Our Detroit Lions countdown continues today with the players we ranked from 41 to 50. While these players are technically above the roster bubble, I wouldn’t call many of them roster locks. These are players that, if they aren’t playing for a roster spot, they will certainly be competing for playing time in 2018.
As a reminder, these rankings are based on averages from seven different staff members who ranked all 90 players on the Lions current roster. To catch up on players 51-90, click below:
50. DE Jeremiah Valoaga (High: 42, Low: 61)
Last year: 77
Jeremiah Valoaga’s expectations have jumped exponentially after his rookie season as an undrafted free agent. Last year, Valoaga saw significant playing time due to injuries and the Lions’ thin depth on the edge. He showed promise early in the preseason, and even got significant playing time in the first half of the season. However, he fell out of favor towards the end of the season, playing just three games after the bye week and eventually getting demoted to the practice squad.
Lucky for Valoaga, the Lions’ edge depth remains suspect, giving him a solid chance to earn more defensive snaps in 2018.
49. FB Nick Bawden (High: 41, Low: 58)
We’re still waiting to hear from the team whether Nick Bawden suffered a season-ending injury during minicamp, but the outlook isn’t good. Regardless, the Pride of Detroit staff has faith in Bawden’s future, ranking him 49th despite the fact he’ll likely be gone for the entire 2018 season.
48. OT Corey Robinson (High: 42, Low: 68)
Last year: 44
The Lions depth at tackle always seems to be thin and always seems to be tested at some point in the season. That was true last year, but Corey Robinson was a breath of fresh air when he returned from injury himself midway through the season.
Corey proved to be the superior Robinson when the Lions called on him to replace Rick Wagner and he had the versatility to slide inside, as well. However, his Pro Football Focus grade of 43.6 proves he’s still a backup plan.
47. RB Zach Zenner (High: 39, Low: 58)
Last year: 41
The Lions sent Zach Zenner mixed messages in 2017. Early in the season, Zenner saw some occasional snaps, and even found the end zone in Week 5. But soon after that, Zenner was relegated to the bench and didn’t see more than 10 offensive snaps in a game in the final 11 weeks of the season. It seemed the Lions fell out of favor with Zenner, but then they re-signed him for 2018.
Regardless of where the franchise stands with Zenner right now, it’s tough to see him making the team, and almost impossible to come up with a scenario in which he’s a regular contributor for the Lions in 2018 (injuries aside).
46. OL Tyrell Crosby (High: 41, Low: 55)
In an effort to improve the Lions’ aforementioned lack of depth along the offensive line, Detroit drafted Tyrell Crosby in the fifth round. Though many believe Crosby is best suited to transition to guard, general manager Bob Quinn said he’ll be a “tackle first.”
As a solid college offensive lineman and someone who can provide versatility, Crosby could be an important member of the team should injuries hit the Lions offensive line again.
45. QB Matt Cassel (High: 34, Low: 50)
Matt Cassel has only started two games in the past two years, and he’s thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions in those games. But the Pride of Detroit staff currently favors him over youngster Jake Rudock.
Being a veteran backup quarterback certainly has value in this league, and Cassel’s familiarity with head coach Matt Patricia could help give him an edge up. But I’m not so sure I agree with my cohort that Cassel deserves to be 12 spots higher than Rudock.
44. DB Tracy Walker (High: 34, Low: 63)
The Lions were pumped when they landed Tracy Walker in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Fans were confused.
Detroit certainly has high hopes for the defensive back out of Louisiana Lafayette, but it’s clear many are skeptical of this pick. Most people considered Walker a Day 3 pick, and it’s unclear how he’ll fit into the Lions’ long-term plans in the secondary. We’re not likely to see much of him on defense in 2018, but if he makes a few plays, expect him to be higher on this list next year.
43. DT Da’Shawn Hand (High: 30, Low: 61)
After taking Walker, the Lions finally turned to the defensive line in the NFL Draft, taking another Alabama defensive tackle in the fourth round.
Da’Shawn Hand had a quiet, but efficient career with the Crimson Tide, spending most of it in the shadows behind Alabama’s extremely talented defensive front.
Early expectations are still pretty low for Hand, even though the defensive scheme will likely play to his strengths considering he’ll be reunited with defensive line coach Bo Davis. However, Hand will likely see the field occasionally with Detroit’s iffy defensive line depth.
42. OL Joe Dahl (High: 35, Low: 56)
Last year: 32
Could this be the beginning of the end for Joe Dahl? Now entering his third year with the Lions, gone are the expectations that Dahl could potentially grow into a starter. Dahl has been tried both at tackle and guard, but hasn’t caught on at either position as a backup or a starter.
Part of the problem has been injuries. Dahl quickly made his way to injured reserve last year, and although he was activated in December, he didn’t play all that well as a starter in the final three games.
With the Lions continuing to add more offensive line depth, Dahl no longer has the safety net he had with a poor roster. He’ll have to take a significant step in 2018 or he’ll be shown the door.
41. OT Brian Mihalik (High: 38, Low: 54)
Speaking of offensive line depth, Brian Mihalik may have shown the most promise of any reserve lineman in 2017. A converted defensive end, Mihalik only started two games last year (after the Lions finally gave up on Greg Robinson), but his play was a breath of fresh air.
Mihalik was far from perfect—PFF gave him a horrible pass blocking grade of 33.5, but a run blocking grade of 74.2—but the team was starved for someone who could come in and look competent, and Mihalik was briefly that knight in shining armor.