Jun 17, 2008
I think at this point it’s safe to say we all know what Lion QB Jon Kitna is. I’ve been enamored with his fantasy value for a few years, and it’s been very high at times under Mike Martz. But let’s face it: the guy’s not a franchise QB. It was too good to be true last year, under Martz, and with Calvin Johnson added to a receiving corps that was suddenly deep. But on the other hand, Kitna is no slouch. He can get the ball to his wideouts, and he’s a tough SOB who never misses time.
As you probably know, the Lions want to run the ball a lot more this year, and Martz is gone. A first impression may be that the Lion wideouts won’t have as much value this year – and that’s true for some of them, but not all. Shaun McDonald had perhaps the best season ever logged in by a #4 (79/943/6) and him and Mike Furrey combined for 140 receptions last year. If new OC Jim Colletto has his way, Kitna will put the ball up 20-25 times a game, so these guys won’t come close to that reception total. In fact, with Martz gone, McDonald and Furrey will be fortunate to catch 75 balls total, since both were terrific fits for Martz’ scheme.
But while Colletto would love to run the rock 40+ times a game and throw it only 20-25 times, does anyone really think they’ll be able to? I think rookie Kevin Smith will have a solid season, but I’m not expecting him to be anything ultra-special, and the rest of their running back corps is pretty weak. Most importantly, while they added some veteran players to their secondary, I still don’t see their defense suddenly dominating. In fact, I think it will be relatively weak again, so they will likely be forced to put the ball up a fair amount of the time. At the very least, with moving to a conventional offense, I expect them to throw it as much as a conventional offense typically does, and when they do it will be primarily to Roy Williams and Johnson on the outside. They certainly don’t have a viable TE to toss it too, and they certainly won’t waste these elite talents at receiver.
So last year, Williams, who was also banged up, gave up a lot of action to McDonald and Furrey. As for Johnson, he was also banged up, and he was a little overwhelmed by Martz’ intense offense. It will be simple for Johnson this year compared to last, and if he’s healthy, he’s too good not to excel. I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw from Johnson on TV last year, but he did show flashes of dominance. More importantly, people I speak to who studied him on tape are still convinced he’s going to be a stud. Williams already is, and he’s one of the final stud talents left at the position about 14-15 WRs deep. I like the value with getting Williams as my #2 because shortly after he goes off the board, there’s a lot of “sameness” at the position, and there are a lot of players who have some issues. As for Johnson, I think he makes for an excellent #3, and you can definitely draft him in that role. I doubt either one has a huge season here this year, but if healthy both will be top-30 wideouts due to their playmaking ability and red zone prowess. I expect Johnson, in particular, to be used downfield and in the red zone, while Williams’ catch total should be around 75-80 as Kitna’s true go-to guy.
Kitna’s getting no love at all, so he’s actually a nice value as a backup. He was exposed in Martz’ offense, but with a heavier emphasis on the running game, he should settle down and he should be more efficient. Again, he’s a proven guy, so it’s not like he’s going to severely hurt the values of these top two wideouts.