We’ve passed by the roster bubble in our 2018 Detroit Lions roster rankings. Today, we dip our toe into the top 40. These are the players that could make a big impact this year, but are most likely there for depth reasons or situational roles. Oftentimes, the key to success in the NFL is the strength of your depth, so while these players may not grab the headlines, they could be significant players come December.
To catch up on our Lions roster rankings, click the links below.
40. TE Levine Toilolo (High: 31, Low: 47)
Levine Toilolo is the third piece of the puzzle in Detroit’s plan to overhaul their tight end crew. Of the three (Luke Willson and Michael Roberts), Toilolo probably brings the most versatility as someone who can block and catch.
But don’t expect huge numbers from him this year. Toilolo has only caught more than 15 passes once in five seasons. However, he did play in around 40 percent of snaps for the Falcons last year, so don’t be surprise to see him out there as a blocker, much like how the Lions used Darren Fells last year.
39. LS Don Muhlbach (High: 32, Low: 51)
Last year: 28
The Lions’ most senior player dropped 11 spots in this year’s rankings, but his play hasn’t seemed to slow down. Muhlbach is still one of the most dependable players on the team, even at 36 years old. The Lions have enough faith in Muhlbach that they didn’t bring in competition for him this year, unlike in 2016 when Detroit drafted Jimmy Landes
38. DT Jeremiah Ledbetter (High: 36, Low: 49)
Last year: 58
Last year, as a sixth-round rookie, Ledbetter contributed more than he probably should have. Due to suspensions, injuries and overall roster weakness, Ledbetter was a rotational player from the beginning of the season and never let go. His 347 snaps were the sixth-most of any Lions defensive lineman in 2017.
While his performance was lacking (14 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 56.8 PFF grade), that sort of experience could be huge going into his sophomore season.
37. DE Cornelius Washington (High: 24, Low: 49)
Last year: 30
To call Cornelius Washington’s 2017 season a disappointment would be an understatement. He was benched against the Saints early in the season, and didn’t tally his first sack until Week 10.
It makes sense that he would drop from his 2017 ranking, but I’m surprised to see him still this high. Perhaps staff members like Andrew Kato (ranked him 24th) think Washington will be better served under Matt Patricia’s new defensive scheme.
36. S Miles Killebrew (High: 33, Low: 41)
Last year: 20
Miles Killebrew was one of the biggest fallers in this year’s rankings, and for good reason. Killebrew started 2017 promising, but quickly fell out of favor and was barely contributing on defense after Tavon Wilson went down with an injury. He had a total of 23 snaps in the final five games combined.
Now that the Lions have added Tracy Walker in the draft, Killebrew could be out of the door as soon as this year. However, he’s still an economical asset, with two years remaining on his rookie deal.
35. LB Christian Jones (High: 26, Low: 40)
Jones was one of the Lions’ biggest offseason acquisitions, pulling in a two-year, $7.75 million contract. Jones is expected to immediately come in and play a role in the Lions’ transitional linebacking corps. He’ll likely be in contention with second-year player Jalen Reeves-Maybin for a “starting” inside linebacker position.
Thus far, his career has been a little underwhelming, but he did have two 80-tackle seasons wit the Chicago Bears.
34. TE Michael Roberts (High: 32, Low: 39)
Last year: 34
Roberts lands exactly where he did in his rookie year, which makes a lot of sense considering he didn’t do much in 2017, positively or negatively. Although there was a lot of hype behind Roberts, he was always going to have a modest year behind Eric Ebron and Darren Fells.
But with both players no longer on the team, Roberts is expected to have a much bigger role in 2018. Will he live up to the hype this year and be the red-zone threat everyone is hoping for? We’ll see.
33. RB Ameer Abdullah (High: 27, Low: 43)
Last year: 9
Ameer Abdullah’s fall from grace was swift and unrelenting. He was extremely hyped going into 2017, many hoping he would rebound from his injury and assume the potential he showed early in 2016.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go his way. Whether it was his fault, the offensive line ‘s fault, the offensive line coach’s fault or a combination of them all, Abdullah took the brunt of the blame. After averaging 4.3 yards per carry in his first two seasons, Abdullah only managed 3.3 in 2017, and was eventually replaced by the season’s end.
Now that the Lions have added Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount, it appears Abdullah has been permanently replaced.
32. DT Sylvester Williams (High: 22, Low: 40)
Defensive tackle was arguably the Lions’ biggest position of need going into the offseason, and Williams represents the potential improvement of the unit in 2018. However, expectations should probably be tempered a bit, as Williams hasn’t lived up to his first-round pick draft status.
That being said, Williams is a big-bodied nose-tackle type that was instrumental in Matt Patricia’s defense in New England. At 6-foot-2, 328 pounds, Williams will be key in improving the Lions run defense, especially after losing Haloti Ngata to free agency.
31. CB Nevin Lawson (High: 25, Low: 35)
Last year: 21
Lawson is a polarizing player around these parts. While many believed him to be one of the worst corners on the roster last year, the Lions coaches don’t appear to agree. The veteran defensive back earned himself a two-year, $9.3 million contract this offseason and will be in contention with Teez Tabor for the starting job opposite Darius Slay.