For the past couple of years I have posted a few different roster predictions after training camp began to give readers an idea of who could end up surviving the final round of cuts. I have held off on doing that for this year until now mainly because this is the first time the new front-office and new coaching staff will put together the Lions' 53-man roster. Last year, for example, I had previous years' final rosters to go off of, giving me an outline to follow as far as how many players at each position would make the team. I obviously still had to predict which players would fill those slots, but I at least had an idea of how many at each position would be on the 53-man roster.
The reason I'm explaining all of this is because I really struggled with how many players at each position will make the team more than anything. I have a pretty solid idea of which players should make the team, but I'm still struggling a bit with determining how many from each position will make the cut. Regardless, I went ahead and made my predictions, which can be found after the jump.
(One disclaimer: I imagine the Lions' final roster will include a couple players who are on other teams right now. That happens every year and is tough to predict, so I just went off of who is actually on the team right now.)
Make the team: Daunte Culpepper, Matthew Stafford, Drew Stanton
Some teams only carry two quarterbacks, but I don't think the Lions will do that. We have seen that they have three quarterbacks on the team who can get the job done, and with the recent injuries to Culpepper and Stanton, the more the merrier simply for depth reasons. Chances are Stanton won't see the field unless the Lions really get bit by the injury bug, but I don't see any reason to let him go just yet.
Make the team: Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown
Cut: Aveion Cason, Tristan Davis
I think most Lions fans chose Brown over Cason for the Lions' third running back the second Brown scored his first touchdown against Atlanta. Cason is versatile and does well on special teams (on coverage, that is), but Brown has more potential. He has a lot of things he can improve on, but we have seen how athletic he is. I guess I could see both Cason and Brown making the team, but only if the Lions decide to take one fullback, which I don't see happening.
Make the team: Jerome Felton, Terrelle Smith
Felton is in for sure, as he is a bruiser as a blocker and a runner. He is versatile in that sense and gives the Lions a big back who can get the ball in short-yardage situations and move the chains or power his way into the end zone. Smith, on the other hand, is a good blocker who has experience. To me, he will help determine Cason's status with the Lions. If Smith makes the team, giving the Lions two fullbacks, I think they will cut Cason. They could decide that Felton is enough and keep Cason because he contributes on special teams, but I just have a hard time keeping Cason around.
Make the team: Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, Derrick Williams, Dane Looker
Cut: John Standeford, Keary Colbert, Adam Jennings, Glenn Holt
This was a tough position to evaluate. The Lions' receivers have either been injured or struggling to catch the ball throughout training camp, and it's tough to say just how many will be on the 53-man roster. Part of what makes it tough to predict is factoring in the tight end position. The Lions have quite a few quality tight ends, and I could see them keeping four on the active roster. If that doesn't happen, as I predict, then Looker will make the team as the fifth receiver. I think it will come down to him and Standeford, and it's tough for me to cut Looker after how well he did at kicker during practice last week. Okay, there's more to it than that. Standeford had a case of butterfingers early on in the preseason, and while he has gotten better as time went on, Looker looked a little more sure-handed from what I have watched. This is probably my least confident pick on the entire roster, as these two players are very similar.
Make the team: Brandon Pettigrew, Will Heller, Casey FitzSimmons
Cut: Dan Gronkowski, Carson Butler
As mentioned above, I wouldn't be surprised if the Lions kept four tight ends on the active roster. Gronkowski will probably make the cut if that ends up being the case. As well as Butler has played since joining the team, Gronkowski has excellent hands and is likely a better blocker (based on what I know about Butler from his Michigan days). I thought about moving FitzSimmons to the cut list and putting Gronkowski on the active roster, but I think FitzSimmons has enough experience and versatility to keep a spot on the team this year.
Make the team: Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus, Jon Jansen, Ephraim Salaam
Cut: Lydon Murtha
This was a fairly easy position to assess. Backus and Cherilus are the starters and Jansen and Salaam are the veteran backups. Murtha is bound for the practice squad.
Make the team: Manny Ramirez, Stephen Peterman, Daniel Loper
Cut: Terrence Metcalf, Milford Brown
Peterman is this team's starter at right guard and Ramirez and Loper are battling it out for the starting spot at left guard. With other offensive linemen being versatile, there is really no need to keep any of the other guards on the roster.
Make the team: Dominic Raiola
Cut: Dylan Gandy, Dan Gerberry
The same goes for the center position. Beyond Raiola, there just isn't a need to keep any other centers on the team.
Make the team: Cliff Avril, Dewayne White, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Jason Hunter
Cut: Sean Conover, Orion Martin
The defensive line is very interesting as far as how many players will make the team. At defensive end, I'm confident that it will only be the four listed above, which made this a fairly easy position to predict.
Make the team: Shaun Smith, Andre Fluellen, Grady Jackson, Sammie Hill, Landon Cohen, Chuck Darby
Cut: Orien Harris
Defensive tackle was the complete opposite. I wasn't sure how many players I should put on the active roster, so in the end I kept all but one. Even then I was still thinking about whether I should add Harris to the 53-man roster; the Lions did trade for him after all. You would almost think that the Lions were in good shape depth-wise at DT. While they do have a solid list of players at DT, they are all pretty even as far as talent goes. That is what made it so tough to predict how many and which ones will make the team. If six end up on the 53-man roster, then that would give the Lions ten defensive lineman. Depending on what they do at a few other positions, I could see every defensive tackle surviving the final round of cuts.
Make the team: Ernie Sims, Larry Foote, Julian Peterson, Jordon Dizon, Darnell Bing, DeAndre Levy, Zack Follett
Cut: Rufus Alexander, Spenser Smith
One way a spot on the team could open up for someone like Orien Harris is if a player who is expected to make the team gets injured to the point where he has to head to the IR. At this time last week it sounded like that could happen to Darnell Bing, but he played against Indianapolis. Assuming he stays healthy, I think he will be on the active roster. I had to think for a second about whether or not Follett will make the team, but I think he is too good on special teams to keep off the 53-man roster.
Make the team: Phillip Buchanon, Anthony Henry, Eric King, William James, Keith Smith
Cut: Ramzee Robinson, Chris Roberson
Based on the fact that King and James started in place of Buchanon and Henry, I think we know what the Lions' top four is at cornerback. After that it was between Smith and Robinson for the fifth CB spot. Like other positions, I could see a situation happening where the Lions keep both Smith and Robinson, but based on how I filled out the rest of my prediction, there wasn't enough room for six corners.
Make the team: Louis Delmas, Kalvin Pearson, Stuart Schweigert, Marquand Manuel
Cut: Calvin Lowry
Considering the Lions hosted Lawyer Milloy for a visit yesterday, that tells me that they aren't totally satisfied with their safeties. Even so, it's pretty obvious who the four are that will make the team. I'd be inclined to only keep three on the roster if the safeties had played better as a whole in the preseason so far, but since there are still question marks, I figure added depth is a better idea.
Make the team: Jason Hanson, Nick Harris, Don Muhlbach
Cut: Billy Cundiff
There's not much to say here. As long as Hanson is ready for the regular season, only three specialists will be on the team. It would suck to have to waste a roster spot on a second kicker, but even if that happened, it would only be temporary.
As I explained in the intro to this post, it will be much easier to make a roster prediction a year from now. We will know how many players the Lions like to keep at each position enough to have a general outline to follow. Obviously there are always going to be variables that change from year to year, but in 2010 it should just be filling set spots with players.
Keeping that in mind, let me know what you think about some of these battles for spots on the team as well as some of the positions that have a flexible number as far as how many players will make the team. And if you are so inclined, post your roster prediction.