This article is part of our Team Previews series.
After eight winless games to start the 2021 campaign, the Lions went 3-5-1 down the stretch thanks to a midseason change at offensive coordinator. With a new 4-3 defense, minimal roster turnover and incoming blue-chip talent, this could be the year Detroit climbs out of the NFC North cellar.
2022 Offseason Moves – Detroit Lions
- DJ Chark – WR (from Jaguars)
The 6-4 speedster seeks redemption on a short-term deal.
- Aidan Hutchinson – DE (Rd. 1, No. 2 – Michigan)
Top-notch prospect should instantly step into a starting role.
- Jameson Williams – WR (Rd. 1, No. 12 – Alabama)
Elite talent brings blazing speed but may not play until October.
- Mike Hughes – CB (from Chiefs)
A 2018 first-round pick, he'll provide key depth at cornerback.
- Garrett Griffin – TE (from Saints)
Should help hide T.J. Hockenson's blocking issues.
- James Mitchell – TE (Rd. 5, No. 177 – Virginia Tech)
A versatile player who adds needed depth at tight end and fullback.
- Kerby Joseph – S (Rd. 3, No. 97 – Illinois)
Ballhawk could shore up the safety spot next to Tracy Walker.
- Trey Flowers – LB (FA)
Detroit saved $10 million by moving on from the pricey investment.
Detroit Lions 2022 Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Dan Campbell (Year 2)
Offensive Coordinator: Ben Johnson (Year 1) – Erhardt-Perkins scheme
Defensive Coordinator: Aaron Glenn (Year 2) – 4-3 scheme
Stats to Know for the Detroit Lions
2022 Vegas Projected Wins: 6.5 (T-25th)
2021 Record: 3-13-1
2021 Points Scored: 325 (25th)
2021 Points Allowed: 467 (31st)
2021 Point Differential: -142 (27th)
2021 Run-Play Rate: 40.4 percent (21st)
2021 Offensive Snaps: 1,056 (19th)
2021 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 13
2022 Detroit Lions Depth Chart
QB: Jared Goff / Tim Boyle
RB: D'Andre Swift / Jamaal Williams / Craig Reynolds / Jermar Jefferson / Godwin Igwebuike
WR1: Amon-Ra St. Brown
WR2: DJ Chark / Josh Reynolds / Quintez Cephus
WR3: Jameson Williams / Kalif Raymond / Trinity Benson
TE: T.J. Hockenson / Brock Wright / James Mitchell
O-Line: LT Taylor Decker / LG Jonah Jackson / C Frank Ragnow / RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai / RT Penei Sewell (RotoWire Rank: No. 4)
Kicker: Riley Patterson / Austin Seibert
2022 Detroit Lions Schedule
|1||Sep 11||Philadelphia Eagles||1:00 PM|
|2||Sep 18||Washington Commanders||1:00 PM|
|3||Sep 25||@ Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|4||Oct 2||Seattle Seahawks||1:00 PM|
|5||Oct 9||@ New England Patriots||1:00 PM|
|7||Oct 23||@ Dallas Cowboys||1:00 PM|
|8||Oct 30||Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|9||Nov 6||Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM|
|10||Nov 13||@ Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|11||Nov 20||@ New York Giants||1:00 PM|
|12||Nov 24||Buffalo Bills||12:30 PM|
|13||Dec 4||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|14||Dec 11||Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|15||Dec 18||@ New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|16||Dec 24||@ Carolina Panthers||1:00 PM|
|17||Jan 1||Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|18||TBD||@ Green Bay Packers||TBD|
Detroit Lions Storylines for 2022
The Curious Case of Amon-Ra St. Brown
Last year, Detroit entered its Week 9 bye with an 0-8 record, in part due to an offense ranked among the worst league-wide at 16.8 points per game. Before the Lions played again, Anthony Lynn was out as offensive coordinator, and head coach Dan Campbell had taken over play calling duties.
This change ultimately yielded the most exciting midseason fantasy explosion from a rookie wide receiver since Odell Beckham in 2014. Only Cooper Kupp scored more PPR fantasy points from Week 13 onward than Amon-Ra St. Brown, who averaged 11.2 targets, 8.5 catches, 93.3 receiving yards and 0.8 touchdowns over those six games.
However, fantasy managers should be suspicious about whether this production can continue into this year. For starters, St. Brown's late-season production spike largely corresponded with long-term absences from T.J. Hockenson (five DNPs) and D'Andre Swift (four). Not only will those players be back to steal offensive touches, Detroit also upgraded its receiving corps in the form of four-year pro DJ Chark and 2022 first-rounder Jameson Williams.
In the end, St. Brown no longer is the lone mouth to feed on offense, so it seems like a near certainty that he'll experience a dip from the volume he saw late last season. Expect the rest of his receiving production to wane as a result. For those interested in Michigan sports betting, St. Brown has been a popular bet amongst NFL bettors on the under given his lofty expectations.
Don't Turn Goff the Lights
Detroit did nothing but help Jared Goff this offseason, and it did so without adding a potential successor at quarterback. While a weak class of rookie signal-callers may have played a role in that strategy – and the Lions are in position to move on from Goff next year with minimal salary-cap implications – Goff seems set up for fantasy success in the short term.
Exhibit A is Ben Johnson's offensive system and the impact it had on Goff's improved play at the end of last season. Just Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow had higher passer ratings over the final five weeks. It can only help Goff to have a complete offseason to implement Johnson's scheme.
Exhibit B is the dramatic upgrade at wide receiver that should make this offense more dangerous overall. Jameson Williams could be a special talent, and DJ Chark still is 25 and four years removed from running a 4.34-second 40 at the 2018 Combine.
Exhibit C is the overall strength of every other position on Detroit's suddenly underrated offense. Goff is spoiled with one of the best receiving running backs in the game (D'Andre Swift), a top pass-catching tight end (T.J. Hockenson) and a well-stocked offensive line that includes three first-round draft picks and a 2021 Pro Bowler. When combined with a poor defense that will keep Detroit throwing, Goff seems primed to put up fantasy points.
How To Approach Hockenson
T.J. Hockenson already proved that he could put up decent stats with suboptimal talent around him. In 2020, when the aging Danny Amendola manned the slot, and Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Detroit's starting outside receivers, had no faster than 4.46 speed, Hockenson reeled off 67 catches (on 101 targets) for 723 receiving yards and six touchdowns en route to Pro-Bowl honors as a second-year player.
Now that Detroit boasts a Tyreek Hill-like deep threat in Jameson Williams – not to mention DJ Chark – not many tight ends have had this kind of speed on the perimeter to open up things underneath. Because defenses also will have to account for Amon-Ra St. Brown and D'Andre Swift in the flats and over the middle of the field, Hockenson could feast against both man and zone coverages in 2022.
Considering last season's unit mustered the eighth-fewest points per game (19.1) under a first-year head coach with an embattled veteran quarterback, no established receivers and an offensive coordinator who was fired midseason, Hockenson is experiencing a huge upgrade in offensive environment. With almost nowhere to go but up, the eighth overall pick of the 2019 Draft should be a direct beneficiary of any growth Detroit makes in the passing game.
Fantasy Football Stock Watch
⬆️ Rising: QB Jared Goff
After the Lions switched play callers in early November, Goff followed a slow start to his first season with the team with six TDs versus one pick in his last three games. He may take another step forward with better receivers.
⬇️ Falling: WR Josh Reynolds
Reynolds was a nice in-season addition for Detroit last year, but the acquisition of DJ Chark has pushed him down the depth chart. Once Jameson Williams is healthy, Reynolds likely will fall out of the starting mix entirely.
😴 Sleeper: RB Craig Reynolds
Reynolds notched 40 touches when D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams were sidelined Weeks 14 and 15. With no new competition in the backfield, Reynolds is a name to keep in mind if injuries pile up this season.
🌟 Pivotal Player: D'Andre Swift
Swift was trapped within a 2021 Lions offense that finished 27th in yards per pass attempt (6.6), and he still led all qualified running backs with 4.1 yards created per carry. It'll be interesting to see what he can do with a revamped group of receivers alongside him and a highly pedigreed O-line back to full health.
Detroit Lions Injury Report
Considering that Williams tore his ACL in the College Football Playoff national title game last January, the Lions knew that he was damaged goods when they drafted him 12th overall this spring. While the Alabama product himself has expressed plenty of optimism that he will be ready to play sooner than later, Detroit's coaching staff has not. Since the latter will always win out, expect the team to keep Williams in bubble wrap most of the summer, and it will not surprise anyone if the rookie opens the regular season on a reserve list, which would prevent him from suiting up for at least the first four games of the year.
Hockenson fractured his thumb last December and ultimately finished the 2021 season on injured reserve. On the bright side, there was no sign of a setback in his recovery this offseason, and all indications suggest that the tight end is ready for training camp. Additionally, the nature of this upper-body injury lacks the potentially athleticism-sapping effects of many lower-body issues, not to mention a lower risk of re-injury. In short, health is not a concern with Hockenson, who is entering his athletic prime at 25 years old.
DE Romeo Okwara
A torn Achilles prevented Detroit's 2020 sack leader from following up his 10-sack campaign in 2021. However, despite suffering the injury relatively early in the season, the Lions coaching staff has suggested that Okwara may not be ready to play until midway through the upcoming season, and the team indeed placed him on the PUP list before training camp. With that said, he still is just 27 years old, so there seems to be a good chance he could return to form whenever he does get back up to speed. In the meantime, Detroit will count on Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris to spearhead the pass rush until Okwara gets back.
Training Camp Battle 2022 – Detroit Lions
There's no question that Jameson Williams will enter the starting lineup when he is fully back from his ACL injury. Of bigger concern is who will take his place until he's ready. With Amon-Ra St. Brown locked into his slot role and DJ Chark the top option on the outside, Detroit will need someone else to step up in the short term.
There's a short list of candidates for this task, and it starts with Josh Reynolds and ends with Quintez Cephus. The former probably is the favorite considering that Reynolds nearly made an instant impact down the stretch of last season after reuniting with quarterback and former Rams teammate Jared Goff.
However, Reynolds may not have had his chance to shine if Cephus hadn't fractured his collarbone Week 5, especially because Cephus logged over 70 percent of the offensive snaps in most games when healthy last year.
In the end, it seems likely that both will be in the rotation, but there may not be a hotter job battle in Lions training camp this summer outside of the kicking competition between Riley Patterson and Austin Seibert.