Our countdown of the Detroit Lions’ 2021 roster comes to a close today. This exercise is always an eye-opening experience for a couple of reasons. You really get a sense of a team’s depth—or lack thereof—by ranking the roster from one to 90. Additionally, it’s always fascinating to see how we overrated/underrated players from previous seasons. Oftentimes, we’ll overrate a young player expecting them to immediately contribute (see: Jeff Okudah’s drop from 9 last year to 13 this year). Sometimes, there’s a player who just completely surprises. Romeo Okwara was 25th on our rankings last year, but this season he has jumped into the top 10.
So let’s bring this thing to a close by taking a look at the players we ranked as the top 10 on the Detroit Lions’ 2021 roster.
Note on methodology: Six Pride of Detroit members ranked the entire roster from 89 to 1. This list represents the averaged rankings of all six lists. The list was created before training camp started.
- Players 89-81
- Players 80-71
- Players 70-61
- Players 60-51
- Players 50-41
- Players 40-31
- Players 30-21
- Players 20-11
10. P Jack Fox (Highest ranking: 3; Lowest ranking: 14)
Last year: 74
No one took a bigger jump in expectations than Jack Fox. This time last year, we didn’t even know if Fox would win the punter job. He was actually ranked one spot below his competition, Arryn Siposs, on our list.
Fox not only won the job, but was one of the best punters in the league. And at just 24 years old, it appears he has a long career ahead of him.
Of course, having a punter in your top 10 probably isn’t a great sign for the overall roster, but is there any Lions player who is better at his individual position than Fox?
9. LB Jamie Collins Sr. (Highest: 9; Lowest: 13)
Last year: 7
Hard to tell if Collins’ two-spot drop is a sign the Lions’ top eight is stronger than last year or if our staff is expecting a down year from the veteran linebacker. Collins will be playing in a scheme independent of the Patriots defensive strategy, which has not gone great in the past. But, he will also have a prominent role that will utilize his athleticism and maybe even send him on a few blitzes this year. Collins had 7.0 sacks back in 2019 with the Patriots. Can the Lions get him back to that kind of production? (He had one last year)
8. OT Penei Sewell (Highest: 7; Lowest: 10)
Last year: N/A
It’s been two years since Penei Sewell has played competitive football, but expectations are understandably high for the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Sewell was the best offensive line prospect in this year’s draft, and some believe he’s barely scratched the surface of what he’s capable of because the kid is only 20 years old.
7. DT Michael Brockers (Highest: 6; Lowest: 11)
Last year: N/A
Another troubling sign for this roster: a player the team traded a 2023 seventh-round pick for lands in the top seven. Sure, the Rams shipped him off for such a low price because they needed the $6.2 million in cap space they saved with the move, but the fact the Lions weren’t outbid by another team is a bit telling.
That’s not to say anything bad about Brockers the player. He brings a veteran presence to a young interior defender room, and he’s been one of the most dependably consistent players for the Rams over the past nine seasons.
6. RB D’Andre Swift (Highest: 5; Lowest: 9)
Last year: 20
Swift makes a big jump this year after a promising rookie season. Without a doubt, Swift will be a centerpiece of the offense this year. If he can maintain the 4.6 yards per carry from 2020, he could have a huge 2021 with a big increase in touches expected.
Perhaps his biggest contribution will be to the receiving game. Even with the Lions easing him into the lineup last year, he still caught 46 passes. That number could be close to doubled based on what we’ve seen in camp.
5. EDGE Romeo Okwara (Highest: 5; Lowest: 7)
Last year: 25
Okwara’s breakout season pushes him into the top five this year. He managed the Lions’ first 10-sack season since Ezekiel Ansah in 2017.
This year, he’ll have a slight positional change, moving from defensive end to outside linebacker, but he’ll role will still be the same: get after the quarterback. If training camp is any indication, he hasn’t slowed down a bit, and if the 26-year-old pass rusher can replicate his success, he could get some serious national recognition, too.
4. EDGE Trey Flowers (Highest: 2; Lowest: 4)
Last year: 4
While neither have reached elite status, it has to feel at least somewhat comforting that the Lions have two pass rushers ranked in the top five of their roster. Flowers hasn’t quite lived up to his $90 million billing, but his play is still well above average.
He faces some challenges this year, though: moving to an unfamiliar scheme, making the same positional transition as Okwara, and returning from an injury-filled season. Still, Flowers has always been a hard worker, and I wouldn’t bet against him this year.
3. LT Taylor Decker (Highest: 2; Lowest: 6)
Last year: 6
Decker has quietly put together borderline elite seasons in three out of his five years as a pro. Last year was his best according to PFF, earning a 82.0 overall grade and an 85.8 pass blocking grade. He held an 11-month sackless streak, and ended up only allowing two sacks (both in a single game) in 2020. Still just 26 years old, Decker figures to be a part of this offensive line for years to come.
2. TE T.J. Hockenson (Highest: 2; Lowest: 4)
Last year: 11
One of the Lions’ two Pro Bowlers last year, Hockenson established himself as a top-10 tight end in the league after pulling in 723 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 2020. Expectations are somehow even higher for the 24-year-old tight end, as he figures to be one of Jared Goff’s primary targets this year—maybe the primary target.
1. G Frank Ragnow (Highest: 1; Lowest: 1)
Last year: 3
Only three years into his NFL career, Ragnow has already established himself as the consensus best player on the roster. It’s not just our staff, either. Back in June we asked you who you believed was the best player on the roster and 51 percent of you picked Ragnow.
Whether it was playing through a fractured neck or his 80.3 PFF grade (second among centers), Ragnow endeared himself to the city of Detroit last year, and the Lions rewarded him this offseason with a fat four-year, $54 million contract. The ensuing press conference was an all-timer, making Ragnow one of the most beloved players on the roster.