Rather than a traditional 53-man roster prediction, I’m going to do something a little different this year. A few weeks ago, I went through every member of the roster and ranked where I felt they were on the roster at their position. You can view the whole thing here, but I’m doing it all again now after processing the first three weeks of the preseason. You can do your thing and let me know where you agree or disagree in the comments. Let’s rock and roll!
QB1: Matthew Stafford
Not a whole lot to say here. Matthew Stafford is easily the most talented quarterback on the roster, which is why he’s starting for the 11th year in a row.
QB2: Tom Savage
Savage has the most gifted arm the Lions have had in camp since they drafted Matthew Stafford in 2009. Is he an accurate passer? No. Is he a superb athlete? No. But he’s the second-best passer on the roster and is familiar with the scheme and QB coach, so, health permitting, he’s QB2.
QB3: Luis Perez
An undrafted free agent from a small school in 2018, Perez spent more time throwing in the AAF than he has the NFL. Why over a veteran like Johnson? Because Perez is more of an unknown than a known commodity, which is enough to make him a practice squad candidate you can develop.
QB4: Josh Johnson
Josh Johnson has been on more than a dozen teams in his NFL career with a 1-7 record as a starter, a 4:7 TD:INT ratio, a 55.2 completion percentage, and a 61.7 passer rating in his career. Kept around for his years, not his arm.
RB1: Kerryon Johnson
The clear-cut best back on the roster, health is the only thing that should prevent Johnson from commanding the most carries and targets in the Lions backfield in 2019.
RB2: C.J. Anderson
A consistently efficient RB2 who can spot RB1 when needed, Anderson saw a ton of usage for the Lions in third-down type situations during training camp, including two minute drill rushes and targets.
RB3: Ty Johnson
Former Terp Ty Johnson gets his first taste of an NFL touchdown. pic.twitter.com/ozmTiQIkrp— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) August 24, 2019
Johnson adds an element of speed that the rest of the roster lacks, but his vision has been a question mark throughout his limited preseason touches. A promising player who deserves a longer look, I’m optimistic he’ll get a few game day touches with Zach Zenner gone.
RB4: Mark Thompson
A pure power back with very limited production at Florida 2016-2017, Thompson has been building on a strong preseason and training camp. He’s here only due to his usage, I haven’t seen enough to put him on the roster as a fourth rusher.
RB5: Justin Stockton
A four-year rusher at Texas Tech, Stockton was productive in the AAF before it folded and he found himself on the Lions. He hasn’t done enough in the preseason to think he’s going to challenge for a spot.
RB6: James Williams
Williams is unique in that he has a ton of fans in the draft community, but as he’s on the third team of his short NFL career, I think it’s safe to say there are some question marks here. Practice squad is his only real route to the team, barring an amazing performance Thursday night.
FB1: Nick Bawden
Nick Bawden was one of the best blocking fullbacks in the NCAA, and this offense looks like it will use a fullback fairly regularly. Bawden’s play in training camp and the preseason has given me enough reason to think our whole 4TE thing might not be a given.
WR1: Kenny Golladay
Golladay broke out in 2018, but the talent was apparent back at NIU when he was catching passes from converted defensive backs. In camp he’s been the most trusted target for Matthew Stafford, and I don’t expect that to stop under the big lights.
WR2: Marvin Jones Jr.
Jones has found himself alternating between WR1 and WR2 depending on the week and the matchups as a Lion. The only real question is how well he bounces back from his 2018 injury.
WR3: Danny Amendola
A perennial mainstay at slot in the NFL, Danny Amendola just has to remain healthy to command targets in this offense. I’m not projecting a career year like some, but if he can get and stay healthy, he should hit his normal level of productivity.
WR4: Chris Lacy
The Lions haven’t had anyone step up in the WR4 or WR5 role, so I’m going to read the tea leaves a bit here. The Lions seem to really like Lacy, both in how he was used in camp and the preseason, and with talents in both blocking and special teams I’m going to put him here as the first WR on after the first three.
WR5: Travis Fulgham
I could cop out and put Fulgham on solely due to his draft status, but I think with how Fulgham has played both as a receiver and on special teams, he’s earned this as a consideration. Golladay-like high upside keeps him on.
WR6: Andy Jones
I wasn’t sure who to put here, but I’m keeping Andy Jones on for his special teams value and skills as a blocker. He still needs to improve catching the football and getting separation.
WR7: Tom Kennedy
Kennedy got some looks as a backup slot receiver and played admirably in that role. A superior athlete with plenty of developmental upside, if he can fix his hands, he could be a productive player in the NFL.
WR8: Brandon Powell
Powell has gotten plenty of looks as a gadget player and as a reserve returner, but I didn’t see enough to have him making the team a second time. He’ll need to finish the preseason strong, like he did in 2018, to make it even a possibility for me.
WR9: Tommylee Lewis
Lewis is a veteran with returner value and some small value as a veteran backup. Injuries have kept him from really fighting for a spot and what little I got to see wasn’t very impressive.
WR10: Jonathan Duhart
Duhart doesn’t have a lot of visible upside, but his nice 28-yard grab in Week 2 of the preseason showed he might have some developmental value. It’s most likely on teams or on the practice squad, however.
WR11: Jordan Lasley
Lasley is on his third team of the preseason and hasn’t done enough to show much hope of sticking.
TE1: T.J. Hockenson
Hockenson is the team’s top tight end in terms of talent and upside, and he’s already build a solid rapport with his quarterback. Will he get hit by the routine rookie tight end learning curve? Probably, but if I had to bet on one tight end going against that long-standing trend, it would be this guy.
TE2: Jesse James
James is a solid TE2 and looks like he’s going to keep being one. His preseason was a bit underwhelming, but with so many moving parts with the implementation of a new offense I’m not worried.
TE3: Logan Thomas
After a hot start to training camp, Logan Thomas’ hype died down to a whimper. Still, I have no reason yet to suspect he doesn’t start day one as the third tight end in this rotation with a game day role.
TE4: Isaac Nauta
With all of my concerns about Nauta when he was drafted, one thing I didn’t worry about was his hands. And yet, that’s been the biggest concern of the seventh-round rookie, and it’s enough of one that I wouldn’t consider him the lock I once did. Likely inactive on game day if he does make the roster.
TE5: Jerome Cunningham
Cunningham flashed a bit as a special teamer, but has done little to nothing as a receiving or blocking option to get me excited.
TE6: Austin Traylor
Traylor hasn’t done anything to move up from this spot in any phase of action.
LT1: Taylor Decker
Decker has done pass rushers dirty this preseason to keep his quarterback clean, a promising development if there ever was one. Here’s to hoping he keeps it up.
RT1: Rick Wagner
Wagner, like Decker, has done his duty and kept his quarterback off the turf. He’s entering an important season contract wise, so staying healthy and playing well have never been more crucial in his time as a Lion.
OT3/IOL4: Kenny Wiggins
There are 14 OTs that have played at least 25 pass blocking snaps this preseason without allowing a pressure— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) August 26, 2019
3 of those OTs wear Honolulu Blue for the #Lions
K. Wiggins- 44 snaps, 76.2 PB Grade
R. Wagner- 28 snaps, 72.0 PB Grade
T. Decker- 28 snaps, 85.2 PB Grade#OnePride
With as much concern as there has been about Wiggins possibly winning the starting job at guard, he’s actually done pretty well in limited action as a reserve tackle. By default, based on how the other OT have played, he’d be OT3 based on that.
OT4: Tyrell Crosby
Many thought Crosby was ready to take the next step, but prior to his concussion (which was a pre-draft concern), Crosby’s play had been disastrous. Until they have a better reserve option, though, I think he sticks.
OT5: Andrew Donnal
Donnal was carried through 2018 and expected to be depth in 2019. His play has been extremely concerning, but with the lack of options he might still have a shot at the roster.
OT6: Ryan Pope
Pope was highly paid to secure his services as a UDFA, but he has shown that his path to development is going to be a very long one. He still has a road to the practice squad, but it’s a bumpy one.
OT7: Matt Nelson
Like Pope, Matt Nelson was brought in with an expected amount of development needed. He’s looked like a guy with a long road, but he’s working down it. Intriguing level of talent.
LG1: Joe Dahl
Dahl fought his way to a starting role, I think, and while he’s still not a player I’m incredibly comfortable with starting, he’s played well enough to secure the job.
OC1: Frank Ragnow
Ragnow is back at his natural position and playing well. His injury is a setback, but if he continues to elevate his play as I expect, he could be a Pro Bowler sooner than later.
RG1: Graham Glasgow
Stafford’s stalwart soldier, Glasgow is back in 2019 playing a new position and hoping to carry his normally solid play into a new year.
IOL5: Beau Benzschawel
Benzschawel had a rough start to training camp and didn’t come along swiftly. He’s ending the preseason well, however, and he’s probably in the best position of the UDFA to make the roster on offense.
IOL6: Oday Aboushi
Aboushi was brought in to fight for a starting gig, and while he hasn’t officially lost that spot (we don’t officially know which guard is where), he’s looked like he’s been leaped by a rookie.
IOL7: Luke Bowanko
There was a moment in camp where Bowanko looked like he could fight for a roster spot as a reserve IOL, but that didn’t last very long. A few mistakes later and it’s hard to find a spot for him.
OL8: Leo Koloamatangi
Narrowly missing out on a reserve role the past few years, it’s not as narrow of a miss in 2019. Koloamatangi started camp lower on the chart than he’s ever been and stayed there.
IOL9: Micah St. Andrew
An undrafted rookie generally starts at the bottom of the depth chart, and St. Andrew both started and finished the preseason there.
DE1: Trey Flowers
Flowers has been recovering from surgery, so we have yet to see what he can really do. Not much to say since we haven’t seen him play.
JACK1: Devon Kennard
Nobody has come close to stealing snaps from Kennard at his position. While Kennard needs to seriously step up his play from 2018 (where he was one of the lowest graded pass rushers), his job is safe on the roster right now.
DE2: Romeo Okwara
Okwara found decent sack production in 2018, but struggled overall as a pass rusher. I’m far more excited to see him playing as a rotational rusher than a starter, because with a fresh motor, he has skills.
DE3: Mitchell Loewen
Loewen lit up training camp but was largely quiet in the preseason. He’s done enough, however, that I think he’s jumped in front of Eric Lee, who the team seemed to favor early on.
DE4: Eric Lee
The staff really seemed to like Lee to start training camp and he was given every opportunity in camp and the preseason to justify that. He hasn’t, and I now I struggle to see a spot for him on the game day roster.
DE5: Jonathan Wynn
I was fairly impressed with the play of Jonathan Wynn, but it’s been hard for me to find a way to get him on the roster. Practice squad maybe.
JACK2: Garret Dooley
Garret Dooley looked good in training camp in various roles, but I think if he makes the roster it will be backing up Devon Kennard as a rusher.
JACK3: Austin Bryant
Bryant started as all rookies do, but he has been dealing with injury so much he never really moved from that spot. Plenty left to show, but very little shown so far.
JACK4: Malik Carney
Carney came in with many high on his chances to make some noise on the roster, but he has played poorly when given opportunities and never stepped up to challenge a larger role.
Interior Defensive Line
NT1: Damon Harrison
Snacks is a monster. Feared by interior blockers everywhere, he keeps running backs awake at night.
IDL1: Da’Shawn Hand
Is it ambitious to put Hand as the top interior rusher this early in his career? Probably. But I think he’s shown himself to be good enough to be here, and if he gets and remains healthy, he’s going to be a force.
IDL2: Mike Daniels
Daniels isn’t the rusher he once was and injuries remain a concern, but he’s one of the only interior defenders the Lions have who can rush the passer at a high level, so he’s going to get some serious work.
IDL3: A’Shawn Robinson
A prime trade candidate, Robinson is a very good player who will always find time in this rotation if he stays on. His value is primarily as a run defender, and Lions have plenty of that, but he can be a force when he wants to.
IDL4: Kevin Strong
Strong came out of nowhere to shine both in camp and the preseason, but I can’t say for sure it’s enough to make the roster given the way it’s currently constructed. He’s looked pretty good, enough to make passing through waivers tough.
IDL5: Ray Smith
Smith is the guy you forgot was on the roster until you read this.
NT2: Fred Jones
I don’t think the team carries a second nose tackle, making it tough to rank them. As such, I just went with who I was most impressed with, rather than who I think actually has a shot. Jones has been a pleasant surprise.
NT3: P.J. Johnson
Johnson has been pretty clearly overwhelmed at the NFL level so far, and though he’s been given a few shots to jump others, he has yet to do so.
NT4: John Atkins
Atkins got playing time in 2018, but he’s done nothing to impress so far in 2019.
LB1: Jarrad Davis
Davis is the most talented linebacker on the roster, but he has struggled to live up to his first-round billing. His injury puts the team in a spot since they lack speed with their other linebackers. His absence will be felt in pass rush more than elsewhere.
LB2: Jahlani Tavai
Tavai’s 22.2% run stop % ranks 4th among LBs (6 tackles/assists in run game ranks 3rd most without a missed tackle)— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) August 26, 2019
34 of his 39 snaps have been lining up in the box
Tavai has been impressive as a run defender both in camp and preseason, and has looked good in zone coverage. Issues in man, both in camp and preseason, could cause problems. Though, he has impressed with how quickly he’s absorbed the scheme.
LB3: Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Reeves-Maybin has played better this preseason than he ever has, and with Jarrad Davis’ injury, he has a chance to really carve out a role. His durability has always been a question and remains the biggest roadblock to serious playing time.
LB4: Miles Killebrew
Killebrew has played well enough in camp and the preseason for me to think he could seriously push for a role. Whether he will is largely going to be based on personnel alignments and coaching preference for guys with size, but I think he deserves it.
LB5: Christian Jones
Christian Jones has been quiet all preseason, enough so that without Jarrad Davis’ injury, I’d be questioning his roster status. As it is, he’ll probably play a decent amount in this defense.
LB6: Steve Longa
A special teams standout, the staff is known to really like Steve Longa. If he makes the roster, it’s mostly for his special teams ability, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him active some game days.
LB7: Anthony Pittman
Pittman has played far better than most predicted or expected, but I don’t think it has been enough to challenge for a roster spot. Most likely, he’s headed to the practice squad.
CB1: Darius Slay
CB2: Rashaan Melvin
Melvin took the CB2 spot to begin camp and while it seemed like some may have had a chance to challenge him, he never relinquished that spot. CB2 is a concern, but he’s played well enough to give me some wait and see.
CB3: Justin Coleman
Coleman has struggled a lot more than anyone wanted when the Lions paid him big money in free agency to lock down the slot, but he’s shown enough that he’s still CB3 so far.
CB4: Jamal Agnew
Agnew’s play has been up and down, but it’s been good enough that I’m hopeful to see more of him on defense to go along with his normal special teams heroics.
CB5: Amani Oruwariye
Oruwariye has been a test case in how high and how low your play can be. Every snap is a new adventure, but I’m hopeful his positive traits become the norm quicker than his negative.
CB6: Teez Tabor
Tabor started camp fighting for CB2, and while he looked better than he has since his rookie year he still struggled mightily whenever the pass was more than 10 yards in the air.
CB7: Mike Ford
Ford wasn’t able to build on the momentum he had leaving 2018, but he still has an outside shot of making the roster or the practice squad based on how he played last year.
CB8: Dee Virgin
Some have been impressed enough with his play to think Virgin makes the roster, but the only times I’ve noticed him have been far less positively impactful.
CB9: Jamar Summers
Summers was a late comer to the team, and while he’s shown a few bright moments with the third team, it’s not enough to make the roster without an amazing Game 4.
CB10: Johnathan Alston
Alston flashed a couple of times this preseason, but only late in games against low competition. Gotta do more than that to win a spot.
CB11: Andre Chachere
Chachere came with little fanfare, and while he never played poorly enough to warrant an early cut he never stood out positively either.
FS1: Quandre Diggs
Diggs is coming off a career year as a safety, and he’s looked ready to build upon that play. I’m looking forward to seeing it.
SS1: Tracy Walker
The hype for Tracy Walker continues, and it extends beyond his play into his leadership ability. If Walker builds upon the play we’ve seen so far, we’re in store for a special season.
S3: Tavon Wilson
Wilson might be trade bait, he might not make the team, or he might be a game day active. He’s a versatile player with value for the Lions, but if he makes the team, I’m expecting him to slide right back into his previous role with the team.
S4: Will Harris
Harris’ camp was beyond rough, but he’s looked far better in game action this preseason. It’s enough that I’ve moved beyond considering this a redshirt year and thinking he might have a rookie-Killebrew type of role with the team.
S5: Andrew Adams
Adams is a gambler and it can come back and bite him. Lions fans are familiar with the type, and it’s nice to have that type of guy as a reserve option and not a full-time starter.
S6: C.J. Moore
I’m probably higher on Moore than most, but he’s more likely headed to the practice squad than the regular roster. He’s looked promising on defense and on special teams, and I’m hopeful to see more.
S7: Charles Washington
Washington is a strong special teamer, but we keep waiting to see something more promising on defense to justify keeping him around.
K1: Matt Prater
Prater is and remains the man in Detroit.
P1: Sam Martin
Sam Martin looked fantastic in camp and I’m expecting a return to his normally strong special teams play.
LS1: Don Muhlbach
You know the routine.
K2: Ryan Santoso
Santoso has looked fine, but has worked like a traditional camp leg this season and hasn’t made any movement to jump anyone.