Detroit Lions 2013 Review and Offseason Plan: Wide Receivers


Dec 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) and wide receiver Kris Durham (18) stand around during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at Ford Field. Giants beat the Lions 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Today we take a look at how the Detroit Lions wide receivers performed during the 2013 season with a little help from the fine folks at Pro Football Focus.

The radar chart below shows the Pro Football Focus grades for the Lions receivers who played at least 25% of the team’s snaps and compares them to the best, worst and league average ratings. PFF grades each player on each play to produce a massively useful tool for evaluating the totality of a player’s season compared to others at his position.

2013 Season Review
The wide receiver rankings as graded by Pro Football Focus encompass 111 players who played at least 25% of their team’s snaps. Not surprisingly, Calvin Johnson‘s name is easy to find near the top of the list. Despite missing a pair of games due to injury, Megatron rated out as the fourth-best receiver with an overall grade of +22.5. After that, you have to do down to number 89 on the list to find the next Lions receiver. At that point you’re in negative territory with Burleson’s -2.7 overall rating putting him well behind the list’s average of almost +4.0.

Then you get down to Kris Durham at -12.3, bad enough for third-worst on the entire list. Durham’s individual game ratings were relatively neutral (between -1.0 and +1.0) outside of a +2.6 for week 6 then things took a nosedive. Durham was solidly negative (worse than -1.0) in each of the last seven games.

If last season felt like the Lions had Calvin Johnson and nothing else at wide receiver, it was because they had Calvin Johnson and nothing else. Ryan Broyles entered the season as a candidate to take a big step forward but he never had the chance as he suffered another season-ending injury just as he probably would have started feeling more comfortable on his repaired knee.

Now, there were some bright, or at least better, spots but nothing from the guys who were really relied upon outside of Megatron. Kevin Ogletree posted an overall mark of +1.4 in limited action and Jeremy Ross looks like the return man of the future.

Offseason Plan
The Lions need to add a receiver or two to the mix for 2014, that is no surprise. While a saturated wide receiver free agent market could mean lower than expected price tags, the Lions still may not be able to be major players due to their tight salary cap situation. But fear not. The 2014 wide receiver draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory. Good options can be found from the first night of the draft into the draft’s final day. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are the hot names in early mock drafts but the options don’t end with those two.

Nate Burleson will need to take a pay cut to remain with the Lions but all signs point to that happening. His veteran presence is still worth something and dead money remaining means Burleson will count about $2 million against the Lions cap whether he is on the roster or not.

Kris Durham can be retained at a low cost as an exclusive rights free agent and there is no reason not to at least bring him to camp with the expanded roster. Best case scenario might be the Lions find a receiver late in the draft who can beat out Durham in camp.

Ryan Broyles may be headed for a make or break year. He came in to the league on a rehap program for one knee, then ripped up the other knee as a rookie, now he is recovering from an Achilles injury. That’s three major injuries in three years. If I’m running the Lions, I’m hoping for the best but expecting the worst as I manage the roster.

Bringing back Kevin Ogletree feels like too much stasis for a position that needs upgrades. I suppose there is no harm in bringing him back to camp on a cheap veteran deal but bringing him back isn’t a solution to a problem.

An improved depth chart might look something like this:
Calvin Johnson
Rookie/Free Agent
Rookie/Free Agent/Kris Durham
Nate Burleson
Ryan Broyles
Jeremy Ross

Previously: Quarterbacks, Running Backs