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Ranking the Detroit Lions’ 2020 roster: 90-81

Our ranking of the Detroit Lions’ 90-man roster begins with the bottom 10.

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NFL: Detroit Lions-Training Camp Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There is no exercise more eye-opening to the level of talent a team has than ranking their roster from 1 to 90. Though it’s hard to really get a sense of how good a team’s depth is when you’re only doing it with one NFL franchise, it really does give you a good sense of how much talent a team has from top to bottom.

Since 2017, the Pride of Detroit staff has done this, giving us a better sense of the team’s strengths and weaknesses while also providing an interesting historical look at the Lions and how they’ve changed over the year. For example, last year’s top 10 includes four players that are no longer even on the team—including two of the top three. If you’re curious, and have some time on your hands, here are the lists from 2017, 2018 and 2019 (each are of the top 10 with links to the previous 80).

This year, five Pride of Detroit staffers participated in the list: Myself, Mansur Shaheen, Alex Reno, Justin Simon and John Whiticar. The rankings were then averaged out to create a master list.

Here are the bottom 10 players currently on the Lions roster, according to our rankings.

90. LS Steven Wirtel (Highest vote: 85, Lowest vote: 90)

Last year: N/A

The least safe spot on the Lions roster over the past two decades has been backup long snapper. Although Don Muhlbach is now 38 years old, it still seems like a longshot that rookie long snapper Steven Wirtel has any legitimate shot at his job, even if he was a finalist for the best long snapper in the nation in 2019.

89. FB Luke Sellers (High: 79, Low: 90)

Last year: N/A

An ongoing theme for this bottom 10 is undrafted rookie. Sellers hails from south Dakota State, where he was a team captain for the Jackrabbits in 2019. He also made the second team of the All-Missouri Valley Conference team last year. But behind both Nick Bawden, and possibly Isaac Nauta, at the fullback position, Sellers will have a tough time seeing the final 53.

88. S Jalen Elliott (High: 83, Low: 89)

Last year: N/A

Another undrafted rookie—this time, from a more reputable college in Notre Dame—Jalen Elliott was actually on PFF’s list of 15 best undrafted rookies this year.

“We saw the high-end of what Elliott could do in 2018, though, with an 81.4 overall grade and an 87.6 grade in coverage,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “There’s a physicality to his game when paired with his length that can play in the NFL.”

Detroit, however, is pretty crowded in their safety room, so if Elliott is going to make an impact in the NFL, it won’t likely be this year.

87. S Jeremiah Dinson (High: 82, Low: 89)

Last year: N/A

If you’re an experienced football player from the SEC, chances are you’re going to get a shot at the NFL. Dinson is an Auburn alum, with two years starting experience at safety and some nickelback experience, as well. Dinson faces the same uphill battle that Elliott must go through, but he has some serious college production to turn some heads (214 career tackles, 4 INTs, 2 forced fumbles).

86. LB Christian Sam (High: 79, Low: 88)

Last year: N/A

Sam was originally a sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2018, but he has yet to make an NFL appearance. The Lions added him to the practice squad late last year as the injuries started to mount up on defense, but he remains an extreme long shot to make the roster in 2020.

85. TE Matt Sokol (High: 78, Low: 87)

Last year: N/A

Sokol will be a familiar name among locals, as he just wrapped a career with the Michigan State Spartans. Sokol was not much of an offensive threat in the receiving game, catching 31 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns spread across three seasons. However, his size and attitude could lend himself to being a decent blocker at the next level.

While Detroit’s tight end group doesn’t have a ton of depth, Sokol will enter training camp on the outside looking in.

84. DT Olive Sagapolu (High: 68, Low: 88)

Last year: N/A

Like Sam, Sagapolu was added to the Lions late last year to the practice squad to get an early look for 2020. Detroit kept him around with a futures contract, and now the 6-foot-2, 330 pound defensive tackle will contend for the backup nose tackle job with John Atkins and sixth-round rookie John Penisini.

83. WR Geremy Davis (High: 77, low: 88)

Last year: N/A

Davis is the oldest member of the bottom 10, hanging around the NFL still at 28 years old. A former sixth-round pick of the New York Giants, Davis had spent his last four seasons with the Chargers. However, he’s only made 26 game appearances over that time and caught just five passes.

That all being said, the Chargers must have liked what they saw out of him on special teams, as he was a regular contributor in both 2018 and 2019.

Davis is stuck behind a talented and deep roster at wide receiver, but don’t completely sleep on his special teams value.

82. OT Dan Skipper (High: 64, Low: 89)

Last year: N/A—2018: 88th

This is Skipper’s second go-around with the Lions after a short stint from 2017 to 2018. Detroit claimed him off waivers last November, only to bounce him on and off the practice squad in the final six weeks of the season.

Skipper’s biggest claim to fame is his height—6-foot-10. He hasn’t played any significant snaps on offense, but did get a little special teams action last year with both the Lions and the Texans.

81. OT Matt Nelson (High: 75, Low: 83)

Last year: 88

As an undrafted rookie, Nelson spent the entire 2019 season waiting patiently on the Lions’ practice squad. This year, he’ll try to content for a reserve job with the aforementioned Skipper and Tyrell Crosby.

Nelson’s a fairly unknown commodity, but the fact that he was able to stick around on the practice squad for the entire season and was given a futures contract means he’ll have a shot.

Nelson is a converted defensive lineman, so he’s always been a project. Perhaps a full season on the practice squad has given him the time needed to be a true contender for a backup job. We’ll have to wait for training camp to see the progress he’s made in a year.

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