The defense still needs some work, but the offense took a huge leap forward in 2022 behind an elite offensive line and an efficient passing game. Whether Jared Goff can keep playing at that kind of level remains to be seen, but this team is going to have one of the toughest rushing attacks to slow down, with plenty of room for multiple backs to thrive. Of course, they'll have to buck NFL history, because most teams that improve by six wins from one season to the next like the Lions did tend to take a step back the following year.
Record: 9-8 (11)
PPG: 26.6 (5)
YPG: 380.0 (4)
Pass YPG: 251.8 (8)
Rush YPG: 128.2 (11)
PAPG: 34.6 (11)
RAPG: 28.2 (13)
2022 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 46
That's how many touches Jamaal Williams had inside of the 10-yard line last season, by far the most in the NFL; Austin Ekeler had 36 to finish in second place. That's how you get a 15-touchdown season out of Williams. D'Andre Swift added 12 more touches inside of the 10, and their running backs accounted for 61 touches in the Green Zone, the top total in the league.
There will probably be some regression on those total numbers, but I also think it's safe to assume that the Lions are going to be among the league leaders in that category again, given how much of their identity as a team is tied to running the ball. How those touches are split will be key, of course. If David Montgomery dominates them the way Williams did, he has a path to an RB1 finish, especially if he's more involved in the passing game than Williams was. However, if it's more like an even split near the goal line, Gibbs is going to be the clear back to have here. I expect Montgomery to slide into more of the Williams role, with Gibbs playing more like a Swift role, though there's room for more upside than Swift ever really unlocked if he can stay healthy.
1. (12) Jahmyr Gibbs, RB
1. (18) Jack Campbell, LB
2. (34) Sam LaPorta, TE
2. (45) Brian Branch, DB
3. (68) Hendon Hooker, QB
3. (96) Brodric Martin, DT
5. (152) Colby Sorsdal, OL
7. (219) Antoine Green, WR
327 RB carries, 48 45 targets, 52 WR targets, 58 TE targets
Rankings and projections
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Jared Goff||PA: 582, YD: 4073, TD: 26, INT: 12; RUSH -- ATT: 23, YD: 70, TD: 1|
|RB||David Montgomery||CAR: 234, YD: 1031, TD: 9; TAR: 41, REC: 31, YD: 229, TD: 1|
|RB||Jahmyr Gibbs||CAR: 164, YD: 722, TD: 6; TAR: 76, REC: 57, YD: 454, TD: 2|
|WR||Amon-Ra St. Brown||TAR: 157, REC: 113, YD: 1244, TD: 7|
|WR||Jameson Williams||TAR: 82, REC: 49, YD: 587, TD: 4|
|WR||Josh Reynolds||TAR: 58, REC: 38, YD: 480, TD: 3|
|TE||Sam LaPorta||TAR: 81, REC: 55, YD: 546, TD: 4|
How do they split the backfield work?
The Lions' top three running backs combined for 403 carries and 105 targets last season, so there's going to be plenty of room for multiple backs to be Fantasy viable. That's not the question. The question is whether Montgomery simply slides into the Jamaal Williams role while Gibbs takes on the D'Andre Swift usage. Montgomery is a good enough pass catcher to justify more than that, and Gibbs will hopefully be able to avoid Swift's injury woes, which could lead to a much more balanced split, which might be enough to make them both must-start RBs.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
The Lions depth chart on offense is pretty light on established playmakers in the passing game beyond St. Brown, which creates a real opportunity for a rookie tight end to make a rare impact. LaPorta's college numbers don't exactly jump off the page, but some context is needed – Iowa passed for just seven touchdowns total last season, with 157 passing yards per game. LaPorta led the team in catches by 24 and in yards by 259 despite missing a game. He's a very good athlete (91st percentile 40-yard time among tight ends, 85th percentile in speed score), and he's set up very well to potentially be the No. 2 target in this offense right away. He's arguably my favorite late-round target at tight end, though I'm not necessarily expecting must-start production.
Gibbs drew a lot of comparisons to Alvin Kamara during the draft process, and he comes to the NFL with elite speed and tape that shows a well-rounded, explosive skill set. The fit with Montgomery should be pretty seamless, with Gibbs taking on the obvious passing situations and maybe 8-12 carries per game. However, if he's breaking off big plays like we think he will, he'll be able to make the most of that situation in this offense. The Kamara comp is unfair to any player, because you can't expect 81 catches for Gibbs, something Kamara did in each of his first four seasons. However, Gibbs has both the skill set and opportunity to turn in a diet version of Kamara's rookie season, when he had 728 rushing yards and 826 receiving yards.
Between a torn ACL that kept him out of the first half of his rookie season and then a gambling suspension that will cost him the first six games of his sophomore campaign, Williams is off to a far less than ideal start to his NFL career. The good news is, he's healthy and will be able to practice with the team during camp and then in the lead up to his return, but it's awfully tough to expect a young player with no track record in the NFL to hit the ground running midseason. Williams may be talented enough to do it, and there's certainly an opportunity and need for what he could bring to the Lions offense. He's a lottery ticket, and most of those don't hit, so don't pay too much for him. Williams is a bench stash and nothing more.