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Ranking the 2021 Detroit Lions roster: Players 30-21

Our countdown of the Lions’ 2021 roster continues.

Detroit Lions Training Camp Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

As our countdown of the best Detroit Lions players on the 2021 roster continues, we’re starting to get into the major players who will be responsible for this team’s success or failure.

The 20s feature several rookies, rotational players, and even a handful of starters. It’s telling that in this feature of 10 players, six of them are completely new to the team. That is obviously going to be a common feature for the rest of this list, seeing as the Lions went through a significant overhaul under a new regime.

Here are the players we ranked from 30 to 21 on the Lions 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.


30. LB Derrick Barnes (Highest ranking: 25; Lowest ranking: 36)

Last year: N/A

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of Barnes during spring practices nor training camp as he continues to be hampered with a lingering hamstring injury. That being said, the Lions’ 2021 fourth-round pick is coming into Detroit with high expectations. With an excellent athletic profile, Barnes represents the new kind of linebacker this team wants, but it just may be a while until we see him on the field, given the injury and his rawness.

29. EDGE Julian Okwara (Highest: 28; Lowest: 38)

Last year: 23

That being said, there are reasons to believe Julian could be in for a big jump in Year 2. Injuries derailed his rookie season, but he’s due to have a big rotational role this year, and he’s just now starting to make some splashes in training camp. Coming off the bench should keep him fresh and, hopefully, healthy.

28. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu (Highest: 25; Lowest: 34)

Last year: N/A

Melifonwu is very likely to get the redshirt freshman treatment his rookie season, as he’s both very raw and Detroit appears to already favor a few guys ahead of him on the depth chart. That being said, it’s also clear the Lions believe they have something special for the future.

“When you have a guy of that size and that speed and smart—he’s smart—you really like to have a developmental guy like that,” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Melifonwu. “I’m just looking forward to him continuing to progress as his training camp goes, and I think he’s going to be all good.”

27. WR Breshad Perriman (Highest: 19; Lowest: 33)

Last year: N/A

Perriman has yet to live up to his first-round status, and he hasn’t exactly made a huge impression in training camp yet. That being said, he’ll likely have all season to turn his career around, as Detroit’s receiver room is not exactly the most competitive.

26. G Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Highest: 19; Lowest: 35)

Last year: 19

Unsurprisingly, Vaitai fell seven spots in our rankings due to a rough 2020 season. Call them excuses, call it context, but there are several reasons to believe he’ll be better after last year’s struggles. He was signed by the Lions with the expectation to be the team’s right tackle, only to be swapped to guard late in the offseason. He dealt with a foot injury for nearly the entire season. And now he’ll stay inside between one of the best centers in football and the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

If Vaitai doesn’t play better in 2021, he’s out of excuses. Everything is set up for him to succeed.

25. DT Da’Shawn Hand (Highest: 20; Lowest: 36)

Last year: 12

There aren’t a lot of Lions players who fell in our rankings this year. The worst offenders from last year don’t play here anymore, and many of the ones that stuck around jumped up in the ranking simply due to a thinner roster.

But Hand dropped 13 spots as we get further and further away from his promising rookie season. Injuries have robbed Hand of many opportunities to play, but even when he was on the field—you may be surprised to hear he played in 10 games last year—he simply was not making an impression.

He looks much better at camp this year, but skepticism is high in Detroit. He’ll have to show it during the regular season.

24. LB Alex Anzalone (Highest: 20; Lowest: 31)

Last year: N/A

Anzalone appears to be locked into one of the two starting inside linebacker jobs alongside Jamie Collins Sr. Anzalone had a solid four-year career with the New Orleans Saints, but he’s never truly been viewed as a full-time starter. He still has plenty to prove. That being said, Anzalone will bring above-average coverage skills to a unit that has been lacking exactly that for several years.

23. OT Tyrell Crosby (Highest: 19; Lowest: 28)

Last year: 33

Despite the trade rumors, Crosby is clearly the Lions' best reserve offensive lineman. Not only did he hold his own as the starting right tackle last year, but he also provides some positional versatility. Early in camp, Crosby slotted into every offensive line position short of center.

However, with a Grade 1 hamstring strain, the Lions may be without Crosby for a week or two. Hopefully, it doesn’t linger beyond that.

22. WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (Highest: 19; Lowest: 34)

Last year: N/A

From day one, St. Brown was slotted as the team’s starting slot receiver, and it appears he’ll stay there in his rookie season. The Lions’ fourth-round pick has brought intensity, entertainment, and crisp routes to Lions camp. He’s regularly giving Mike Ford trouble in the slot, and his confidence has him competing against Detroit’s top corner, Jeff Okudah.

21. DT Alim McNeill (Highest: 16; Lowest: 30)

Last year: N/A

No Lions rookie has made a bigger impression in training camp than Alim McNeill. The team’s first-string nose tackle from Day 1, McNeill donned the pads this week and immediately gave offensive linemen a literal handful. His inability to get moved from a spot is what makes him solid. His quick first step is what makes him special.

McNeill is going to get a lot of playing time this year, and if his current trajectory continues, he may be the best Lions rookie in 2021.

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