The Detroit Lions will have an especially tough time determining which players will take up the final few roster spots this year. In addition to having a more competitive roster than in previous seasons, the Lions will also have fewer opportunities to really evaluate their players. With no preseason games this year, coaches will have to determine the skill set of their team simply through training camp, of which there may be fewer than a dozen fully padded practices.
As a result, coaches may rely on what they already know about these players rather than what they see in a limited sample size. If that’s the case, pretty much everyone in the middle of the roster is on notice, especially the younger guys.
So as we move into No. 60 through 51 on our own rankings of the Detroit Lions’ current 90-man roster, it’s important to note that none of these players should be considered extremely safe in their job with Detroit.
Reminder about our methodology: Five Pride of Detroit writers ranked the roster from 1 to 90. Those rankings were then averaged to create a master list.
60. CB Mike Jackson (Highest rank: 34, Lowest rank: 84)
Last year: N/A
There are clearly some big disagreements among staff on Mike Jackson. Two voters had him in the 30s, while two had him 70 or lower.
Personally, I find it hard to justify a 30s ranking for Jackson. He was a fifth-round pick by the Cowboys last year but didn’t make their final 53-man roster. A few months later, the Lions poached him off Dallas’ practice squad, but he remained inactive for the majority of the season. The only playing time he saw in all of his rookie season were two special teams snaps against Washington.
At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Jackson has the size and length that Detroit likes in their cornerbacks, but he remains an extreme unknown in a crowded cornerback room.
59. DT John Atkins (High: 48, Low: 80)
Last year: 67
Atkins has been with the Lions ever since the Patriots dropped him in their 53-man cutdown in 2018. After a short debut that year, Atkins became a regular rotational player last season amidst Detroit’s many defensive line injuries.
In six starts and 12 game appearances, Atkins compiled 20 tackles and a PFF grade of 49.2. Obviously that isn’t good enough, so Atkins will have to fight for a spot on the team as a reserve nose tackle with a couple of newcomers, including one player higher than him on this list.
58. WR Geronimo Allison (High: 39, Low, 72)
Last year: N/A
Allison will have a tough time making a stacked Lions receiver depth chart, but among the new free agent additions, he may have the best shot. Allison comes to Detroit with the most production of any newcomers (at least 200 receiving yards in each of the past four seasons).
He won’t contend for a returning job like some of the other candidates, but his size (6-foot-3) makes him an intriguing option. Still, you’d have to think someone like rookie Quintez Cephus may push him off the roster.
57. TE Isaac Nauta (High: 45, Low: 60)
Last year: 65
Given Detroit’s weak tight end depth, Nauta seems like a pretty safe bet for the final roster, especially when you consider he could potentially also be the team’s starting fullback. That all being said, Nauta hasn’t really played at a level yet worthy of a significant role. He only caught two passes as a receiver, and his play at fullback was subpar.
Of course, we’re talking about a seventh-round rookie last year, and it’s been well documented on how hard it is for tight ends to adjust to the NFL in their first season. The jury is still very much out on Nauta.
56. WR Chris Lacy (High: 43, Low: 66)
Last year: 68
As a big training camp underdog last year, Lacy made a good enough impression to make the 53-man roster. Late in the year, he even saw some playing time, hauling in three passes for 60 yards in the final three games of the season.
It won’t be as easy for him this year. With Detroit still set at their starters—Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and Danny Amendola—Lacy will have to fight for a roster spot with Marvin Hall, rookie Quintez Cephus and the aforementioned Geronimo Allison. There may be only two spots to among those four—and that’s not even counting guys like Victor Bolden or Travis Fulgham, who could also be in the mix.
55. DT John Penisini (High: 49, Low: 68)
Last year: N/A
Already a fan favorite for... reasons, the Lions’ 2020 sixth-round pick has an outside chance at earning a playing role in his rookie season. Penisini was a run defending force at Utah, and could very well slip in as the team’s backup nose tackle behind Danny Shelton.
Penisini is a strong player and a good person, and could be one of the better stories out of this late-round rookie class.
54. TE Hunter Bryant (High: 45, Low: 65)
Last year: N/A
Hunter Bryant has pretty much already been crowned this year’s undrafted rookie training camp darling. Many believe Bryant, who caught 52 balls for 825 yards last year with Washington, was talented enough to get drafted, but he surprisingly didn’t hear his name called in April.
The Lions, desperately needing to fill out their tight end depth, snagged Bryant. He could certainly sneak his way onto the roster if the Lions decide to keep four tight ends, but it’s hard to see him jumping Nauta in the depth chart considering the shortened offseason.
53. CB Mike Ford (High: 42, Low: 65)
Last year: 48
For the last couple of years, Ford has served as one of Detroit’s most prominent reserve cornerbacks. He’s started six games and played in 22 since 2018 but hasn’t quite flashed his potential as a defender.
That being said, what may carry him to the 53-man roster is his special teams contributions. He played in 252 special teams snaps last year and 57 the previous season.
However, with the additions of both Tony McRae and Darryl Roberts, the Lions may not need him as the primary backup or on special teams. He has some work to do to make this final 53.
52. LB Reggie Ragland (High: 42, Low: 64)
Last year: N/A
The Lions have not gotten the kind of production they’ve wanted out of their linebacking corps, so the addition of a former second-round talent like Ragland makes a lot of sense. While Ragland hasn’t quite lived up to his draft status, he’s been a somewhat reliable contributor in Kansas City for the last three years, mostly as a rotational player.
Ragland’s versatility gives him a very good chance at the final roster and even a playing role. However, there is no guarantee he takes to Patricia’s defense right away, and that could end up being the deciding factor for his roster status.
51. S C.J. Moore (High: 40, Low: 67)
Last year: 80
Moore was one of the better success stories among the Lions’ undrafted rookie class last season. Not only did he make the Lions’ 53-man roster, but he was active for all 16 games. He became a special teams standout (322 snaps), and even got a little playing time with the defense when Detroit was in an injury pinch (76 snaps).
He’ll have stiffer competition this year, but Moore’s spot on the roster seems relatively safe right now.