The first iteration of the Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster is set, but it is hardly set in stone.
As teams wrap up their roster cuts or, if you are the Houston Texans, trading everyone with a pulse, most players will be subjected to the waiver wire. Some teams are looking to stash promising youngsters on their practice squad, while others are simply cutting ties with players deemed not good enough. For a savvy team, however, this is an opportunity to scour the preseason talent pool in order to improve your roster.
Let’s take a look at some players the Lions could try to claim on waivers.
QB: Tyree Jackson, Bills
The Lions are in an interesting state at quarterback right now. They made the unexpected move of trading for Browns quarterback David Blough, and he and Josh Johnson both made the active roster so far. While Johnson brings a veteran presence to the team, Blough is a curious prospect. The Lions witnessed him playing in their final preseason game against Cleveland and decided to pull the trigger on him.
However, there is another young quarterback against whom the Lions played that could garner some interest: Tyree Jackson.
Jackson is a mountain of quarterback at 6-foot-7 and 249 pounds. He has a cannon for an arm, and coupled with his 4.59 40 speed, any quarterbacks coach would love the challenge of grooming him into a valuable asset.
However, at this stage, Jackson is really just that: athletic traits. He is in a similar vein as Logan Thomas, the quarterback-turned-tight end currently with Detroit. His accuracy is spotty and his decision making and footwork need a lot of improvement. The Lions are in a good situation where he would not need to see game action, and they feature a fellow flamethrower in Matthew Stafford. I certainly see more value in keeping him as their QB3 over Blough.
RB: John Kelly, Rams
Running back is probably the position that I do not see the Lions making any moves at. They are quite set with the solid backfield of Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Ty Johnson, and fullback Nick Bawden. Mark Thompson played well enough to likely earn a spot on the practice squad, but I never truly expected the Lions to keep him active.
Nonetheless, John Kelly would certainly be an intriguing option on the waiver wire. A sixth-round pick in 2018 by the Rams, Kelly was a victim of the numbers game, losing out to Malcolm Brown—whom the Lions tried to sign earlier this year—and rookie Darrell Henderson.
Kelly was a player I was quite high on during the draft, and although his time with the Rams is possibly over, that does not mean he is a bust. At just 22 years old, there is a lot to like, from his surprising power to his underrated receiving ability. C.J. Anderson might not be a long-term player for the Lions, but Kelly could be a suitable replacement for him, slotting in as the thunder to Kerryon’s lightning.
WR: Stanley Morgan Jr., Bengals
One of the biggest battles for the Lions was at wide receiver, and nobody really stood out. Rookie Travis Fulgham and Chris Lacy secured spots, but there is a lot of talent on the waiver wire that the Lions could explore.
Braxton Berrios, Keelan Doss, Cody Thompson, and Chad Williams are some of the names to keep an eye out, Berrios especially given his Patriots ties, but Stanley Morgan could end up being the best of the bunch.
The receiver out of Nebraska caught on with the Bengals and was considered one of the prized undrafted free agents. However, the Bengals, similar to the Lions, had a logjam at receiver, and despite keeping seven of them, Morgan was not one of them.
Morgan does not have any stand-out traits. He is not massive, at 6-feet tall. He is not a burner, with a 40 yard dash time of 4.53 seconds. He is not an elite route runner. This might sound as though he is a jack of all trades, master of none, and while that is technically true, he is one of the more well-rounded receivers from the 2019 Draft. He does a lot of things, and he does those things well. He is a perfect fit as a fourth or fifth wide receiver on a team.
TE: Dan Arnold, Saints
The Lions are rolling with three tight ends, and though Isaac Nauta is likely bound for the practice squad, they might look for competition to push Logan Thomas. Dan Arnold fits the bill as a somewhat surprising cut by the Saints.
Stephen White wrote an excellent piece about how 2019 could be Arnold’s breakout year. Well, he got cut. He also wrote that Teez Tabor would be a breakout candidate for the Lions. However, do not think so lowly of Arnold—a lot of what White wrote is true. He is a mismatch weapon at 6-foot-6, having previously converted from wide receiver. As a converted wide receiver, his blocking skills are lacking, but he makes up for it wit his route running. The Lions are going to experiment a lot with T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James, and Arnold could be a valuable receiving option for them to explore.
OL: Alex Bars, Bears
It is safe to say that the Lions’ offensive line in the preseason was... well... offensive. Although the Lions kept nine linemen, none of them played as well as Alex Bars did with the Bears. Much like Beau Benzschawel, Bars was considered a mid-round prospect, but went undrafted. Bars has a lot of versatility at both tackle and guard, and never looked out of place during the preseason. While I do not follow the Bears camp in depth, Alex Reno and I were surprised to hear that Bars was released. Bars could easily push Benzschawel or Oday Aboushi for a roster spot.
DE: John Franklin-Myers, Rams
John Franklin-Myers was a raw prospect coming out of Stephen F. Austin in 2018, but the Rams took him in the fourth round in hopes of developing him into another piece of their stud defensive line. Franklin-Myers added a strip sack in the Super Bowl during a rookie season where he flashed his athletic ability. It was a shock to most in the Rams community that he was released, essentially giving up on a very talented developmental player. Yes, he could clear waivers and return to their practice squad, thus justifying the risk, but a lot of teams should rightfully be interested in the 6-foot-4, 288 pound lineman. He could be a solid asset to the Lions’ stout defense.
DT: Anthony Rush, Raiders
Speaking of the Lions’ stout defense, the acquisition of Damon Harrison was the catalyst to a turnaround on defense last season. However, the Lions are lacking nose tackles, as nobody else on the roster fills that mold. P.J. Johnson was drafted in the seventh round, but he needs a lot of work before he is roster ready.
A rookie nose tackle who did look ready was Oakland’s Anthony Rush. Rush had a tremendous preseason for the Raiders, showcasing excellent run-stuffing ability and surprisingly good pressure. Raiders fans and writers have been singing praise for Rush, with many predicting him to make the roster over 2018 second-round pick P.J. Hall. However, Rush is now subjected to the waiver wire, and out of all the names I have covered and will cover in this article, Rush is the guy I want the Lions to snag the most.
LB: Alex Singleton, Eagles
I actually covered Alex Singleton last year when I featured some Canadian Football League players that could make an impact in the NFL. Singleton signed with the Eagles during the offseason, and over the course of the preseason was the same tackling machine that he was in Calgary. He finished tied for fifth for most tackles during the preseason, and he played well while doing it. The Eagles are apparently keen on signing him to their practice squad, but other teams should take a look at the former CFLer.
The Lions kept seven linebackers on their roster, but it is worth noting that Devon Kennard and Austin Bryant are pass rushing hybrids, while Miles Killebrew is a converted safety. Given the uncertainty with Jarrad Davis’s health, adding some reinforcements should be a priority for the Lions, and Singleton is one of the best available.
DB: Donovan Olumba, Cowboys
Much like running back, I do not expect the Lions to dive into the defensive back waiver wire pool. The Lions opted to carry seven cornerbacks and five safeties (six if you include Killebrew). However, Mike Ford, Dee Virgin, and Jamal Agnew did not stand out on defense, and along with C.J. Moore, likely made the roster based on their special teams abilities. Should the Lions opt for a player who could make an impact on defense, Donovan Olumba could be a viable option.
When looking at the Cowboys’ cuts, one name that stands out is Mike Jackson. The Cowboys parted ways with their 2019 fifth-round pick, though he is a likely candidate to join the practice squad. However, it was actually Olumba that was the surprising corner that was cut. Olumba outshined the rookie during the preseason, recording multiple pass breakups and even nabbing a pick-six. The 2018 undrafted free agent out of Portland State looked quite comfortable in the secondary and has been making plays all preseason. He should certainly get a look from the Detroit Lions, a team still trying to find some consistency in their secondary.