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Detroit Lions: Life after Calvin Johnson

With the retirement of Calvin Johnson, there will be a new WR1 in Detroit. Johnson’s retirement results in 149 targets that will be allocated amongst the receivers in Detroit. However, the offseason signings of both Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin has left some wondering how the target distribution will look in Detroit this year. Golden Tate is expected to assume the WR1 role, but it may not be a surefire hierarchy within Detroit.


Golden Tate (ADP WR #24, #47 Overall)

Projections: 90.2 receptions, 1,046.4 yards, 5.5 touchdowns, 139.7 Standard Points

With the retirement of Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate is expected to see a large increase in stats across the board. Tate is expected to slide into the WR1 role in Detroit, and provide WR2 value overall in Detroit. However, looking at Golden Tate’s stats, there may be some cause for concern for his assumed WR1 role.

Tate is entering his 7th year in the league, having spent the first four seasons in Seattle, and the last three in Detroit. Despite having a proven track record, this is the first year where Tate will be counted on to be the team’s WR1 for the entire length of the season. Tate has some brief experience with the WR1 role. In 2014, when Johnson missed three games and was at less than 100% in several other games, Tate had a career-year in regards to receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,331). Those are definitely impressive numbers, but one important thing to note is that Johnson was still present as a decoy during these games, which helped draw coverage away from Tate.

This was especially notable in 2015, where Tate had only nine fewer receptions on the year (90 total), yet compiled 513 yards less than the 2016 season. One of the reasons for the statistical decline was the presence of Calvin Johnson for the entire year. Realistically, Tate performs best when there is another wide receiver present to draw some of the coverage, but he cannot create space in tight coverage due to his size and frame, as Johnson was able to.

Furthermore, there have been reports that Tate has been battling a case of the “drops” at training camp, which has allowed Marvin Jones to emerge as the clear #1 wide receiver in training camp. Drops and rustiness happen all the time leading up to training camp, but it is interesting to note that Marvin Jones has picked up the playbook quite quickly.

Tate will likely see a heavy dose of targets in 2016, and he does possess the talent, situation and opportunity to produce WR1 numbers. Tate is not a big redzone threat, standing at 5’10” 198 lbs. Thus his primary production for fantasy value is his yardage production and reception totals. Many of his yards came as a result of defenses keying in on Calvin Johnson. Now he will be counted on to be a possession receiver to move the chains, which may not be a task he can fulfill. Detroit was comfortable enough to let Tate be their WR1, but for fantasy purposes, there’s a bit too much risk for my liking.

Marvin J

Marvin Jones (ADP WR #39, #83 Overall)

Projections: 63.9 receptions, 834.5 yards, 5.0 touchdowns, 113.8 Standard Points

Signed to a five-year, $40 million contract this offseason, Jones is expected to be the complementary receiver in Detroit. Playing as the WR2 to A.J Green in Cincinnati for three years, Jones knows how to use coverage schemes to create space. A crisp route runner with soft hands, he specializes in running deep routes and has the ability to get open on intermediary to long routes.

Jones has been having a very impressive training camp, apparently catching “everything in orbit”. Emerging as Stafford’s favorite target through joint practices, Jones is showing why the Lions paid handsomely for his services. Detroit Lions beat writer Kyle Meinke is suggesting that WR Marvin Jones is emerging as the “club’s top wideout” in the early stages of training camp and that he is developing a rapport with Matthew Stafford (Source:

Standing at 6’2” 198 lbs, Jones’ build is very similar to Golden Tate, but Jones is 4 inches taller with comparable speed. While Tate will likely be the first read on many plays, Detroit is not committed to any players as their number 1 wide receiver. Tate is the favorite, but is Jones can keep his momentum going, he possesses the ability to emerge as the WR1 in Detroit. Both wideouts have been career WR2 type receivers, and regular season performances will determine if they change the first read on plays.

While Jones has never had a 1,000-yard season, the opportunity is present for him to achieve the milestone in 2016. With his new rapport with Stafford, coupled with the chance to become a WR1, Jones has some serious flier value this season.



I’m not saying that Marvin Jones is the second coming of Calvin Johnson. Realistically, Jones is not even close to a replacement for Johnson, but neither is Tate. Tate will certainly be the first Detroit receiver selected in 2016 fantasy drafts, but he has too high of a cost. Ranked 47th overall, some comparable wide receivers are Julian Edelman (#46 overall), Jarvis Landry (#49 overall), and Doug Baldwin (#52 overall). All three of these receivers are the clear leaders in their wide receiver groups, while Tate still faces a high level of uncertainty and competition. Typically going in the 4th round, Tate represents a risky gamble, unless his preseason form changes dramatically.

Jones is currently being selected in the 8th round (#82 overall). Some comparable wide receivers in this ADP range are Michael Crabtree (#80 overall) and Kevin White (#86 overall). Jones has the ability and opportunity to out produce both of these WR2s. At their current ADP, Jones possesses the better ability to exceed expectations and compile stats in Detroit.



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