Detroit Lions 53-Man Roster Prediction (Pre-Preseason Finale Edition)

Previously: Pre-training camp edition, pre-Steelers game edition

It has been a few weeks since my last roster prediction, so with the preseason coming to an end tonight, I figured it was time to put together my final thoughts on how the Lions' 53-man roster is shaping up. You can check out my predictions and explanations below, and feel free to make your own 53-man roster prediction in the comments.

Quarterback

Keep (3): Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, Drew Stanton

Cut: None

If I were making the cuts, I would get rid of Stanton and carry only two quarterbacks on the roster. I don't think the Lions will do that, which is why I have all three QBs making the team, but it would give Detroit an extra spot for depth at a position where it is much more needed.

Running Back

Keep (4): Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, Aaron Brown, Maurice Morris

Cut: DeDe Dorsey

One of the biggest battles for a roster spot is at running back. All five backs are deserving of making the team, but only three or four spots are there. As a result, I think Dorsey will be the odd man out, meaning Best, Smith, Brown and Morris will all make it. Brown got the edge because he is a better returner and special teams player, so I think his spot is safe going forward.

On the flip side, for Smith and Morris I would not at all be surprised if the Lions move one of them after the final round of roster cuts. Just like getting rid of a third QB, moving a fourth RB would allow the Lions to add depth at a position where it is much more needed. I don't believe the Lions will just outright cut Smith or Morris, though, as Detroit should be able to get something out of them via a trade if the decision to make a move is made.

Fullback

Keep (1): Jerome Felton

Cut: None

Felton is both a fullback and a power running back, which, to me, makes it more likely that someone like Smith or Morris will be moved.

Wide Receiver

Keep (4): Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Bryant Johnson, Derrick Williams

Cut: Brian ClarkMike Moore, Dennis Northcutt, Tim Toone

I could see the Lions keeping a fifth receiver, and I would expect it to be Clark if they do, because he is a solid special teams player. In order to keep players where depth is more of an issue, however, I opted to take only four receivers. Moore and Toone both have a great shot of making the practice squad, so if an injury happens to a top-four receiver, the Lions will be able to quickly make a move. Going with five just didn't seem necessary to me, though, especially keeping someone like Northcutt, who really just hasn't shown a lot this preseason.

Tight End

Keep (3): Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Will Heller

Cut: Dan Gronkowski

Gronkowski has played well enough to make the team, but there just isn't room on the roster. If the Lions can, they will keep him on the practice squad, but I'd be willing to bet another team picks him up if he is indeed let go.

Offensive Tackle

Keep (4): Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus, Jon Jansen, Jason Fox

Cut: Corey Hilliard, Cliff Louis

One of the toughest decisions when putting this together involved what to do with Corey Hilliard. He is a solid backup and is someone I'm sure the Lions would like to keep around. If Stanton is let go or a running back is traded, for example, I'd keep Hilliard. With four tackles that likely have spots on the roster locked up, however, there just isn't room for him right now. I know some have suggested cutting ties with Jansen to go in favor of a younger player like Hilliard, but Jansen is pushing Cherilus for a starting job and is a tremendous, versatile backup. It wouldn't make sense to release him.

Offensive Guard

Keep (3): Stephen Peterman, Manny Ramirez, Rob Sims

Cut: Noah Franklin

I still am of the belief that the Lions will keep only three guards and then take a second center who can also line up at guard, so I have only Peterman, Ramirez and Sims making it at this position.

Center

Keep (2): Dominic Raiola, Dylan Gandy

Cut: Dan Gerberry

Gerberry has pushed Gandy quite a bit, but in the end I think Gandy will get the edge for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Defensive End

Keep (5): Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Turk McBrideWillie Young, Lawrence Jackson

Cut: Korey Bosworth

Vanden Bosch, Avril and McBride have seemed like locks to make the team since the beginning of training camp. Another lock was added when the Lions traded for Jackson from Seattle. Finally, after having a tremendous preseason, I believe Young has not only played well enough to move off the bubble, but I think he is actually a lock for the team. He has raw talent and showed his potential throughout the preseason, making so much progress that he has earned a spot on the 53-man roster for sure.

Defensive Tackle

Keep (4): Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Sammie HillLandon Cohen

Cut: Robert Callaway, Andre Fluellen, Jaron Baston

The battle for the fourth defensive tackle spot is really between Cohen and Fluellen. While I originally had Fluellen getting the nod, I think Cohen's work in the preseason will give him a slight edge. One could argue that Fluellen will be kept because he is more versatile, but I think Cohen is a better option at DT.

Linebacker

Keep (7): Julian Peterson, DeAndre Levy, Zack Follett, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Landon Johnson, Vinny Ciurciu, Ashlee Palmer

Cut: Caleb Campbell, Rocky Boiman

I really had a tough time deciding on which linebackers to keep, which is why I decided to hang on to seven rather than six. It's unclear if the Lions will want to take an extra linebacker, but to me it's a better choice than keeping a fifth receiver, as it gives the Lions more depth at a position with many more question marks.

Peterson, Levy and Follett are the only locks at this position. After putting those three on the roster, I kept Johnson, Ciurciu and Palmer, who appear to be entrenched as the second-string unit right now. Ekejiuba was the last LB I decided to keep, as he is an outstanding special teams player and has looked pretty good at MLB this preseason. One could make the argument for keeping Boiman since he is more of a true linebacker and does know the system despite just being signed, but at the end of the day I guess I value special teams more. Besides, Ciurciu has done a good job of filling in for Jordon Dizon as Levy's backup, so unless it looks like Levy will be out for an extended period of time, I think the Lions can get by with guys like Ciurciu and Ekejiuba.

Cornerback

Keep (5): Dre Bly, Chris Houston, Eric King, Jonathan Wade, Dante Wesley

Cut: Aaron Berry, T.J. Rushing

The two-deep at this position appears to set with Houston, Wade, Bly and Wesley. After that, there are two spots left over, and as tough as it was to do, I decided to use one of them on King. Yes, he has been absolutely awful during the preseason, but that's mainly because he hasn't been at nickel back, which is where he is much better. For nickel situations, King is still a decent player, so I think he will make the team. It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't, but I don't think the Lions will let him go.

Which player got the other spot is addressed below, but I first want to explain why I didn't keep Berry on the roster. He certainly deserves to make the team based on his play early in training camp, but an injury kept him out for an extended period of time, and as a result I think the Lions will decide to simply put him on the practice squad. I would expect Berry to be on the active roster at some point if he can stay healthy, because he showed some serious potential early on in camp.

Defensive Back

Keep (1): Amari Spievey

Cut: Paul Pratt, Jonathan Hefney

Spievey was moved to safety last week, but he is still practicing a bit at cornerback. As a result, I decided to just call him a DB, the generic term for someone playing both positions. There's no way the Lions will get rid of their third-round pick, so he's on the roster as a versatile DB that can play corner and safety. Pratt could make the team if the Lions decide to release King, but I don't think Hefney has a very good shot of making the 53-man roster.

Safety

Keep (4): Louis Delmas, Ko Simpson, C.C. Brown, Randy Phillips

Cut: John Wendling

Delmas, Brown and Phillips appear to be locks to make the team. The only one whose spot may be in question is Simpson, and that is only because Spievey is now practicing at safety. Because he just made the move last week and because he still is getting some work at corner, I think the Lions will hang on to Simpson. While it's possible that Spievey's move will signal the end of Simpson's career as a Lion, I believe Detroit would rather keep five "true" corners, four safeties and Spievey rather than cutting Simpson and keeping six corners and Spievey.

Special Teams

Keep (3): Jason Hanson, Nick Harris, Don Muhlbach

Cut: Steven Hauschka

Hauschka has looked very good, and if the Lions had an extra roster spot, I could see him getting it just for kickoffs. They don't have an extra spot, however, so I would be shocked if Hauschka isn't cut. Even so, at least he has an impressive highlight reel from the preseason to show teams as he looks for a job.

Practice Squad

8 players: WR Tim Toone, WR Mike Moore, TE Dan Gronkowski, OT Corey Hilliard (I believe he is eligible), C Dan Gerberry, LB Caleb Campbell, CB Aaron Berry, DB Paul Pratt

If DE Chima Ihekwoaba is indeed eligible to be a ninth player because he is from Canada, I could see the Lions putting him on the practice squad despite the fact that he was already released. (For more on the rules of the practice squad, click here.)

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