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Which Lion is King of the Jungle?


It’s not often that an NFL offense can produce enough volume to make three wide receivers all fantasy relevant, each and every week. Luckily for us owners, the Detroit Lions have established themselves quite a stable of pass catchers.

I’m of course talking about Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Kenny Golladay. Neither of these three is far-and-above the best receiver on their team, but they all are extremely talented and get fed targets at a high rate.

Which Lion has the best opportunity to eat? At the end of the day, everyone will get their fill, but only one can be the king of the fantasy jungle. Let's dig in…

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Marvin Jones

The 2017 leader in Yards Per Reception (18.0), Jones has proven to be one of the best big-play threats in the league. Coming into this season, there were high expectations for the 28-year-old, as his first two seasons produced over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Through three games, Jones has 12 receptions on 23 targets for 177 yards and two touchdowns to his name. He had 17 targets through coming into Week 3, as Detroit trailed almost every quarter of football so far. Then against the Patriots came his most efficient game, catching four of six targets for 69 yards and a score.

Overall, they're mediocre numbers for a receiver that was drafted as a WR2. A bigger threat in non-PPR formats, Jones is playing like a flex right now. Although his advanced metrics say he still has opportunities to make a splash, that is if his quarterback gives him the chance.

Jones’ Average Targeted Air Yards is 17.4, which ranks fifth in the league, and up from his 15.3 last season. The only downside for Jones is that Matthew Stafford isn’t as aggressive on his throws into tight windows (19.6 percent to 13.3) this year as he was last year, and his Average Intended Air Yards has slightly declined as well (8 to 7.7).

It’s obvious that the Lions are still going to rely on the passing game to help them win this year, so Jones will always have a solid target share. However, the emergence of Golladay, along with Stafford being more conservative; these factors favor both Golladay and Tate. In a PPR league, I’m finding a trade partner for Jones, trying to get a pass catching back or a more stable receiver to toss into my flex spot.

Decision: SELL

 

Golden Tate

Tate has become one of the safest PPR wide receivers in all of fantasy football since joining the Lions in 2014. He has garnered at least 120 targets in those four seasons, and he is on pace for that again this season with 36 targets through three games. He’s hauled in 20 of them for 257 yards and a touchdown.

The 30-year-old has become a safety net, out of the slot, for Stafford. Like previously mentioned, this year Stafford is less aggressive on his throws and is looking at shorter routes, this year, than each of the last two years. Both are huge check marks for Tate.

In the slot this season, Tate’s Average Air Yards is 6.2, which means he is likely the first target Stafford sees in his reads. This has been the case since 2014 and should continue for the rest of this season.

However, it’s what Tate does with the ball once he catches it. He is a Yards After Catch nightmare for defenses. He currently has 93 yards-after-catch through three games, which ranks him 14th in the league. Last season, he finished fifth in the NFL with 546 of his 1,003 yards coming after the catch was made.

Again, Tate is as safe as it gets, but he shouldn’t be overlooked as not having upside. Yes, he may not have touchdown upside every week, but in a PPR format, a guy with a floor of 12 to 15 points each game is gold.

Buy Tate the rest of the way. You’re guaranteed a WR2 almost weekly in PPR, regardless of opponent, and if he scores, you’re seeing dollar signs.

Decision: BUY/HOLD

 

Kenny Golladay

“Minitron” is here and I don’t see him leaving any time soon. 19th in the NFL with 28 targets through three games, Golladay has 19 receptions for 256 yards and two scores. He broke the century mark in the Lions’ Week 1 debacle against the Jets, though he didn’t score. Over the last two weeks, he’s posted six receptions and at least 50 yards receiving, while scoring once in each game.

Last year, Stafford and Golladay didn’t get to establish the connection that many in Detroit hoped for, as the rookie missed five weeks in the middle of the season due to injury. Now that he is making plays in the pass-happy offense, there is nowhere to go but up.

It’s funny too, Golladay is the perfect combination of Jones and Tate. His Average Targeted Air Yards sits at 11.9, which means his routes are in line with Stafford’s reads downfield, behind Tate and ahead of Jones. However, at 6’2 215 pounds, he’s also a deep threat and option in the red zone. He’s seen three targets inside the 10-yard line, including a touchdown in last weeks victory over the Patriots.

Expect this Stafford-to-Golladay connection to continue, as he has been in on at least 87 percent of offensive snaps in every game. There is high WR2 upside for the Northern Illinois product in this offense.

While all the Lions will get fed, this lion in particular is going to feast for years to come.

Decision: BUY NOW!

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