It’s tough to picture starting any other wide receiver on the Detroit Lions in the wake of Calvin Johnson’s dominating performance during Week 8 (14 catches, 329 yards, one touchdown) and, for Week 9 at least, owners won’t even have to consider it because the Lions are on their bye. That said, when Detroit takes the field in Week 10 against the Chicago Bears, fantasy owners in need of a bye week fill-in or injury replacement could do a lot worse than Kris Durham.
In his third year out of Georgia (the same alma mater as Lions QB Matthew Stafford), Durham has caught 25 balls for 310 yards and a score over the course of seven games – good for per-game averages of about 3.6 catches and 44 receiving yards. While those numbers certainly don’t pop off the page, especially in comparison to Johnson’s, a strange set of circumstances could result in Durham’s stock going way up.
Durham’s first major obstacle to fantasy value, Nate Burleson, is out after breaking his arm in two places in a car accident while trying to prevent a pizza from sliding off the front seat. While Burleson won’t have to worry about going out for pizza for a while thanks to a year supply of free pizza from DiGiorno, it’s uncertain about when he will be back on the field, and more importantly, playing at a high level.
Ryan Broyles, the other main receiver standing in Durham’s way, tore his right Achilles’ tendon and will undergo surgery, ending his season. Thanks to pizza and pain, Durham now finds himself as the Lions’ de facto No. 2 receiver. Given how much Detroit likes throwing the ball and the way opposing defenses are forced to focus on Johnson, there are certainly worse places to be.
The Lions led the league in pass attempts in 2011 and 2012 and they are ranked first in that category this year as well, with Stafford having attempted two more passes than Peyton Manning. Over the past three seasons (including this year) the only other team to rank in the top five in passing yards all every year is the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees has far more weapons at his disposal.
In addition to opportunity, Durham also has Stafford’s trust. Including Week 5, when Durham caught his only touchdown of the season, he has been targeted 35 times, including a 13-target game in Week 6. After that game, which Durham finished with eight catches for 83 yards, Stafford spoke about his favorite target.
“He was winning his matchups,” Stafford said. “He’s battling through stuff (leg injury), too. Kris is a reliable guy. He’s going to be in the right spot and he’s going to make plays. The more he plays, the more confidence he gets.”
When it comes to Durham, don’t over-think things. He’s the second-best receiver on a team that loves to throw the ball and the team’s top receiver, Johnson, will probably be facing double, and sometimes even triple, coverage from here on out.
In “Bull Durham,” Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh puts describes baseball like this: “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” You certainly don’t hit the ball in fantasy football, but the message is the same; Due to a complicated set of circumstances Durham is poised for an uptick in fantasy value, plain and simple.
Evan Bleier is a freelance writer based out of wherever he can plug in his laptop. You can send him questions, comments and Buffalo wing suggestions @itishowitis or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
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