The Detroit Lions addressed their desperate need of WR depth this offseason by acquiring former Seattle Seahawks WR Golden Tate. Tate is entering is fifth year as a pro, and this will be his first season playing for a team other than Seattle. Tate was drafted 60th overall by the Seahawks in the 2010 NFL Draft and was widely considered one of the most talented WRs in a class that included the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown, Eric Decker, Andre Roberts, and Riley Cooper.
Although Tate’s targets, receptions, and yards steadily increased each year, they never reached the level that typical fantasy owners expected them to amount to. Golden’s numbers in his four seasons as a Seahawk: 165 catches, 2,195 yards, and 15 touchdowns.
These numbers are underwhelming despite the considerations that Tate served two years as a Seahawk prior to current HC Pete Carroll and QB Russel Wilson’s arrival, and the run-first and run-often mentality the Seahawks have utilized in recent years. Tate had a fantastic opportunity to take the primary receiver job title away from a less talented group of teammates in the last two seasons, but failed to find the solid foundation he needed to elevate his game and status within the organization.
Tate is a good route-runner, and has the hands and speed that teams look for when shopping for WRs. The Lions have passed the ball more than any other team in the NFL the past two seasons. So how could the marriage of Tate and a team with a QB like Matthew Stafford (who can get the ball to his WRs) not bode well for Tate’s 2014 fantasy stock?
The answer lies within the Lions’ decision to bring in a fresh coaching staff that includes Ron Prince as TE coach and assistant HC, Joe Lombardi as OC, and former Indianapolis HC Jim Caldwell. Caldwell and his staff know what they’re inheriting going into 2014, but don’t expect them to take the same approach that got former HC Jim Schwartz fired after five seasons with the team.
The Lions have at their disposal two talented RBs in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell who proved they can make an impact for their team and for fantasy owners on game day. Bush received a less-than-average amount of carries for a starting RB in today’s NFL, but he did catch 54 balls for 506 yards last season. Bell was a plug-and-play starter for owners in 2013, and became a must-start in the games that Bush was sidelined.
Bell averaged over four yards per carry on his way to scoring a team-high eight rushing touchdowns. He also caught one less pass than Bush, but managed to gain 547 yards on those 53 receptions. The Lions just signed Bell to a three-year deal this off season insuring his complimentary, and sometimes primary, contributions alongside Bush. Expect both of these RBs to see more touches than last season, as the new staff will attempt to restore some balance to a team that has been very pass dependent in recent seasons.
Prior to acquiring Bush, the Lions were primarily a one-dimensional offensive attack, and although that strategy will win some of the high-scoring regular season games, the lack of a potent rushing attack can hurt a team’s chances in low-scoring slug fests and in postseason play.
Tate is currently being drafted as the 35th overall WR in offseason mock drafts, ahead of fellow NFL WRs Justin Blackmon, Emmanuel Sanders, Cecil Shorts, and Rueben Randle. There is no reason Tate should be drafted before any of those players in 2014. He falls more in the 55 receptions for 700-750 yards and four TD category, which is on pace with his career averages after four seasons.
The union of Tate and the rotating door that is the WR2 spot on the Lions’ roster is a risky pairing for both parties involved. Expect Tate to be looked at as Stafford’s fourth option in his progressions, and possibly further down the list in red zone scenarios. Detroit will likely add Tate to a long list of recent letdowns they brought in to play opposite of Calvin Johnson. Avoid drafting Tate for your fantasy team in 2014 if at all possible.