We’ve reached the 40s in our countdown of the Detroit Lions’ 2020 roster. While these players are technically above the key number 53—the number of players that will be on Detroit’s regular season roster—I wouldn’t consider most of the players in this range “safe.” They either have some work to do to jump other players on the roster or they’ll have to stave off competition for their job.
Still, most of these players are in a pretty good spot to be on the squad come September, and some will even play significant roles on the field.
Let’s get into it.
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.
50. G Beau Benzschawel (Highest ranking: 39, Lowest ranking: 54)
Last year: 51
Last year’s UDFA darling, Benzschawel managed to make the roster, but didn’t manage much playing time. In fact, he only played six special teams snaps all year.
However, toward the end of the season, Benzshawel started garnering center snaps in practice, paving a different way for him to make the roster. With Graham Glasgow now gone, the Lions’ backup center job is open and at the moment, it appears the only two true contenders are Benzschawel and veteran Russell Bodine.
49. LS Don Muhlbach (High: 29, Low: 62)
Last year: 54
How valuable is a long snapper? That answer appears to be wildly variant depending on who you ask. One member on staff ranked long-time long snapper Don Muhlbach in the top 30 (guilty!), while a couple had him outside the top 60.
No matter what you think of Muhlbach, it will be interesting to see if youngster Steven Wirtel has any chance at dethroning the most seasoned player on the Lions roster.
48. RB Ty Johnson (High: 40, Low: 49)
Last year: 49
Johnson didn’t move much from his ranking last year despite some positive contributions late in his rookie season. Part of the reason for the skepticism may be Detroit drafting Jason Huntley with their fifth-round pick this year, which could threatens Johnson’s roster spot.
47. G Oday Aboushi (High: 22, Low: 60)
Last year: 40
Aboushi re-signed with the Lions this offseason after serving as a reserve interior offensive line last year. With the two guards drafted this year, Aboushi’s spot on the roster this year is much less safe than last year.
Still, Aboushi brings some versatility by being able to play both guard positions, and his experience could be helpful for the young guys.
46. S Jayron Kearse (High: 27, Low: 58)
Last year: N/A
Kearse is going to make the safety depth camp battle very interesting this year. While he doesn’t project to be in the top three safeties, his experience as a starter (five games) and at special teams will make him a valuable option in case the Lions are hit by the injury bug.
45. DT Kevin Strong (High: 38, Low: 49)
Last year: 71
For an undrafted rookie, Strong found a surprisingly high amount of playing time on the Lions’ defense (172 snaps). Though much of that was due to Detroit’s unfortunate injury situation on the defensive line, Strong still clearly impressed the coaching staff enough to give him the opportunity.
That being said, Strong will have to battle rookie draft pick John Penisini among others to hold onto his job.
44. LB Austin Bryant (High: 36, Low: 53)
Last year: 46
Bryant had an unfortunate rookie season, suffering an injury in training camp and not seeing the field until Week 12. He didn’t make much of an impact at all, but with the release of Devon Kennard this offseason, Bryant is lined up to make some serious contributions at jack linebacker this year. Don’t take my word for it, here’s Lions general manager Bob Quinn.
“You guys saw glimpses of him last year, but he’s a guy that we’re counting on to do some things this year for us, in terms of pass rush.”
43. RB Jason Huntley (High: 37, Low: 50)
Last year: N/A
The aforementioned threat to Ty Johnson’s job, Huntley brings similar speed but even more skills catching out of the backfield. Whether he’ll be competing for a role like J.D. McKissic last year or perhaps even a return job, Huntley will definitely be in the hunt for a roster spot next month.
42. LB Miles Killebrew (High: 33, Low: 54)
Last year: 50
Killebrew earned a second contract with the Lions, but he still hasn’t found his place as a defensive contributor at the NFL level. That being said, Killebrew is a huge special teams force and still has a good chance landing a job based on that alone. Still, his transformation to linebacker over the past couple of years doesn’t seem to have helped his chances of getting on the field on defense.
41. WR Quintez Cephus (High: 35, Low: 48)
Last year: N/A
Cephus may not have a direct line to playing experience in his rookie season, seeing as the Lions’ top receiving options from last year are all returning. However, I get the general sense that there is a fair amount of hype surrounding Cephus’ long-term viability in Detroit. His strong arms and aggressive playing style could translate well to the next level. Given Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola are all on expiring contracts, Cephus’ future could be in 2021.