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Detroit Lions 53-man roster prediction: Preseason Week 2

Jeremy takes his best crack at the Lions’ potential 53-man roster for the 2018 season.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We’re less than three weeks away from the Detroit Lions—and every other team—cutting their roster down to just 53 men. NFL general managers have a tough couple weeks ahead of them, as curating an NFL roster is an art form down to the very last brush stroke. Considering we’ve only seen many of these players in pads for a couple weeks, or on film with the team just once in 2018, it’s hard to really gauge talent with certainty.

But after three weeks of training camp, I took my best shot at predicting the Lions’ 53-man roster for 2018.

Quarterbacks (2)

QB Matthew Stafford
QB Matt Cassel

QB Jake Rudock

Rudock came into camp as the bonafide backup in my mind, but through three weeks of practice and one awful preseason game, I think I’m off the bandwagon. I was hoping to see a similar jump from Year 2 to Year 3 that I saw in Year 1 to Year 2, but it looks like Rudock may have peaked in the 2017 preseason.

Cassel hasn’t been good, but he’s only been slightly better.

Running backs (5)

RB Kerryon Johnson
RB Ameer Abdullah
RB LeGarrette Blount
RB Theo Riddick
FB Nick Bellore

RB Zach Zenner
RB Dwayne Washington

This section was a no-brainer to me. Ameer Abdullah is too valuable (and too cheap) to be cut. He could certainly get traded to a running back needy team, but the Lions would have to get something worthwhile in return to justify sending their running back insurance policy away. Plus, it looks like Abdullah may be their starting kick returner, so calling him an insurance policy probably isn’t doing him justice.

The only question here is whether the Lions decide to keep a fullback. Bellore hasn’t really been good in that role and the Lions barely used him in their first preseason game, but I’m taking Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn at their word when they said they wanted to bring a more physical presence to the running game; that means it’s fullback time.

Wide receivers (4)

WR Marvin Jones Jr.
WR Golden Tate
WR Kenny Golladay
WR TJ Jones

WR Teo Redding
WR Jace Billingsley
WR Brian Brown
WR Chris Lacy
WR Brandon Powell
WR Dontez Ford
WR Bradley Marquez

I’m with Hamza. Keeping four receivers seems like the smart play here. Teo Redding and Jace Billingsley are still practice squad eligible, and they haven’t put out enough good tape for a team to justify making a waiver claim for them.

Tight ends (3)

TE Michael Roberts
TE Luke Willson
TE Levine Toilolo

TE Hakeem Valles
TE Marcus Lucas
TE Sean McGrath

This was a tough one. Giving up an extra spot at the receiver level made it very tempting to keep Hakeem Valles as a fourth tight end, especially since the team’s top three haven’t shown much in training camp and the preseason. I also debated canning Nick Bellore in favor of Valles, seeing as Willson and Toilolo certainly have the skillset to play an “F” back role.

However, I haven’t seen any of that in camp. And while I have seen them use three tight end sets, perhaps necessitating a fourth on the roster, I think Valles makes the practice squad and gets promoted when needed.

Offensive line (10)

OT Taylor Decker
OT Rick Wagner
OT Corey Robinson
OT Tyrell Crosby
OG T.J. Lang
G/C Graham Glasgow
OG Joe Dahl
OG Frank Ragnow
G/C Leo Koloamatangi
G Kenny Wiggins

OT Brian Mihalik
OT Jamar McGloster
OT Dan Skipper
OL John Montelus
C Wesley Johnson

10 offensive linemen on a roster is admittedly a bit much, but last year’s team struggled with depth. I don’t think Bob Quinn wants to make the same mistake again. Kenny Wiggins squeezes his way onto the roster as one of the last players to make my team.

Elsewhere, I gave the slight nod to Corey Robinson over Brian Mihalik, though neither has really made an impression at camp. Everything else was pretty straightforward here.

Defensive line (10)

DE Ezekiel Ansah
DE Anthony Zettel
DE Alex Barrett
DE Kerry Hyder
DE Jeremiah Valoaga
DE/DT Da’Shawn Hand
DT A’Shawn Robinson
DT Ricky Jean Francois
DT Sylvester Williams
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter

DE Cornelius Washington
DE Cam Johnson
DL JoJo Wicker
DT Josh Fatu
DT Christian Ringo
DT Toby Johnson

Perhaps my boldest decision sending Cornelius Washington away, but I just don’t think the veteran defensive end is going to be a good fit with Patricia’s defense. He’s already behind the eight ball having spent the first week of practice on the Non-Football Injury list, and he’s coming off a pretty disappointing season. In his place, I put Jeremiah Valoaga, who has had an up-and-down training camp, but at least there have been some ups.

Ledbetter also sneaks in, due to flashes of talent and youth.

Linebackers (6)

LB Devon Kennard
LB Jarrad Davis
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
LB Christian Jones
LB Jonathan Freeny
LB Steve Longa

LB Freddie Bishop
LB Trevor Bates
LB Chad Meredith
LB Darnell Sankey

Considering Patricia’s affinity for linebackers, I really wanted to keep a seventh on the roster, but the talent doesn’t justify keeping another one of these names on the 53-man roster. I know a lot of people are raving about Freddie Bishop in training camp, but I just don’t see it yet. Perhaps he’s getting the local product bump in the media.

Creating a 53-man roster is just as much about having the most talented players make the team as it is matching numbers to positions, so I can’t rationalize Bishop—or any other fringe linebackers—making the team. You could make an argument for Miles Killebrew here, but he’ll have to show me something at linebacker before I slot him in.

Defensive backs (10)

CB Darius Slay
CB Nevin Lawson
CB Teez Tabor
CB DeShawn Shead
CB Quandre Diggs
CB Jamal Agnew
S Glover Quin
S Tavon Wilson
S Charles Washington
S Tracy Walker

CB Josh Okonye
CB Mike Ford
CB Chris Jones
CB Antwuan Davis
LB/S Miles Killebrew
S Rolan Milligan
S Stefan McClure

Defensive backs are a huge part to the defense Patricia is trying to install, and the Lions have the talent to match. There weren’t any really tough decisions here. Charles Washington gets the last spot over Rolan Milligan due to consistency and special teams skills. Plus, it’s hard to get out of my head just how bad Milligan was against the Raiders.

Special Teams (3)

K Matt Prater
P Sam Martin
LS Don Muhlbach

P/K Ryan Santoso

Santoso has done well enough to earn himself a tryout elsewhere, but the Lions have been set at special teams for years now.