2015 Outlook: Johnson is only 29 years old, but it appears his massive workload is catching up with him. Before last season, he ranked among the 10 most targeted wide receivers in each of the previous six campaigns. Johnson has now missed at least two games in each of the past two seasons, and his 2014 efficiency, postcatch production and target volume all fell below his career averages. Megatron is still among the elite at the position, and targets won't be an issue as long as Matthew Stafford is under center, but he's no longer the cut-and-dried top fantasy wideout. He's worth a look in the second round.
2015 Outlook: Bell's skill set compares with Eddie Lacy's: He's a soft-handed banger with sweet feet. But the main reason Bell doesn't get Lacy-level respect in fantasy circles is the team for which he toils. The Lions pass a ton and usually spread around backfield work. Reggie Bush is gone, but rookie Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick each do fine Bush impersonations; combined, they'll easily steal 150-plus touches. Even in a best-case scenario, that probably caps Bell's workload around 300 touches, and Abdullah could prove he deserves early-down work too. We'll take Bell first among Lions RBs, but he'd better score some TDs.
2015 Outlook: After spending four years limited by Seattle's run-heavy offense, Tate had a breakout first season with Detroit. So why are we expecting a regression? Tate cashed in during the four games in which Calvin Johnson played fewer than half the snaps, totaling 483 yards and three scores and ranking as fantasy's No. 3 WR. But in the other 12 games, he finished 32nd at the position. At 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Detroit's primary slot man is unlikely to produce many touchdowns, but he stays on the WR3 radar as long as he continues to tear it up after the catch (709 yards in 2014, first overall).
2015 Outlook: In college, Abdullah was a playmaker with terrific change-of-direction ability and acceleration. The question is whether his size (5-9, 205) will remove him from feature-back consideration. With the Lions, he'll initially slide in behind Joique Bell, though if he clears up his collegiate fumbling issue, we think there's a chance Abdullah sees early-down work. At the very least, he should bypass Theo Riddick on the depth chart and make some noise catching the ball. Abdullah is a high-upside bench player who should be drafted in all leagues.
2015 Outlook: Don't read too much into the Lions' No. 5 fantasy ranking in 2014; with stud DT Ndamukong Suh now in Miami, this unit figures to take a step back. Suh anchored a stout run D that yielded a meager 3.2 yards per carry. And while the Lions did trade for Haloti Ngata, he represents a considerable downgrade at the position. That said, Suh wasn't solely responsible for the Lions' yielding the third-fewest points in the NFL in 2014 (282). DE Ziggy Ansah is a rising pass-rushing talent, and DeAndre Levy emerged as one of the NFL's top LBs, posting 151 total tackles and 2' sacks.
2015 Outlook: Prater has finished in the top 12 in fantasy points per game at the position in each of the past three seasons, one of only four kickers to sustain such production over that span. Leaving the Broncos' top offense and the friendly effects of the altitude in Denver, Prater nonetheless thrived in Detroit last season after serving an early suspension. In fact, he averaged 0.74 more field goal attempts per game for the Lions last season than he did in 2013 while working with Denver's extra-point-filled touchdown circus.
2015 Outlook: Riddick is slight and runs upright. That's not a good combo. He's got active feet and a willingness to stick his nose into traffic, but he doesn't generate much power. As a receiver, however, Riddick is terrific. When Reggie Bush missed five games last season, Riddick caught the many screens and drags that often replaced the run game in the Lions' offense. We think he'll be involved again in 2015, though he'll probably start the year No. 3 on the depth chart. That means, outside of deep PPR leagues, it will likely take an injury to Joique Bell or rookie Ameer Abdullah for Riddick to attain fantasy relevance.
2015 Outlook: Stafford's strengths are obvious: rocket arm, good in-pocket mobility and Megatron. But he's the reigning monarch of ill-advised throws, reflected by a league-high eight red zone picks over the past three years. We're always going to think Stafford should produce better numbers than he does. After all, not everyone can throw for 4,200-plus yards without surpassing 22 TDs. It's happened only five times in NFL history, and Stafford has done it twice in the past three seasons. Having a healthy Calvin Johnson for 16 games would help, and Golden Tate is finally filling the No. 2 WR hole in Detroit. But somehow, some way, Stafford will break your heart.
2015 Outlook: It's difficult for first-year TEs to excel, but that didn't stop fantasy owners from selecting Ebron among the top 15 at his position last year. Alas, his rookie year proved disastrous. He couldn't unseat a fading Brandon Pettigrew from the starting lineup, never caught more than four passes in a game and scored 26 fantasy points all season. But remember: TEs often improve in their second campaigns, making Ebron a classic post-hype sleeper. No, we don't immediately consider him a top-20 TE, but he can really run for his size. If he earns Matthew Stafford's trust as the season progresses, Ebron could jump into the top 10.