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 40 through 31. These are the players that are very likely to make the team’s final 53-man roster, but will have to contribute in a non-starting role. Some of these players may be used as a rotational weapon, while others may have to find their way onto the field through special teams.
40. S Don Carey (High: 30, Low: 52)
Though Carey has been one of the most reliable special teams players for the last six years, he finds himself in a precarious situation this season. The Lions added so many defensive backs this offseason that Carey will have to really prove that his special teams skills are that valuable to the team this offseason. Given general manager Bob Quinn’s proclivity to keep players with a huge special teams upside, Carey can make a good case to procure a roster spot.
39. LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (High: 37, Low: 41)
The Lions’ first fourth-round draft pick has been one of the most forgotten in the 2017 draft class. Reeves-Maybin isn’t really expected to contribute much in his rookie year, even though the Lions’ linebacker corps is getting an overhaul this year. However, Reeves-Maybin could play a crucial part in the position’s future.
Reeves-Maybin is an extremely athletic and instinctive linebacker, but a shoulder injury caused him to miss almost all of 2016. If he shows he’s fully recovered and reaches the potential many believe he has, there’s a chance he could be starting next year as a replacement for Tahir Whitehead, who is on the final year of his contract.
38. DE Armonty Bryant (High: 24, Low: 51)
Hopes were high for Bryant heading into 2017. In his five games with the Lions in 2016, Bryant managed three sacks in just 104 snaps. However, Bryant was given a four-game suspension last week, and now his spot on the roster is no longer safe. Lucky for Bryant, Detroit is perilously thin at the position, so the Lions may not have any other choice but to keep him on the roster.
37. CB Quandre Diggs (High: 25, Low: 54)
Diggs has only been on the Detroit Lions for two years, but he has had quite the tumultuous career already. In his rookie year, the sixth-round pick was called upon early and often to contribute mostly as the team’s nickel cornerback. Diggs looks promising, especially towards the end of the season.
However, he noticeably declined in 2016 and a torn pectoral ended his season before Detroit’s final stretch. Now Diggs must fight for his job as the Lions brought in DJ Hayden and rookie Jamal Agnew to compete for his spot.
36. LB Antwione Williams (High: 34, Low: 44)
Williams wasn’t expected to contribute outside of special teams in his rookie year, but a myriad of injuries and disappointments saw him take meaningful snaps on defense. The results weren’t all that pretty, but they did give Williams some valuable experience.
Heading into the 2017 season, it’s hard to know what the Lions are expecting of him. Williams could very well be the Lions’ “starting” strongside linebacker, although that’s a position the Lions only use about 20-25 percent of the time on defense. Still, don’t be surprised to see the former fifth-round pick contribute in a real way in 2017.
35. G Laken Tomlinson (High: 33, Low: 45)
One player that may have a hard time finding a way to contribute in 2017 is former first-round pick Laken Tomlinson. Last year, Tomlinson lost his starting left guard job in Week 7 to rookie Graham Glasgow. Tomlinson found himself back into the starting lineup once center Travis Swanson was sidelined with an injury, but even then he was temporarily benched for fifth-round rookie Joe Dahl.
That leaves Tomlinson on very thin ice for 2017. He’s presumably still behind Glasgow on the depth chart, meaning he’ll enter the season for the first time as a backup. There is still a camp battle to be had, but at this point Tomlinson should be considered the first interior lineman off the bench.
34. TE Michael Roberts (High: 32, Low: 45)
One of the weakest positions of the Lions’ 2016 roster was tight end. Detroit aggressively attacked the position during the 2017 offseason, adding Darren Fells in free agency and Michael Roberts in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Roberts may not have a huge role in 2017, being snugly behind Fells and Eric Ebron on the depth chart, but he has an intriguingly high ceiling. Roberts could eventually develop into a huge red zone target and beyond, but he’ll need to drastically improve his route running and blocking skills if he wants to become a true No. 2 tight end behind Ebron.
33. LB Paul Worrilow (High: 31, Low: 39)
If you were to ask the Atlanta Falcons—Paul Worrilow’s employer for the past four seasons—they would say Worrilow is far too high on this list. The 27-year-old lost his starting job with Atlanta in 2016, and Falcons fans believed it was a long time coming with Worrilow. Here’s what Kevin Knight of The Falcoholic had to say about him earlier this offseason:
Worrilow was the subject of much ire amongst Falcons fans, and the center of many, many jokes. Off the field, he’s an ideal player. He’s a leader in the locker room and a hard worker on the practice field. Worrilow is just an all around great dude who truly makes you want the best for him.
But, unfortunately, he’s just not a starting-caliber NFL player. I know his Combine testing tells you that he’s athletic, but he doesn’t play that way. He’s a solid tackler and that’s about it. Worrilow gets roasted in coverage by even marginal athletes at RB and TE. He can’t be relied upon at all in that area, and if you put him in coverage he’s going to get beat repeatedly.
Thankfully, the Lions drafted Jarrad Davis in the first round shortly after signing Worrilow. Still, Worrilow should provide a nice presence in the locker room and some veteran savvy for a linebacker corps filled with youth.
32. OL Joe Dahl (High: 30, Low: 46)
Joe Dahl is one of the Lions’ most hyped offensive linemen, despite the fact that the Lions haven’t found a spot for him yet. He’s played and practiced a bit at both guard and tackle, but he still has a ways to go before developing into a potential starter. Dahl told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein that learning the complexities of an NFL offense took him almost half of the 2016 season to fully grasp.
Now he’ll enter the 2017 season as an important backup, and could potentially develop into a starter depending on what the Lions think about the future careers of Tomlinson and Travis Swanson.
31. CB DJ Hayden (High: 22, Low: 44)
Though slot corner wasn’t considered a high priority for the Lions this offseason, they went out and grabbed Hayden right away, inking him to a one-year, $3.75 million contract. That sort of deal indicates that the Lions expect him to contribute significantly in 2017.
Hayden has struggled with injuries for most of his career, making this a bit of a risky signing. However, this is a former first-round pick, and Detroit is only on the hook for a single year. If Hayden can finally reach the potential he showed in college at Houston, this could be a huge under-the-radar signing by Bob Quinn.