Matthew Stafford was enjoying one of his best statistical seasons during his 11th year in the NFL, and then injury struck. A back issue that initially was reported as week-to-week sidelined the iron-man QB for the final eight games of the season, marking his first missed game since 2010.
Prior to the injury, Stafford was averaging 312.4 passing yards per game, with a 6.5 percent touchdown rate and a 73.1 QBR. He finished top five in the NFL in each of those three categories, though it's obviously a smaller sample size.
Despite his personal success, the Detroit Lions were 3-4-1 during Stafford's eight games in 2019. Assuming they don't go in another direction at quarterback, the Lions have to improve the roster around Stafford if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. With that in mind, here are three pieces Detroit should target in free agency.
3. Chris Thompson, Running Back
Third-year pro Kerryon Johnson has struggled to stay on the field in his first two seasons in the league, playing in just 18 games during that span. One way Detroit could look to keep Johnson fresh is by reducing his usage in the passing game, and an established veteran like Chris Thompson could be a great fit. Thompson has struggled with injuries himself, but he's recorded at least 40 receptions in three of the past four seasons. This has always been a pass-first offense, and Thompson could give Detroit's passing attack another reliable weapon.
2. Joe Thuney, Guard
The Lions have brought over quite a few former New England Patriots in recent years. We've seen big-name players like Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola sign with Detroit, and Joe Thuney could be another ex-Patriot who would fit perfectly on Matt Patricia's Lions. Thuney had the second-highest pass blocking win rate among all guards in 2019 (97 percent) and he's led New England in snaps in back-to-back seasons. Detroit, meanwhile, had an average O-Line in 2019, finishing 15th in pass blocking win rate. The Lions would likely need to break the bank to bring him aboard, but signing Thuney could help ensure Stafford stays upright next season.
1. Ronald Darby, Cornerback
Given how effective Stafford was through eight games, the Lions should've had a much better start than their 3-4-1 record. An atrocious pass defense had a lot to do with that, as Detroit had the fourth-worst pass defense in the league, per Football Outsiders' DVOA metrics. And given the trade rumors surrounding top corner Darius Slay, that unit could be even worse in 2020. Whether or not Detroit ultimately trades Slay, a cost-effective option at cornerback would make a ton of sense. Ronald Darby certainly fits the bill. He looked poised for stardom early on in his career, but Darby really struggled through an injury-littered 2019 campaign. Taking a low-risk gamble on Darby, who is still just 26 years old, could really help stabilize this secondary.
Join FanDuel Sportsbook Today. New users get a risk-free bet up to $500. Join Now.
Michael Obermuller is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Michael Obermuller also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username king_mizzard. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.