In the leadup to 2017 Detroit Lions training camp, we are going over the team’s entire roster and ranking each player from 90 to 1. The rankings are based on voting from five different staff members. Today we cover players 50 through 41.
50. DT Khyri Thornton (High: 40, Low: 55)
Thornton was expected to see a significant role in the Lions defensive line rotation this year after signing a two-year deal with the team. However, Thornton was given a six-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy of the NFL. Thornton could still sneak onto the roster via the reserve/suspended list, which doesn’t take up a spot on the 53-man roster.
49. WR Jace Billingsley (High: 44, Low: 59)
The returning champion of the Name Bracket tournament lands right near the bubble of the roster on our list. Though Billingsley has yet to see the field for a regular season game, many expect him to compete for Detroit’s No. 4 receiver spot. With Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and rookie Kenny Golladay solidly ahead of him, Billingsley’s greatest competition for a roster spot is likely...
48. WR Jared Abbrederis (High: 42, Low: 56)
Interesting to see Abbrederis land a single spot ahead of Billingsley. Of our five voters, only Ryan Mathews ranked Billingsley higher—just one spot ahead of Abbrederis on his list.
Outside of rookies, no player was more hyped during OTAs and minicamp than Abbrederis. The young receiver formerly of the Packers was praised for crisp routes and dependable hands. However, Abbrederis’ value on special teams isn’t quite as strong as Billingsley, and that could be a crucial factor for making the final roster.
47. CB Johnson Bademosi (High: 36, Low: 50)
Speaking of special teams, Bademosi was a standout on the Lions excellent special teams units in 2016. He excelled as one of the team’s gunners for punt coverage, but also was called upon several times throughout the season to replace an injured cornerback. In total, Bademosi appeared in all 16 games, started three and finished with 22 total tackles and an interception.
With all of the team’s additions at cornerback this offseason, Bademosi will have to work hard to find a role in 2017, but his special teams worth should help.
46. DE Anthony Zettel (High: 41, Low: 49)
Zettel’s rookie year was a non-factor. After being drafted in the sixth round, Zettel made 13 game appearances and only made 13 tackles with 1.0 sacks. However, Detroit is particularly thin at defensive end, so if Zettel can make even a little improvement in his game this year, he has a very good chance to make the final roster.
45. WR TJ Jones (High: 37, Low: 58)
Jones is the forgotten contender for the fourth wide receiver spot on the Lions roster. A sixth-round draft pick in 2014, Jones has yet to make an impact with Detroit. In 13 game appearances over two season, Jones has just 15 catches for 225 yards and a touchdown.
Jones spent the majority of 2016 on the Lions practice squad, but with Andre Roberts gone and Anquan Boldin likely headed elsewhere, this seems to be Jones’ big chance to finally contribute. However, he’ll have to beat out Billingsley and Abbrederis first.
44. T Corey Robinson (High: 38, Low: 56)
There seems to be a lot of optimism surround Corey Robinson these days, but one thing stands in his way between him and a roster spot: a nagging injury. Robinson was placed on injured reserve late last year with a foot injury, and was not able to participate in OTAs or minicamp this year. If he’s able to overcome it, he’s a prime candidate to be a backup tackle this year. If not, his time with the Lions could be over.
43. T Greg Robinson (High: 31, Low: 55)
Greg Robinson is the Lions’ wildcard, and it’s no surprise there’s such disagreement on our staff on where he belongs. Detroit traded for Robinson, sending away just a sixth-round pick to the Rams. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, Greg Robinson’s career with the Rams was a disaster.
However, former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz believes there’s reason for optimism in Detroit:
A dominate [sic] run blocker like Robinson was in college doesn’t just lose the ability in the NFL. He needs some fine-tuning. Detroit will get the most out of him.
Time will tell whether the trade works out, but for now, only some of us (see: myself and Jerry Mallory) are drinking the Kool-Aid.
42. DE/LB Brandon Copeland (High: 26, Low: 57)
While on the topic of wild disagreement, I don’t think one player on this entire list was more polarizing than Brandon Copeland. Part of the confusion, I think, is where Copeland will play a role in 2017. He has toggled between defensive end and linebacker his entire Lions career. The plan appeared to move him to defensive end last year, but when injuries devastated the Lions linebacker depth chart, Copeland found his niche there.
But now he’s listed as a defensive end, and the Lions need help there. But Copeland hasn’t made much of an impact there yet, recording just 0.5 sacks in his entire career.
41. RB Zach Zenner (High: 29, Low: 55)
My guess is that many will view Zenner as too low on this list. The third-year running back is poised to take over the RB3 spot on the roster, and perhaps Detroit’s power back role. Last year, Zenner proved he can provide at least adequate play as the feature back, starting the final three games of the season, including the Lions’ Wild Card loss to the Seahawks. In those three games alone, Zenner rushed for 170 yards (3.95 YPC), three touchdowns, and tallied 120 receiving yards.