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Lions camp battles: No. 4 wide receiver

Who will emerge as the Detroit Lions' No. 4 wide receiver?

Al Messerschmidt

As we continue to get ready for Detroit Lions training camp, we're going to examine some of the position battles that will be worth keeping an eye on over the course of the next month and a half or so. Next up is the battle for the No. 4 wide receiver job.

At this time a year ago, the Lions seemed to have a top four at wide receiver that would be in place for years to come. Calvin Johnson headlined the position, of course, and Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles rounded out a pretty solid top four.

During the 2012 season, this top four quickly fell apart. Burleson and Broyles both suffered season-ending injuries, and Young was kept out for the remainder of the season after becoming an annoyance on and off the field for the Lions. Burleson and Broyles are now back from their injuries, but Young is out of the NFL. As a result, only the top three spots are accounted for at wide receiver, leaving the fourth spot open to be won in training camp.

The candidates

Given who was on the roster at the end of last season, Mike Thomas and Kris Durham seem to be two of the frontrunners to be the No. 4 wide receiver. Thomas joined the Lions last season after being traded by the Jacksonville Jaguars, whereas Durham was activated toward the end of the season from the practice squad. Thomas only finished with 5 catches for 28 yards and a touchdown in nine games, and Durham had 8 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in four games.

You can also probably throw Patrick Edwards into the frontrunners category given all of the hype he's received this offseason from teammates. Had he not suffered an injury last year while on the practice squad, chances are he would have ended up on the 53-man roster by season's end. Now that he's healthy, he has a real chance to join the rotation at wide receiver.

Other players in the mix for the No. 4 wide receiver job are Corey Fuller, Micheal Spurlock, Devin Thomas, Terrence Austin, Cody Wilson and Matt Willis. Spurlock and Thomas will likely end up contributing on special teams more than anything, putting them in line for the No. 5 wide receiver job, and Austin, Wilson and Willis will likely just end up being camp bodies. Out of this group, Fuller probably has the best chance of cracking the top four considering he was drafted by the Lions this year.

Who has the edge right now?

His numbers may not have been very impressive after he was traded last season, but I have to go with Mike Thomas. There's an expectation for him to be more productive now that he has more knowledge of the offense, and the Lions didn't trade a fifth-round pick just to dump him after nine games. He will need to have an impressive next month and half or so to beat out Edwards, Durham and the others, but Thomas seems to have the edge going into training camp.

Previously: Third-string quarterback

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