The Lions released James on Thursday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
Analysis: James had the two worst years of his career in Detroit, logging just 142 and 129 receiving yards in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Wherever he next lands, James will at least get the benefit of not working behind T.J. Hockensen, which could potentially allow him to reprise production levels similar to what he once did in Pittsburgh. From 2016-18 with the Steelers, James strung together three straight seasons with at least 300 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Mar 11, 2021 6:37 PM EST
James secured his only target for a two-yard gain during Sunday's 37-35 loss to Minnesota.
Analysis: Like in most of his outings with Detroit over the past two seasons, James' playing time included the majority of available special-teams snaps plus around half of the offensive snaps. However, with T.J. Hockenson around, he hasn't had as many responsibilities in the passing game as he did in Pittsburgh from 2015 to 2018, which is almost certainly the driver of James having logged career-lows in receptions (14) and receiving yards (129) over 16 games for the second straight season. Unfortunately for the future of his production, Detroit has both he and Hockenson locked up through at least 2022, making James seems unlikely to see a bump in his fantasy stock anytime soon.
Jan 5, 2021 4:43 PM EST
James caught one of three targets for a nine-yard touchdown during Sunday's 34-30 win over Chicago.
Analysis: While there will be days like Sunday when James comes through with a touchdown, the low amount of passing volume he sees makes James too touchdown-dependent to have fantasy value.
Dec 7, 2020 2:48 PM EST
James was targeted twice and caught one pass for three yards in Sunday's 20-0 loss to the Panthers.
Analysis: James continues to handle a consistent role on offense, playing about 50 percent of the snaps on a weekly basis. His production is capped behind T.J. Hockenson, though, and he's recorded just 10 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown through 10 games.
Nov 24, 2020 5:47 PM EST
James caught one of two targets for 31 yards during Sunday's 35-39 loss to the Saints.
Analysis: James caught his longest pass as a member of the Lions, but he'll certainly remain a complementary piece of the Lions' passing game as long as everyone else is healthy.
Oct 4, 2020 3:41 PM EST
James caught three passes (four targets) for 28 yards and one touchdown during Sunday's 26-23 win over Arizona.
Analysis: James was finally involved in the passing game after not seeing a single target during the first two games of the year. However, his track record of being a blocking specialist suggests this isn't the start of something new. It will be extremely hard to trust James in Week 4 against New Orleans.
Sep 28, 2020 3:03 PM EST
James logged 30 offensive snaps during Sunday's 42-21 loss to the Packers.
Analysis: James again significantly trailed T.J. Hockenson in playing time, and the blocking specialist didn't see a pass thrown his way for the second consecutive week despite the continued absence of Kenny Golladay (hamstring). Don't expect James to see a spike in passing-game involvement anytime soon.
Sep 21, 2020 9:21 AM EST
James, who caught two of three passes for five yards in Sunday's season finale against the Packers, finished the 2019 season with 16 catches (27 targets) for 142 yards and no touchdowns over 16 games.
Analysis: Detroit signed the former Steeler in the offseason to help the Lions offense establish its identity in the run game. For the most part, James played his role well. While fantasy owners likely hoped for more production as a receiver -- especially when T.J. Hockenson (ankle) missed time due to injury -- prolific pass-catching has never been James' game and it probably never will be. Instead, the 6-foot-7 James excels in opening holes for running backs and that's exactly what the Lions are likely hoping from James in 2020 and beyond. The 25-year-old tight end is under contract through 2023.
Jan 2, 2020 2:48 PM EST
James caught his only target for 12 yards during Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Broncos.
Analysis: After seeing five passes come his way last week, James was much less involved this time around. In fact, he's only seen more than one target in five of 15 games this season despite regularly seeing a healthy amount of playing time. Logan Thomas will remain the team's top receiving threat from the tight end position during Sunday's season finale in Green Bay.
Dec 23, 2019 7:37 PM EST
James caught three of five targets for 31 yards during Sunday's 38-17 loss to Tampa Bay.
Analysis: Both James and Logan Thomas opened the game in the starting lineup and both players commanded roughly two thirds of the available offensive snaps. While James was somehow the only one who made a dent in the stat sheet, Thomas was targeted four times and still remains the higher-upside receiving option of the two. However, it will continue to be difficult to have optimism for either as long as Matthew Stafford (back) remains out of commission.
Dec 16, 2019 11:23 AM EST
James caught one of two targets for 23 yards during Sunday's 20-7 loss to the Vikings.
Analysis: Getting the start in place of T.J. Hockenson (ankle), James unsurprisingly failed to match the 11 targets Hockenson saw last week with interim quarterback David Blough. Somewhat more surprising is that James ultimately finished with less snaps than backup Logan Thomas, who also doubled James with four targets of his own. James probably shouldn't have been counted on for fantasy production anyway, but there's at least possibility for a rebound in Week 15 against a weak Buccaneers secondary.
Dec 9, 2019 7:16 PM EST
James is expected to serve as the Lions' top tight end for the team's final four games of the season after T.J. Hockenson (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Monday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Analysis: James looked like he might have been in store for a significant role with Detroit in 2019 when he inked a four-year, $25 million deal in free agency in March, but he soon became a pricey No. 2 option on the depth chart after the Lions selected Hockenson with the eighth overall pick in the draft a month later. Hockenson's injury clears the way for James to take on more prominence in the game plan, but the veteran will most likely provide his biggest impact as a blocker rather than a pass catcher. With nine catches for 71 yards this season, James actually ranks third among Detroit tight ends in both categories, as Logan Thomas (11 catches for 120 yards) has seen similar involvement in the passing game despite playing 156 fewer offensive snaps.
Dec 2, 2019 12:37 PM EST
James was not targeted during Thursday's 24-20 loss to the Bears.
Analysis: Even with T.J. Hockenson (leg/shoulder) banged up, James still only saw about a third of the available snaps. Moreover, quarterback David Blough locked in on Hockenson front he get-go considering the rookie tight end easily paced the team with 11 targets -- compared to combination of zero between James and Logan Thomas. These minor responsibilities as a receiver will continue to prevent James from attaining fantasy relevance in even the deepest of leagues.
Nov 29, 2019 11:25 AM EST
James caught his only target for seven yards during Sunday's 19-16 loss to Washington.
Analysis: Just when it looked like Logan Thomas was threatening James' role as the No. 2 tight end, starter T.J. Hockenson was a late addition to the injury report and James consequently logged his highest snap count since Week 6. However, as usual, the 6-foot-7 blocking specialist didn't gain much in the way of receiving production despite the return to an expanded role. No. 3 tight end Logan Thomas remains the much better bet for fantasy purposes.
Nov 25, 2019 11:58 AM EST
James wasn't targeted during Sunday's 35-27 loss to the Cowboys.
Analysis: James logged a season-low 15 offensive snaps Sunday despite interestingly opening the game in the starting lineup alongside Logan Thomas instead of T.J. Hockenson. While Hockenson (48 out of 65 offensive snaps) ended up dusting both players for playing time anyway, Thomas (22) finished with more than a handful of snaps than James, which definitely isn't a good look for the expensive offseason acquisition. With that said, it's possible Detroit simply prefers to use the more passing-acclimated Thomas in the absence of a run game instead of the blocking-oriented James. Either way, James isn't a fantasy option.
Nov 18, 2019 2:25 PM EST
James was unable to catch his lone target during Sunday's 34-30 loss to the Chiefs.
Analysis: James was mostly used to block on a day Detroit rode Kerryon Johnson to a career-high 26 carries. However, James could become a bigger part of the passing game in Week 6 if fellow tight end T.J. Hockenson (concussion) is unable to return to form during the Lions' Week 5 bye.
Sep 30, 2019 11:05 AM EST
Thomas caught his only target for a 13-yard gain in Sunday's 27-24 victory over Philadelphia.
Analysis: Through three weeks, the 6-foot-7 James has mostly served as an extension of the offensive line. He's caught the occasional pass, but T.J. Hockenson continues to seem like the upside play among Lions tight ends.
Sep 22, 2019 4:35 PM EST
James caught three of four targets for 18 yards during Sunday's 13-10 victory over the Chargers.
Analysis: T.J. Hockenson was the lone starter in this one after both he and James both opened Week 1 in the starting lineup. James again saw significantly less playing time than Hockenson, seeing just 30 offensive snaps compared to 48. For some reason, he still outpaced Hockenson in all receiving categories - including targets - but that's not probably not something that will happen every week. James is best left on the waiver wire.
Sep 16, 2019 5:57 PM EST
James caught one pass for 15 yards during Sunday's 27-27 tie with the Cardinals.
Analysis: James and T.J. Hockenson were both in the starting lineup to open the game, but James was ultimately out-snapped by the rookie 64 to 51. Much of that discrepancy is likely due to Detroit's need for a hurry-up offense during the final parts of the game -- namely overtime -- but Hockenson also went for 131 yards and a touchdown in his first regular-season game and the rookie probably won't be seeing a reduction in snaps anytime soon. That leaves James as nothing more than a touchdown-dependant fantasy option in virtually all formats.
Sep 9, 2019 8:05 AM EST
James caught one pass for four yards during Saturday's preseason game against the Texans.
Analysis: T.J. Hockenson meanwhile caught one pass for 22 yards, looking like the superior receiving threat compared to James. However, James is still a valued part of the offense due to his blocking ability and he could still catch a few passes along the way as well.
Aug 17, 2019 9:01 PM EST
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