This article is part of our Team Previews series.
2017 record: 7-11
Head Coach: Wally Buono
Jonathon Jennings, QB
2017: 3,639 passing yards, 16 passing TD, 19 INT, 267 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD
Jeremiah Johnson, RB
2017: 913 rushing yards, 9 rushing TD, 48 receptions, 542 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD
Bryan Burnham, WR
2017: 81 receptions, 1,202 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD
Emmanuel Arceneaux, WR
2017: 100 receptions, 1,137 receiving yards, 6 receiving TD
Chris Rainey, RB
2017: 226 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 51 receptions, 494 receiving yards, 5 receiving TD, 1,671 KR yards, 690 PR yards
Travon Van, RB (from Eskimos)
2017: 283 rushing yards, 3 rushing TD, 17 receptions, 69 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Brandon Rutley, RB (from Alouettes)
2017: 291 rushing yards, 17 receptions, 100 receiving yards
Cory Watson, WR (from Eskimos)
2017: 27 receptions, 350 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD
Chris Williams, WR
2017: 38 receptions, 415 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Marco Iannuzzi, WR
2017: 34 receptions, 425 receiving yards
Nick Moore, WR
2017: 37 receptions, 547 receiving yards, 2 TD
Last season, Jonathon Jennings didn't come close to matching his breakout 2016 campaign, one that saw him set career highs across the board. Instead, the soon-to-be fourth-year gunslinger struggled with consistency and some injuries, finishing with an unsightly 16:19 TD:INT. There were a few particularly ugly moments – including five multi-interception games – but Jennings also flashed some upside with a trio of 300-yard efforts and one 400-yard performance in Week 19 versus the Blue Bombers.
Jennings also benefited from the season-ending knee injury suffered in Week 12 by backup Travis Lulay, whom he was benched for on a couple of different occasions. Lulay is reportedly almost back to 100 percent, but Jennings is presumably the first-string signal caller for the time being. Jennings brings a nice rushing dimension as well, and as his stellar 2016 campaign demonstrated, he's certainly capable of top-shelf fantasy production. Meanwhile, the offseason additions of two proficient pass-catching backs in Travon Van and Brandon Rutley should help his cause, as should the returning top pass-catching duo of Bryan Burnham and Emmanuel Arceneaux, who combined for 181 receptions last season.
The Final Word: Given his youth and upside, the job appears to be Jennings' to lose. However, Lulay should be back to full health before or early in the regular season, and with legendary head coach Wally Buono undoubtedly looking to go out with a bang in his farewell season, Jennings' leash could be short.
Jeremiah Johnson will presumably have heavy competition for backfield touches in 2018, as the Lions added a pair of capable components in Travon Van and Brandon Rutley this offseason. The pair join the highly versatile Chris Rainey – who will reportedly be featured more as a runner in the coming season – and the abundance of talented bodies could make for an undesirable fantasy scenario. The presumed top quartet of ball carriers all boast solid pass-catching chops in addition to their proficiency on the ground, as even Johnson comes off a career-high 48 receptions in 2017. Moreover, free-agent addition Shaun Wick offers some potential, having left the University of Wyoming as the sixth-leading rusher in school history.
The Final Word: Training camp and preseason may sort matters out, but for now, the Lions' backfield looks like a fantasy quagmire. Johnson has the experience and stature to serve as the de facto lead back, but Van's explosiveness could help him carve out a sizable role as well.
Bryan Burnham and Emmanuel Arceneaux return as the co-lead dogs in the Lions' air attack after compiling a combined 181 receptions, 2,339 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2017. BC lost three receivers during the offseason, as the one-year Chris Williams experiment never blossomed, reliable veteran Marco Iannuzzi called it a career after seven seasons, and Nick Moore wasn't brought back after his contract expired. The departures open up some targets on the BC offense, and the promising Shaq Johnson could certainly step up and help fill the holes. Offseason signing Cory Watson should see his share of looks as well, but he likely won't serve as any more than a No. 4 receiver. Kevin Elliott and Ricky Collins will also be looking to reinvigorate their careers after down seasons.
The Final Word: Burnham and Arceneaux look like the clear-cut leaders of this group, and depending on QB play, could be in for especially explosive seasons. However, Johnson should have plenty of opportunity to build on his promising sophomore 2017 campaign, and at least one of the Watson-Elliott-Collins trio could surprise with solid complementary production.
Chris Rainey remains the Lions' top return man after compiling a combined 2,361 yards between punt and kick returns in 2017. The departed duo of Iannuzzi and Williams were a distant second and third behind him in punt return attempts, and no player besides Rainey logged double-digit kickoff returns. Therefore, he appears likely to handle both roles again in 2018.
Ty Long returns after an impressive rookie campaign during which he drilled 39 of 44 field-goal attempts (88.6 percent). Long's work on extra points (27-for-33) certainly has room for improvement, but his prospects look solid overall heading into his sophomore season, and he stands to benefit from what should be a productive Lions offense.