We’re into the meat and potatoes part of the Detroit Lions roster. Players we ranked between 30 and 21 aren’t exactly the superstars of the team, but they all are likely to play key roles. While you’d like to have as many Pro Bowl/All Pro talents on your roster, it’s really the play of that second and third tier of players that will determine your fate.
Lions teams of the past have had superstars. What they’ve never truly had is depth behind them. Is this year different? Let’s take a look at the players we ranked between 21 and 30 on the 2019 Detroit Lions roster.
30. S Tavon Wilson (High: 27, Low: 35)
Last year: 22
As the Lions continued to add more talent to their safety room, Tavon Wilson can probably feel the walls closing in. The veteran safety took an additional step to secure a roster spot, by taking a paycut back in May.
Last year, Wilson played in just 31 percent of snaps, behind Quandre Diggs (96%) and Glover Quin (84%). With Quin gone now, Tracy Walker (21% of snaps last year) is expected to step in, not Wilson.
That being said, there is no one in the defensive backfield more well-versed in Patricia’s defense than Wilson and that kind of veteran knowledge is going to be very useful for the young players in the room (Walker: 24, Andrew Adams: 26, Will Harris: 20).
29. LB Jahlani Tavai (High: 25, Low: 30)
Lions fans are understandably cautious about the team’s second-round pick. Jahlani Tavai wasn’t a player many draft analysts had great things to say about. And while the Lions certainly need more depth and youth at the linebacker position, it’s unclear how quickly Tavai will be placed into the starting lineup.
Detroit very clearly loves Jarrad Davis, and Christian Jones finished the 2018 season very strong. Tavai’s skillset is very versatile, as he’s lined up on the edge and in the middle in college. However, serious questions about his athleticism could make for a rocky transition to the NFL.
28. S Will Harris (High: 22, Low: 33)
Many are a little more optimistic about Detroit’s third-round pick, Will Harris. Unlike Tavai, Harris has athleticism in spades. However, like Tavai, his role in 2019 isn’t exactly clear. Predictions range from immediate starter to potential special teams role player.
Detroit is pretty crowded at safety, and the Lions won’t have to rush Harris in if they don’t want to. His rookie season expectations will likely rely on Harris himself. If he grasps this defense quickly, a starting role isn’t out of the question. If he understandably needs some time, he can contribute on special teams and in some defensive subpackages.
27. K Matt Prater (High: 23, Low: 32)
Last year: 10
Continuing our theme this year of special teamers falling way down the list, this is yet another sign the Lions’ roster may actually getting better between the 40s and 20s.
However, there is reason to believe Prater’s 2018 performance was also a little responsible for this fall. He was just 8-for-12 from 40 yards and longer, and it’s clear his power isn’t quite what it used to be. Of course, he’s about to turn 35, so no one can blame him.
26. CB/PR Jamal Agnew (High: 22, Low: 31)
Last year: 24
Agnew is one of the more fascinating players on this year’s roster. After a thrilling rookie season, an injury pretty much derailed most of his 2018 follow-up year. Now with the Lions much deeper in the secondary—and with a clear nickel corner on the roster—Agnew’s value to the team is probably at its lowest.
Still, if Agnew can recapture his explosiveness in the punt return game, he’ll obviously be worth of a roster spot. But I wouldn’t say his place on the roster is guaranteed anymore.
25. RB C.J. Anderson (High: 18, Low: 28)
For a running back that has literally never rushed for less than 4.0 yards per carry in his career, it’s kind of amazing that Anderson has bounced around over the past few years.
For his career, he’s averaged 4.5 YPC and he’s coming off an impressive stretch with the Los Angeles Rams that saw him rush for 488 yards in his last five games (including three playoff games).
He won’t be the starter in Detroit, but he brings a lot more promise to the No. 2 role than LeGarrette Blount did last year.
24. RB Theo Riddick (High: 13, Low: 39)
Last year: 16
Theo Riddick has been the subject of much cap casualty conversations this offseason, but he’s managed to make it this far. There’s no question Riddick is coming off a disappointing season that saw a career-low in yards per catch (6.3). Oddly enough, it was also his most successful as a runner (4.3 YPC).
Still, Riddick’s value comes in his versatility. He’s a receiver. He’s a third-down pass blocker. And he’s an adequate rusher, if needed. I’m a little surprised to see him above Anderson, but I do think all of the talk about cutting him was a little premature.
23. LB Christian Jones (High: 19, Low: 27)
Last year: 35
Jones has a starting position on the defense pretty much locked up for Week 1. But with the addition of Jahlani Tavai, you have to wonder how the Lions will shuffle their lineup once they think he’s ready to go. Tavai’s versatility could push Jarrad Davis to the outside, leaving Jones with just a potential subpackage role on the team.
However, I think we’re a little far from that. Jones was solid in the final two months of 2018, and Tavai will likely take a little bit of time.
22. WR Danny Amendola (High: 17, Low: 28)
Amendola is not Golden Tate. Let’s get that out of the way immediately. But in terms of work ethic, football IQ and comfortability under Matt Patricia, you won’t find many players that check all these boxes as emphatically as Amendola.
Amendola does come with some injury concerns, but when he’s healthy, he’s effective. And considering he’s already put in some extra work with Matthew Stafford, it’s fair to say Amendola will be a significant part of the game plan in 2019.
21. DE Romeo Okwara (High: 18, Low: 25)
When the Lions claimed Romeo Okwara off of waivers last year, it wasn’t a very popular move. In turn, the Lions cut fan favorite Anthony Zettel.
While Okwara had a productive preseason, his career with the Giants was unassuming, at best.
However, he made a lot of fans in 2018. Okwara led the Lions defense with 7.5 sacks, and did a decent job filling in for Ezekiel Ansah for the majority of the year. He still struggles with pass-rushing moves, but he’s a decent edge setter and run defender.
His performance was good enough to earn a two-year deal in Detroit this offseason, and at just 24 years old, we may have just seen the tip of the iceberg for Okwara.