As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the wide receiver position. (The final year of each player's contract is listed in parentheses.)
Set starters: Golden Tate (2018), Marvin Jones (2020)
Backups: TJ Jones (2017)
On the bubble: Andre Caldwell (2016), Andre Roberts (2016), Corey Fuller (2016), Jeremy Kerley (2016)
Long shot: Jace Billingsley (2018), Damian Copeland (2016), Quinshad Davis (2018), Jay Lee (2018), Ryan Spadola (2017)
Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are the Lions’ No. 1 and 2 receivers. Outside of those two, everything is up for grabs. TJ Jones seems likely to take a backup role because of his youth, his potential and his ability to contribute as a special teamer.
But there is little known about the hierarchy beyond him. The Lions have a set of veterans whose experience may be valuable to the roster. Andre Caldwell, Andre Roberts and Jeremy Kerley have all been in the NFL for at least five seasons. But at the moment, it doesn’t appear any of those players have separated themselves from the pack. As for Corey Fuller, he'll have to overcome recent foot surgery and a few years of disappointing play to keep his roster spot this year.
That may give an opening to one or two players in the "long shot" category. There is still a lot of unknowns with these players and it’s unclear how they could fit with the team. Training camp performance will be absolutely huge for these players. Given the weakness of the Lions’ current roster, some of these "long shots" could certainly find their way onto the active roster come Week 1. Even if they don’t, some of the younger guys will land on the practice squad, and it’s very possible for a practice squad player to eventually get time on the active roster at some point during the season.
One key aspect in this position battle will be special teams abilities. During OTAs and minicamp, Tate, Kerley, Jones, and Roberts were taking punt returns
Need going forward?
We will really have to wait and see how the crowded competition at wide receiver plays out during training camp and the preseason, but this does appear to be a pretty weak position beyond the top two players. The Lions could really use a solid, proven No. 3 option on their roster, but unless there is a surprise release coming in August, Detroit will have to hope one of their unknown commodities breaks out during the preseason.