Detroit Lions: statistical projection for 2018

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 1: Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers carries the ball against the Central Florida Knights during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 1: Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers carries the ball against the Central Florida Knights during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Some Lions fans are likely prepping for fantasy drafts. Here is the one projection of what could be reasonably expected of the Lions players statistically.

Guessing the statistics for an upcoming season is doomed to fail. There are too many factors unknown at this point for any accurate predictions to be made. Some Lions fans though,  like to play fantasy football and want a Lions player on their team. For those of you with early drafts, here are my prediction for Lions players in 2018 at this point.

Overall I expect the offense to be better than it was in 2017. I expect the team to score more touchdowns, based on having a better red zone offense. The additions of Frank Ragnow, Kerryon Johnson, Levine Toilolo, Luke Willson and LeGarrette Blount were made for this purpose. The Lions scored 10 rushing touchdowns in 2018. I expect the team to increase that number by five, which would have put them in the top ten last season. I expect those touchdowns to be split approximately Blount 7, Jonhson 4, Riddick 2, and Stafford 2.

For rushing yardage, I also expect a marked increase from the Lions. I expect the Lions to increase their rushing production by 50% in 2018. That sounds like a lot, but 1720 yards would have been good for only 18th in NFL rushing last season. I expect the Lions to be respectable, not great, at running the ball. I believe the split will end something like Johnson 750, Blount 550, Riddick 300, Abdullah 100 and others 20.

There is no reason to think the Lions will run the ball 50% more often in 2018. They will, however, be much better at it in all likelihood. I am expecting 4 yards per carry when I make the above statistical projections. That puts Johnson at 187 carries, Blount at 137, Riddick at 75, Abdullah at 20, and other players on reverses and the like 5-10 carries.  That puts them at about the NFL average in carries. I am not expecting them to become a run first team.

I actually expect the Lions passing yardage to drop slightly, due to the focus on and success of the running game.  The Lions 4183 passing yards was good for sixth in the NFL. A drop to around 4000 seems appropriate to me with the new focus on the running game. I would expect a split something like Jones 1050, Tate 1000, Golladay 600, Riddick 350, T.J. Jones 250, Johnson 250 Willson 250, Roberts 150, Abdullah 120, Toilolo 50 and Blount 30.

With that said, I do not expect the Lions to score less in the air. If anything the threat of a credible running game could increase their capacity to score touchdowns rather than field goals due to fewer stalled drives. I expect 30 passing touchdowns from Matthew Stafford in 2018, and an increase of one over 2017. I think they will be split like so: Jones 7, Tate 6, Golladay 6, Roberts 3, Riddick 3, Willson 2, Toilolo 1, Abdullah 1 and T.J. Jones 1.

As for receptions, I believe the Lions will have slightly fewer to go around in 2018. I predict the Lions will throw less, and therefore complete slightly fewer balls. I expect them to complete 360 passes in 2018. That leads me to think they will be distributed approximately: Tate 90, Jones 70, Golladay 50, Riddick 40, Johnson 30, Willson 20, T.J. Jones 20, Roberts 15, Abdullah 15, Toilolo 5 and Blount 5

Matthew Stafford: 360 completions on 530 attempts for 4000 yards and 30 TDs but 12 INTs. I am also giving him two short-yardage rushing TDs.

Kerryon Johnson: 187 carries for 750 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. 30 receptions for 250 yards in the air.

LeGarrette Blount: 137 carries for 550 yards and 7 TDs on the ground. 5 receptions for 30 yards in the air.

Theo Riddick: 75 carries for 300 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. 40 receptions for 350 yards and 3 TDs in the air.

No other Lions running backs are fantasy relevant barring injury. Picking up Ameer Abdullah might be a decent idea if Blount, Johnson, or Riddick gets hurt, but I would expect the injured player’s production to move to the healthy members of that trio more than Abdullah.

Marvin Jones: 70 catches for 1050 yards and 7 TDs.

Golden Tate: 90 catches for 1000 yards and 6 TDs.

Kenny Golladay: 50 catches for 600 yards and 6 TDs. I am expecting the big-bodied Golladay to soak up much of Eric Ebron‘s underneath role for his extra work.

No other Lions receiver is fantasy relevant. If Marvin Jones gets injured, Golladay will likely split his production with T.J. Jones, making the Lions second Jones relevant for the length of that injury as desperation depth only.

Overall the Lions offense gains 5720 yards in this scenario. That is 357.5 yards per game, good for eleventh in the NFL in 2017. The Lions should have, after their investment in the running game, a very good, but not record-setting offense. It is always possible that they improve more significantly, but that’s not where the smart money would go in my opinion.

Next: No free agency solutions for the Red Wings

No projection is perfect, particularly not this early, before we’ve even seen the team in pads. But if you’re looking at an early fantasy draft, I think this is about what you should expect from the team. If you draft accordingly, you shouldn’t be too disappointed with the results.