Now that the Lions’ 2017 NFL Draft is over, we finally have a pretty good idea of what the roster will look like for the upcoming season. Sure, there will be roster maneuvering between now and training camp, but with most of the best options already off the free agency wire, we can comfortably assume there won’t be too much shuffling left until cut day.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Lions’ projected depth chart as it currently stands, and see what kind of camp battles are on the horizon.
Note: Because the Detroit Lions have not made any of their undrafted free agent rookie signings official, they are not included in this projected depth chart.
QB: Matthew Stafford | Jake Rudock | Brad Kaaya (R)
RB: Ameer Abdullah | Theo Riddick | Zach Zenner | Dwayne Washington | Mike James
FB: Michael Burton
WR: Marvin Jones | Kenny Golladay (R) | Keshawn Martin | Jared Abbrederis | Andrew Turzilli
WR: Golden Tate | Jace Billingsley | TJ Jones | Ryan Spadola
TE: Eric Ebron | Darren Fells | Michael Roberts (R) | Khari Lee | Cole Wick | Kennard Backman
LT: Taylor Decker | Cornelius Lucas | Pierce Burton
LG: Graham Glasgow | Joe Dahl | Brandon Thomas
C: Travis Swanson
RG: T.J. Lang | Laken Tomlinson | Matt Rotherham
RT: Rick Wagner | Corey Robinson
There are a lot of interesting camp battles brewing. I think the most compelling will be at the wide receiver position. The Lions currently have a lot of names at the position—nine to be exact—but in terms of talent, the cupboard still seems a little bare. Rookie Kenny Golladay could certainly win the No. 3 job right away, but his game is more suited to an outside role. If he were to win a starting job, it would likely mean Golden Tate moving to the slot. Either way, Detroit has some decisions looming behind Golladay.
I think the hype behind Jace Billingsley is somewhat real, but it also just seems like it’s about time for Detroit to move on from TJ Jones, who has a total of 15 catches in two years. Keshawn Martin could compete for a roster spot with his returning abilities, but both Billingsley and Jones bring some of that same skillset.
Not only does the Detroit Lions’ starting offensive line look impressive, but they now have some capable, experienced depth to boot. Detroit could get into trouble if one of their tackles go down, but they seem fully prepared if an interior offensive lineman suffers an injury.
I have both rookies Michael Roberts and Brad Kaaya as third on their respective depth charts, but both have the opportunity to jump up a spot in training camp.
DE: Ezekiel Ansah | Cornelius Washington | Anthony Zettel | Pat O’Connor (R)
DT: Haloti Ngata | Khyri Thornton | Jordan Hill
DT: A’Shawn Robinson | Akeem Spence | Jeremiah Ledbetter (R)
DE: Kerry Hyder | Armonty Bryant | Brandon Copeland
MLB: Jarrad Davis (R) | Paul Worrilow | Thurston Armbrister | Steve Longa | Brandon Chubb
OLB: Tahir Whitehead | Antwione Williams | Jalen Reeves-Maybin (R) | Nick Bellore
CB: Darius Slay | Johnson Bademosi | Alex Carter | Ian Wells
CB: Nevin Lawson | Teez Tabor (R) | Adairius Barnes | Charles Washington
NCB: DJ Hayden | Quandre Diggs | Jamal Agnew (R)
SS: Tavon Wilson | Miles Killebrew | Rolan Milligan
FS: Glover Quin | Don Carey
In terms of starting jobs, the Lions defense is set, aside from two very important positions: left defensive end and nickel cornerback. At defensive end, many thought Detroit was going to add a starting-level talent in the draft. Since that never happened, the Lions will have a fierce camp battle between Kerry Hyder, Armonty Bryant and free-agent addition Cornelius Washington. At this point, any one of those guys could realistically win the job opposite Ezekiel Ansah. In terms of fit, Hyder may be the best option at closed end.
The competition at nickel corner is bound to be one of the most entertaining camp battles in July. I have DJ Hayden as the current starter for one reason: the Lions handed him $2.25 million guaranteed on his one-year contract. That being said, if Quandre Diggs can find some of that rookie-year magic, he’ll certainly compete for the spot. Also, if Teez Tabor looks good right off the bat, he could push Nevin Lawson inside, adding another player to the nickel competition. Considering Detroit’s severe depth problems at nickel last year, this healthy competition comes as a breath of fresh air.
Jarrad Davis has basically been handed the starting job at middle linebacker, meaning it’s back to the outside for Tahir Whitehead. He probably won’t cede that position in 2017, but both Antwione Williams and rookie Jalen Reeves-Maybin will be nipping at his heels.
K: Matt Prater | Kasey Redfern
P: Sam Martin | Kasey Redfern
LS: Jimmy Landes | Don Muhlbach
Kasey Redfern will likely take some reps both at punter and kicker during training camp, but there is virtually no chance he ends up making the team. As for #LONGSNAPPERWATCH2017, I think this may be the year the Lions finally move on from Don Muhlbach. He’ll be 36 by the time the season starts, and Detroit kept Jimmy Landes around for a reason.