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Monday open thread: Which player is a dark horse to make the 53-man roster?

Which player could sneak onto the roster?

Indianapolis Colts vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On Thursday, Jeremy Reisman covered some players that could be surprise cuts as the Detroit Lions trim their roster to 53 players. Today, however, I want to look at players that could surprisingly make the roster.

The preseason has come and gone, and the Lions are left with multiple decisions to make. The choices are difficult for a myriad of reasons. For someone like Breshad Perriman or Jahlani Tavai, their preseason play has been so lackluster that you have to consider cutting them. On the other end of the spectrum are players that shined in preseason but face stiff competition. You can look no further than the running back room, where every single back has made a case to make the roster.

However, there are often cases where a player flew under the radar and still makes the team. Last season, the Lions kept linebacker Elijah Lee on their initial 53-man roster, a move that almost nobody expected. In 2018, the Lions stunned many by keeping a sixth receiver in Bradley Marquez, a player with a single catch that preseason. Special teams are a key factor that often go underappreciated, and it was their proficiency that earned Lee and Marquez their spots. Neither player lasted long on the roster, however, indicating their status at the bottom of the roster bottom pole.

We know the names of the preseason stars and disappointments, but how about the dark horses?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Which player is a dark horse to make the 53-man roster?

My answer: I think Tommy Kraemer is an unexpected candidate that could make the roster.

Kraemer has seen plenty of action this preseason, including playing every single snap in the game versus the Colts. The undrafted rookie guard has performed decently, although not amazingly. What makes Kraemer a possible roster candidate is the injury bug that has plagued the offensive line.

The most serious injury occurred to tackle Dan Skipper, who was having an outstanding preseason. He was forced to leave the Colts game on a cart, which does not bode well for his chances of playing any time soon. Additionally, Tyrell Crosby has also been nagged by injuries so far in training camp. While Kraemer does not play tackle, those injuries could result in Matt Nelson playing exclusively at tackle—Nelson saw action at guard in Game 1 against the Bills.

Logan Stenberg is the top guard backup, but he, too, suffered an injury against the Colts. He was able to walk off the field, but he did not look comfortable. Suddenly, that injury could thrust Kraemer into the role of top reserve guard. The remaining offensive line depth includes Evan Brown, Evan Heim, and Darrin Paulo. Brown is a center by trade and seems likely to make the team as Frank Ragnow’s backup. Heim has been shifted around in preseason from guard to center, indicating that the team is trying to find a spot for him—not a great sign. Paulo is a tackle, and hasn’t done enough in preseason to warrant keeping him.

If the Lions are concerned about Stenberg, they could keep Kraemer on the 53-man roster if they do not want to risk him getting claimed on waivers. Lions could opt to cut both of their kickers, as I suggested earlier, and that would free up an extra roster spot for Kraemer. Then, once the roster was established, they could move Stenberg to the Injured Reserve and bring back a kicker.

Jeremy had Kraemer on his 53-man roster prediction, and I am inclined to agree. I don’t know if Kraemer would last the entire season on the active roster, but I think he could sneak onto the initial roster.

Your turn.