions got a lot stiffer.

Larky: Amon-Ra St. Brown

Amon-Ra St. Brown had one of the most historic ends to a rookie season in NFL history, averaging over 11 targets per game in his final six games — for reference, Cooper Kupp averaged just over 11 targets per game last year. Rookies usually improve their production in their second season, so I must have a penchant for getting last place in my fantasy leagues. Or, we need to add context to St. Brown’s torrid end-of-season pace.

Even though rookie WRs generally increase their production as the season progresses, St. Brown compiling 560 of his 912 receiving yards (over 60%!) in those final six games is still noteworthy and can partially be explained by injury. Both T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift were both inactive for most of those games and were out-targeting the then-rookie prior to their injuries. The team signed Chark for 2022, who has quietly hovered around a 20% target share the past three seasons. Then, the Lions traded up for Jameson Williams early in Round 1 of the NFL Draft.

St. Brown’s place in the targets pecking order is in serious question, and when he’s going in a similar range to other receivers like Brandin Cooks, Drake London, Darnell Mooney and Treylon Burks, he’s set up to disappoint you. I don’t foresee Amon-Ra being a colossal bust, but I also really struggle to see him doing anything remotely similar to last year’s six-game run outside of multiple injuries to Swift, Hockenson and Williams. In Round 6 or 7 of your fantasy draft, you should already have a couple starting WRs locked in, and should be swinging for upside rather than floor (St. Brown) when filling out your flex and bench spots.



Loechner: Jared Goff Top-15 Fantasy QB

Larky gave a pretty incredible in-depth explanation about Goff’s potential for fantasy relevance this year above, so I won’t repeat much of what he said. The primary thing to remember here is that the Lions have a legitimately good supporting cast around Goff. I’ve talked about this on the FTN Data Cast several times. 

Starting from the St. Brown breakout (Week 13), Goff finished as a fantasy QB1 (top-12) in three of four games. He had only reached that mark once in his previous nine games. Don’t forget: From 2018 to 2019 with a good supporting cast with the Rams, Goff finished as a fantasy QB1 in 50% of his games.

That’s roughly the barrier you need to hit (50% QB1 performances) to be a viable streaming option. That’s exactly what Goff should be this year, joining the likes of Derek Carr of year’s past.

Larky: D’Andre Swift Top-5 Fantasy RB

D'Andre Swift fantasy football

D’Andre Swift finishing as a top-five PPR RB is my spicy Lions bet. For those that have been with us since the last article, my enthusiasm for Travis Etienne is similar to why I’m excited about Swift — though Swift has the actual NFL track record and plays on a better offense. Last year, before his Week 12 injury, Swift was averaging 18.5 PPR points per game through those first 11 weeks. Among all RBs not missing multiple games due to injury, he was the RB4 per game to that point.

The Lions offense projects to be better in 2022, so there is now more TD equity to be had for Swift. Swift will also be 23 years old during the 2022 season, and in the prime of his career. However, most of the other elite fantasy RBs are at an age where decline is common. Here are seven recent high-end fantasy producers, along with their age at the start of the 2022 NFL season:

The improved Lions offense — through their offensive line, and the additions of Williams and Chark — yet likely well-below-average defense should help Swift score more TDs while still seeing high target volume when the team is scrambling to erase a deficit. Couple this with many aging RBs at the high-end of fantasy production, and Swift has a clear path to finishing top five at the position.

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