In today’s look back at the offseason movements of veterans, we’ll peek in on the changes of the Detroit Lions’ offense. Danny Amendola, Jesse James, Jermaine Kearse and C.J. Anderson — barn-burning fun, I know.
The veteran will primarily play out of the slot, where he saw 76.1 percent of his snaps in Miami last year. The previous year, with New England, Amendola played only 42 percent of his plays from the inside spot, even with Julian Edelman being lost to a knee injury. The point being, he is versatile enough for Detroit to move him all around the field to help utilize Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in mismatch situations.
Amendola has played 15 games in each of the past two seasons, and injuries always will be a concern with him, especially entering his age-34 season. In some regards, his primary role in Detroit will be to help with the player-to-coach relationship after spending several years with Matt Patricia in New England. The former Pats DC didn’t exactly have the smoothest of starts in Motown after players were upset over his rigorous ways.
Regardless of any type of role as a veteran mentor, Amendola has an opportunity to see 100 targets, something he hasn’t experienced since 2012. The Lions will be a balanced offense, but short-area and intermediate passing has always been a part of Darrell Bevell’s offensive designs. The yardage and touchdown stats won’t impress, yet Amendola could carve out a hint of fantasy utility in PPR setups as a matchup-based flex play.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end joined the roster in free agency on a four-year, $22.6 million deal that suggested he would be the man. Then came the NFL draft, and Detroit spent the No. 8 overall pick on Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson. James has been an underrated talent and was lost in a Pittsburgh offense laden with stars. It looked like the 2019 season would finally be his chance to shine.
Now, the addition of Hockenson is not entirely a death knell for James in 2019, since rookie tight ends tend to be among the slowest at grasping the nuances of an NFL system. This offense will utilize plenty of two-tight end sets, and the rook will be moved all around to take advantage of his athleticism. James will be asked to do more of the blocking.
Due to the blocking and presence of a top-10 rookie, James is not on the fantasy radar during draft season. He could emerge via the waiver wire if something were to cause Hockenson to miss extensive time. James will flash a game or two, and DFS players will find themselves considering him with the right matchup. Otherwise, he has no recommendable worth.
The newest addition of this lot, Kearse just hasn’t been able to put it all together in his six and a half seasons. His best statistical year in fantasy came in 2017 with the New York Jets (65-810-5). Something closer to his career averages of 36-470-2 would be more in line with a “good” season in Detroit as the presumed No. 4 receiver.
Kearse’s role could expand if an injury were to take out Amendola, Golladay and/or Marvin Jones. Until it happens, though, he belongs nowhere near a fantasy roster.
Much like Kearse, it will require an injury for Anderson to have a major role in the offense, but he will be involved as a change-up guy by intention. The Lions don’t want to overwork promising second-year back Kerryon Johnson, and Anderson’s primary competition for spell work should be Zach Zenner and Theo Riddick. The latter’s role is more clearly defined as a third-down specialist, so if something were to happen to Johnson, it’s not like Riddick all of a sudden would see 15-plus touches a game.
Anderson looked dynamic in 2018 with the Los Angeles Rams, and much of it was due to the system. There’s a reason he bounced around the NFL prior to landing with LA. Anderson would be the main back in clear running situations and around the stripe if Johnson were to get hurt. There is handcuff value here; otherwise, he’s just a flier pick in deep leagues.