Detroit has a Hall of Fame size hole to fill in the wide out position this fall. With additions and promotions occurring among the receiving corps, the team looks and feels awfully different. Last Word on Sports takes a look at the Detroit Lions receivers expectations.
Realistic Expectations for Detroit Lions Receivers
Golden Tate has been the staple at WR2 in the NFL for three years. He had his best season in 2014 while Calvin Johnson was predominantly injured. Being the top option for Detroit, Tate amassed a Pro Bowl stat line of 99 receptions, 1,331 yards and four touchdowns. Tate has proven he can be a WR1 and also followed the Lions upward trend after the hiring of Jim Bob Cooter as offensive coordinator. He sported an average catch percentage (Targets divided by receptions) of 83.3% and 87.1% while scoring 80% of his touchdowns. For reference, the best catch percentage by a wide receiver last year was Jamison Crowder with 75.6% while Antonio Brown was good for 12th in the league with a catch percentage of 70.5%.
This number suggests that Jim Bob Cooter’s offense focuses more on letting Tate gain yards on the ground rather than through the air. It’s a specialty of his that was ignored largely with the previous offensive coordinator. All signs point to a flourishing year for Tate. The expected numbers aren’t much more than his numbers playing besides Johnson. There is also the possibility of Tate having a career year, putting up insane numbers in a new system built for him. Regardless, it seems unlikely that Tate will put up anything less than Pro Bowl numbers.
Realistic expectation: 105 receptions, 1300 yards, seven touchdowns
Best case scenario: 120 receptions, 1,650 yards, 12 touchdowns
Marvin Jones also was a popular WR2 the past few years. He put together a ten touchdown season in 2013, missed all of the 2014 season, and putting up a respectable 65 catches, 816 yards and four touchdowns last season. He possesses enough intrigue to warrant a wondering of what he would do given a larger role.
Jones will be given the larger role in Detroit. About 150 targets are up for grabs right now, and it’s looking like he’ll be seeing anywhere from 110-130. Take his 103 targets last year, 12.9 yards per reception career average, along with the career average of 59.9% catch percentage and it puts him at around 80 receptions for 1000 yards. That’s considering he maintains his career numbers, performing worse after given a larger role and a better quarterback.
It’s a safe bet that he hits those numbers. What’s also enticing to wonder about is the best case scenario. With Detroit’s system leaning towards a catch-and-run style of play, his catches would be the number that saw the biggest jump.
Realistic expectation: 80 receptions, 1000 yards, seven touchdowns
Best case scenario: 100 receptions, 1200 yards, ten touchdowns
Anquan Boldin has shown incredible mobility and utility post-30. He’s had only one season with less than 830 yards. At 35 years old last season, he still saw 111 targets from San Francisco quarterbacks. He’s on the path to be a Hall of Fame wide receiver. Guys who end their careers in Canton typically are able to remain at a quality role player level through the end of their career.
Boldin was on pace to finish with 90 receptions for 800 yards at 35. He should decline, posting a quiet season with mostly red zone targets. But it is entirely plausible that his decline isn’t a severe as it’s assumed it will be. He is playing for the best quarterback he’s ever played for. Best case scenario, his decline is only moderate, still posting a quiet year that only would dazzle because of his age.
Realistic expectation: 50 receptions, 600 yards, six touchdowns
Best case scenario: 70 receptions, 850 yards, nine touchdowns
Ameer Abdullah is expected to take on the lead role in the running game for Detroit. But with a back as shifty as he is, it’ll be hard for Stafford to not throw to him. It’s safe to say that he’ll see more action than his rookie season, leading to nothing special receiving wise. Best case scenario, Detroit schemes up ways to use his speed more in the air than on the ground, allowing him to explore the role of being a receiving back.
Realistic expectation: 30 receptions. 250 yards, two touchdowns
Best case scenario: 50 receptions, 500 yards, five touchdowns
Theo Riddick set the record for most targets in Lions history for a running back during a down year for Stafford. He’s really just salivating at the chance to have Stafford and the offense clicking at their finest. Riddick will be 25 this season and little points to him declining this season. It’s unknown whether he’ll be able to pull down more catches, but he’s surely expected to have some improved yardage with better blocking through the new Lions offensive linemen. Best case scenario, Riddick becomes a passing only Matt Forte and really surprises the NFL.
Realistic expectation: 85 receptions, 800 yards, three touchdowns
Best case scenario: 95 receptions, 900 yards, six touchdowns
Oh Eric Ebron. He’s a capable receiving tight end who’s shown improvement. Yet, Detroit is very impatient with him. The high expectations set for him coming out the draft made him seem underwhelming. Ebron is expected to take up a bigger role after the Johnson retirement. He should see a career high in targets. It’s also likely that Ebron sees a strong handful of red zone targets—he’s their best weapon down their currently. Best case scenario, Ebron is a monster in the red zone and hauls down enough touchdowns to make him a fantasy asset.
Realistic expectation: 55 receptions, 700 yards, six touchdowns
Best case scenario: 65 receptions, 900 yards, 11 touchdowns