Bettings
article featured image background
Article preview

Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Detroit Lions

NFL Fantasy

Authors

Share
Contents
Close

Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Detroit Lions.

 

Below, Daniel Kelley and Jeremy Popielarz tackle the Lions, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Detroit Lions

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Kelley: Antoine Green 
Popielarz: David Montgomery

Biggest Bust

Kelley: David Montgomery
Popielarz: Sam LaPorta

Bold Prediction

Kelley: Jahmyr Gibbs is an RB1
Popielarz: Amon-Ra St. Brown is the WR1 in PPR

The Explanations

Sleepers

Kelley: Antoine Green

Behind an elite offensive line, the Lions’ theoretical offense made a lot of sense. Jared Goff is good-not-great, so you give him time. You give him a two-headed monster at running back. You give him one of the game’s best possession receivers in Amon-Ra St. Brown. You give him a high-upside rookie at tight end in Sam LaPorta. And you give him a potentially elite speed weapon in Jameson Williams for the big plays. Maybe there weren’t top-tier weapons across the board, but every box was checked.

Checked, that is, until Williams was handed a six-game suspension for a reported violation of the league’s gambling policy. So when he returns, he’ll be a 22-year-old who has played all of six games in his first season and a half and had one reception. I’m still super high on Williams, but even if he’s great, the team will need another receiver option for at least the first six games. The candidates are Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds, who have had their chances in the NFL and never been shown to be more than depth options; Marvin Jones, who is 33 now and saw his numbers drop across the board last year; and seventh-round rookie Antoine Green out of North Carolina. Green is actually older than Williams and never reached even 800 yards in a season in five years (and 34 games) in college. That said, Green profiles as a deep threat — 11 of his 15 touchdowns in college came on passes 20 or more yards down the field, and he averaged 19.0 yards per reception. It might only be a short-term investment if Williams returns strong, but for my money, Green is the best bet to be the Lions’ WR2 for at least the first month and a half of the season.

Popielarz: David Montgomery

David Montgomery Detroit Lions 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions

David Montgomery managed to land a player-friendly deal from the Lions this offseason before the team added Jahmyr Gibbs in the draft. The Gibbs addition has created a drastic drop off in Montgomery’s value in drafts. I understand to a point, as the Lions did use a top-15 pick on Gibbs, but we have to remember this team has religiously used a committee backfield since Dan Campbell arrived. In back-to-back seasons they have had two running backs over 140 touches, so I don’t expect this to change. I expect this backfield to be closer to a 50/50 split than most expect, with Montgomery handling the red zone work much as Jamaal Williams did in years past. Within this ascending offense, Montgomery can become a viable fantasy option who may even sneak into the top 24 this year. 

 

Busts

Kelley: David Montgomery

The Lions’ goal-line back is guaranteed to carry intrigue this year after the ridiculous touchdown season Jamaal Williams just had, scoring 17 touchdowns last year, largely on short runs. But Williams or no Williams, that was never going to happen again. We know that, but we need to keep it in mind, because it’s easy to fall victim to the hype. Also, Jahmyr Gibbs might be less proven at the NFL level than departed No. 1 back D’Andre Swift, but he also doesn’t carry Swift’s injury history, so I would expect him to get more run than Swift given the way the Lions protected him last year.

David Montgomery has had at least 800 rushing yards every year of his career. That’s good. He’s topped 900 only once, though. That’s less good. He’s under 4.0 yards per carry for his career and each of the last two years. So we have a back who has never been very efficient and is getting less so, running alongside an electric rookie who should have less of a governor on his gas pedal than his predecessor, who is getting artificially gassed in fantasy because his predecessor had ridiculous goal-line success. Hard pass for me.

Popielarz: Sam LaPorta

As soon as the Lions drafted Sam LaPorta, the craze began for this talented tight end out of Iowa. LaPorta was a significant part of the Iowa offense for the last two years, producing back-to-back seasons of 600-plus yards en route to 1,327 yards and 4 touchdowns. His ability to make players miss after the catch is a huge draw, as he forced 30 missed tackles while racking up 667 yards after the catch over the last two seasons. 

With a wide-open depth chart, it is easy to see the allure LaPorta offers, but I don’t think it’s great. Last year, the Lions only targeted the tight end position 93 times (5.4 per game), only 16% of the teams’ targets. The group produced 784 yards and an impressive 12 touchdowns — 41% of the teams’ touchdowns — on this target share. This did produce seven top-12 weekly positional finishes within the group, but this was largely due to the high touchdown rate. I expect this to go down some in 2023. On top of this, the Lions retained all of the tight ends who filled in down the stretch, so who says this is not a tight end by committee again? 

 

Bold Predictions

Kelley: Jahmyr Gibbs Is an RB1

Connected to my bust above, if David Montgomery is a letdown in his first year in Detroit, Jahmyr Gibbs basically has to overachieve. Maybe I’m naive, but if you’re going to spend a 12th overall pick on a back not many people even had going in the first round, you don’t do that without a plan to use a guy heavily. Sure, Gibbs might not be a 250-carry guy in the NFL, but if he can see 175-200 carries behind that offensive line and then add in 75 or so targets (roughly four a game and hardly unlikely for Gibbs), he’ll beat his RB15 ADP and climb into RB1 territory.

Popielarz: Amon-Ra St. Brown Is the WR1 in PPR

Amon-Ra St. Brown Detroit Lions 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions

Last season, Amon-Ra St. Brown finished as the WR7 in PPR scoring with 267.6 points, 100 points behind Justin Jefferson. So, finishing as the WR1 is quite a bold call, but here I am. Let’s find out why. St. Brown had five games over 20 points in 2022, including three were top-five weekly finishes. These accounted for 53% of his total points. In his other games, he struggled but maintained a pretty solid floor, only posting under 10 points three times. A huge factor in this was his unfortunate touchdown luck, as he only found the end zone 6 times. I expect this to improve in 2023. With Jameson Williams missing six weeks due to suspension, I expect St. Brown to draw a significant target share in the early weeks, and then he will benefit from Williams’ return as he will open up opposing defenses. With an increase in targets and some positive touchdown regression, I can see a path where he explodes for a huge year. 

 
Previous NFC South Division Winners: With Brady Gone, Who Is the Top Dog? Next 2023 Fantasy Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown: Miami Dolphins