If you look at last season's NFL passing yardage leaders, you start off with Drew Brees. Everybody knows about his amazing season. Then there's Peyton Manning, of course. Marc Bulger is no surprise in third place. And next is Jon Kitna.
To borrow from my wife's favorite TV show: "Seriously? Jon Kitna? Seriously?!"
Yes, seriously. Kitna finished with 4,208 passing yards, good for fourth place in the league. He also finished with a 62.4% completion rate which was tenth among quarterbacks with more than 300 attempts. And now the Lions have added super-rookie Calvin Johnson, so that means Kitna should be good for...5000 yards! Yow!
Hang on. Take a closer look at Kitna. He did throw for a lot of yards, but his ratio of 21 touchdowns to 22 interceptions was not helpful to fantasy owners. That number is actually inflated; through the first 14 games he had 14 touchdowns to 21 interceptions! It was only due to a hot streak of 7 touchdowns during the final two games that his stats look even that good. Fantasy players who suffered through him throwing an interception in 12 straight games probably didn't use him in their league playoffs.
The Lions will continue to run Mike Martz's high-powered offense and the Lions still have some of the better receivers in the league. With a slew of good running backs now on board, I expect the Lions to realign their play calling more towards the run. That should reduce Kitna's passing yards.
Kitna's fantasy value mostly depends on whether or not he can reduce the interceptions. An improved offensive line will help; Kitna was sacked an average of almost four times per game last season. The improved running game should keep the Lions away from so many third and long situations, which will help as well.
But I just don't think Kitna is good enough to reduce his interceptions enough. Using a standard fantasy scoring system (1 point per 20 pass yds, 4 pts per TD, -2 pts per interception), a reduction of 200 passing yards needs to be offset by a reduction of 5 interceptions or 2 ½ touchdowns to maintain fantasy value. It's reasonable to expect Kitna end up with fewer passing yards but I have trouble seeing him increasing his touchdowns or reducing his interceptions much. The Lions should be a better team in 2007, but I don't think Jon Kitna will be a better fantasy quarterback.