The 2022 NFL Draft and post-draft undrafted free agency period landed the Detroit Lions 20 new additions (eight drafted, 12 UDFAs) to their 90-man roster. Those players have since gone through rookie minicamp and are headed towards the offseason training activities (OTAs) portion of the offseason.
Here’s a look at where those players fit in on the Lions’ depth chart heading into the OTAs.
Note: Rookies will have an asterisk following their name.
Starter: Jared Goff
Top reserve: Tim Boyle
In the fight: David Blough
The Lions didn’t add a quarterback in the draft or UDFA period following it and will likely enter fall camp with the same three signal-callers they ended last season with.
Running back (6)
Starter: D’Andre Swift
Top reserve: Jamaal Williams
In the fight: Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike
Work to do: Greg Bell*
The Lions reportedly guaranteed $100,000 of Bell’s UDFA contract (source) which is a good indicator he will get a chance to compete, but he has a tough road ahead of him with all five backs returning from last season.
Wide receiver (11)
Starters: Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds
Top reserves: Jameson Williams*, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus
In the fight: Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy
Work to do: Josh Johnson*, Kalil Pimpleton*, Corey Sutton*
The Lions added four rookie receivers to their room, none bigger than No. 12 overall pick Jameson Williams. Due to an ACL injury suffered in January during the National Championship game, he is a candidate to open training camp—and possibly the season—on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. That being said, he believes he “should” be healthy by training camp, and his surgeon confirmed that Williams is planning on being ready for Game 1.
Once healthy, Williams will immediately challenge for a starting role and would push Reynolds and Chark, for playing time at both the WR-Z and WR-X positions.
The UDFA class has some work to do to crack the suddenly revamped wide receiver top-six, but they should get opportunities. Keep an eye on Pimpleton who has a similar skill set to Kalif Raymond as a slot speedster and punt returner. Even if he can’t beat out the veteran, he seems like a good candidate for the practice squad.
Tight end/Superback (8)
Starters: T.J. Hockenson, Jason Cabinda (FB)
Top reserves: Brock Wright, James Mitchell*, Garrett Griffin
In the fight: Shane Zylstra
Work to do: Derek Deese*, Nolan Givan*
Mitchell is also coming off an ACL injury, but because his injury occurred last September, he is expected to be full-go by training camp. He should immediately jump in the TE2 race with Wright and free agent addition Griffin, and if he can hit the ground running he could exit camp as the front runner for the job.
UDFAs Deese and Givan are both inline/H-back options who have a steep road to the roster, but just like last offseason, the tight end spot is full of players, and the back end/practice squad spots are up for grabs.
Offensive line (14)
Starters: Taylor Decker (LT), Jonah Jackson (LG), Frank Ragnow (C), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (RG), Penei Sewell (RT)
Projected 2nd string: Dan Skipper (OT), Logan Stenberg (LG), Evan Brown (C), Tommy Kraemer (IOL), Matt Nelson (OT/G)
Projected 3rd string: Obinna Eze* (OT), Zein Obeid* (OG), Ryan McCollum (C), Kevin Jarvis* (OG)
With the Lions returning their top-11 (!) offensive linemen from last season, all three UDFAs will surely open fall camp on the third string. But, the left side of the second string is far from settled, and all three UDFAs will have a chance to prove themselves. Eze was considered a draftable prospect and could push for an OT4 spot, but Skipper is no pushover and held his own last camp before suffering an injury. Stenberg suffered an injury of his own last season, and with only 30 snaps (just four on offense) to his name over two seasons, his spot could be the most vulnerable.
Interior defensive line (7)
Starters: Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill
Top reserves: Levi Onwuzurike, John Penisini
In the fight: Jashon Cornell, Bruce Hector, Demetris Taylor*
Taylor, a UDFA, was the only rookie added to the interior defensive line, and I’m not even 100-percent sure this is the position he will play in the Lions’ new scheme. At 6-foot-0, 289 pounds, he fits the IDL mold, but he played the 5-technique in App State’s 4-man front, which could make him a candidate for a 5/3T role in Detroit. No matter where he lands, he’ll have a chance at making the roster as a depth piece due to his impressive first-step quickness and ability to consistently penetrate the line of scrimmage.
Starters: Romeo Okwara, Aidan Hutchinson*
Top reserves: Charles Harris, Josh Paschal*, Julian Okwara,
In the fight: Austin Bryant
Work to do: Eric Banks
The Lions heavily invested in edge players this draft, selecting Hutchinson with the No. 2 overall pick, Paschal at No. 46. Hutchinson figures to start at rush end opposite Romeo Okwara (or if not recovered from his Achilles, Harris would likely step in), with Paschal next in line in the two-deep rotation.
Starters: Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes
Top reserves: Chris Board, Malcolm Rodriguez*, James Houston*
In the fight: Jarrad Davis, Josh Woods, Shaun Dion Hamilton
Work to do: Anthony Pittman, Natrez Patrick
Rodriguez looked like the only addition to this group via the draft, but at rookie minicamp, Houston spent most of his time off-the-ball (he was an edge rusher at Jackson State last season but an off-the-ball linebacker the four years prior at Florida) which earns him a spot in this position group. At worst, the two rookies look like rotational pieces and starting special teamers.
This group continues to have the most question marks surrounding starting and depth roles.
Starters: Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah
Top reserves: Ifeatu Melifonwu, Jerry Jacobs, Mike Hughes
In the fight: Mark Gilbert, Bobby Price
Work to do: Saivion Smith, Jermaine Waller*
Starters: Will Harris (S/CB), AJ Parker (CB)
Top reserve: Chase Lucas*
Work to do: Cedric Boswell*
The Lions added three players to their corner group, seventh-round pick Chase Lucas and UDFAs Waller and Boswell. Lucas is a twitchy athlete with inside-out versatility and could push AJ Parker (a UDFA last year who earned a starting role) for reps in the slot. Lucas’ experience learning under former NFL coaches at Arizona State (coach is Herm Edwards and defensive coordinator is Antonio Pierce) should give him an opportunity to compete.
Waller and Boswell also have some positional flexibility, but their fit in the defense is not as natural or clear. But after the success of 2021 UDFA’s Parker and Jacobs last season, there’s no way you can rule them out. This front office has an eye for defensive back talent, and with defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and position coach Aubrey Pleasant guiding them, the sky is the limit for development.
Starters: Tracy Walker, DeShon Elliott
Top reserves: Kerby Joseph*, C.J. Moore
Work to do: JuJu Hughes, Brady Breeze
The addition of Joseph in the third round brings the competition level of this group up another notch. He has some work to do before he will be ready to unseat DeShon Elliott for a starting role—and Will Harris could land back in the mix here too—but Joseph should find himself utilized in sub-packages as a ball-hawking single-high and starting at gunner on special teams from Day 1.
Special teams (5)
Starters: Jack Fox (P), Riley Patterson (K), Scott Daly (LS)
In the fight: Austin Seibert (K)
Work to do: Aldrick Rosas (K)
The Lions didn’t add anyone to this group at draft time, and honestly, they didn’t need to, the competition is already solid. Seibert was solid as the Lions’ early year starter last season, but after a season-ending injury, Patterson stepped in and was nearly perfect the remainder of the season. Seibert should get a chance to compete, but he may have been Wally Pipp’d by Patterson.