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Detroit Lions 53-man roster prediction: Post-draft edition

A look at the Detroit Lions’ new positional depth and what their regular season 53-man roster may look like in September.

NFL: DEC 19 Cardinals at Lions Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2022 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror now, the Detroit Lions roster is nearly complete for the year. Though there are likely going to be tweaks, signings, and maybe even a trade over the next couple months, the biggest moves have likely already been made.

So now it’s time to look forward and see what this brand-new roster will look like when they’re ready to compete in the regular season. Below I have our first 53-man roster for the 2022 season. This exercise is not so much to see if I can correctly predict what will happen four months from now but to get a better idea of how improved the team will be from last year’s initial 53-man roster.

Note: Because the signings have not been officially announced, I will not be including any undrafted rookies.

Quarterbacks (3)

Jared Goff
Tim Boyle
David Blough

No changes at the quarterback position, and no reason to believe they won’t carry three into the regular season. Detroit didn’t even add an undrafted rookie quarterback, which likely means Mark Brunell, Antwaan Randle-El and Tanner Engstrand will be throwing passes again at rookie minicamp.

Running backs (5)

D’Andre Swift
Jamaal Williams
Jermar Jefferson
Jason Cabinda (FB/TE)
Godwin Igwebuike
Craig Reynolds

Another position that did not go through any offseason changes. It will be interesting to see, though, if Jermar Jefferson has worked his way up the depth chart after spending most of his rookie season on the sidelines. Craig Reynolds was a great preseason story and proved capable when called upon, but he was only active for five games last year.

Wide receiver (6)

Jameson Williams (R)
DJ Chark
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Josh Reynolds
Kalif Raymond
Quintez Cephus
Trinity Benson
Tom Kennedy
Javon McKinley

Hey, this looks a lot better.

It’s entirely possible Jameson Williams begins the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which would sideline him for six weeks. But I’m going to take Williams at his word when he says he should be ready by training camp and put him on the 53-man roster.

For me, the question here is whether the Lions keep five or six receivers. Last year, they carried six initially, but that number fluctuated all season as they tried to find the right combination of guys. Quintez Cephus showed enough last year to deserve serious long-term consideration here, although he may have to find a role on special teams now that the wide receiver room has significantly improved.

Tight ends (3)

T.J. Hockenson
Garrett Griffin
James Mitchell (R)
Brock Wright
Jared Pinkney
Matt Sokol
Jordan Thomas
Shane Zylstra

Truly, no roster spot at tight end is safe outside of Hockenson’s. I’m giving Mitchell the nod simply because he was a draft pick, but coming off a torn ACL from September, he’ll have to prove himself ready to contribute this year. Garrett Griffin has enough familiarity with Dan Campbell from his Saints days that I gave him the slight edge over Brock Wright, who showed promise late last season. Another year of seasoning on the practice squad could help Wright develop into a reserve role.

Offensive line (8)

Taylor Decker
Jonah Jackson
Frank Ragnow
Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Penei Sewell
Matt Nelson
Evan Brown
Tommy Kraemer
Logan Stenberg
Ryan McCollum
Dan Skipper

Detroit made no changes to their offensive line, but they could certainly use some competition for that final spot. With Tommy Kraemer and Ryan McCollum both getting into the lineup over Logan Stenberg, it’s hard to see the 2020 fourth-round pick suddenly cracking the lineup. That being said, be on the lookout for Michigan State guard Kevin Jarvis, who reportedly signed an undrafted rookie contract with $155,000 guaranteed.

Defensive tackle (4)

Michael Brockers
Levi Onwuzurike
Alim McNeill
John Penisini
Jashon Cornell
Bruce Hector

This may seem like a small number of interior defenders to keep—especially with Detroit moving to more four-down sets—but with a few edge defenders that have inside versatility, I think Detroit will keep more edge defenders this year. There’s more talent there anyways.

Edge defender (5)

Aidan Hutchinson (R)
Romeo Okwara
Charles Harris
Josh Paschal (R)
Julian Okwara
James Houston (R)
Austin Bryant
Jessie Lemonier
Rashod Berry
Eric Banks

Now things get a little trickier. The Lions added three edge defenders in the draft, and that spells bad news for a lot of players already here. Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris are still essentially locks, but I can’t say the same for Julian Okwara, Austin Bryant, and the rest.

Ultimately, I still gave the final spot to Julian Okwara, simply because James Houston is still fairly new to the edge position, having played off-ball linebacker for three years at Florida before breaking out at Jackson State last year. While Brad Holmes said he like Houston’s versatility, I think it’s plain to see he’s best on the edge. So hopefully the Lions can stash him on the practice squad to develop for a year and have him in the competition to be a rotational player next year.

Off-ball linebacker (5)

Alex Anzalone
Derrick Barnes
Chris Board
Shaun Dion Hamilton
Malcolm Rodriguez (R)
Jarrad Davis
Anthony Pittman
Josh Woods
Tavante Beckett

While the starters look the same as last year—although without Jalen Reeves-Maybin—the reserves are almost all different. The Lions like Hamilton, and he may have played a big role last year had he not suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. Chris Board is a near lock due to his special teams ability, but he could challenge for a starting role, too.

While sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez is far from guaranteed a roster spot this year, his special teams ability combined with defensive potential puts him slightly above other special teamers like Anthony Pittman and Tavante Beckett. Jarrad Davis’ return to Detroit could be very short-lived.

Cornerback (6)

Amani Oruwariye
Jeff Okudah
Ifeatu Melifonwu
AJ Parker
Mike Hughes
Jerry Jacobs
Chase Lucas (R)
Bobby Price
Saivion Smith
Parnell Motley
Mark Gilbert

The Lions did not make many changes to the cornerback room this offseason, clearly hoping that the young players all take steps forward in 2022. Obviously, the return of a healthy Jeff Okudah could raise the potential of the position a bunch, plus Mike Hughes give Detroit a versatile inside-outside option with special teams ability. Seventh-round pick Chase Lucas has an uphill battle to make the team.

Safety (5)

Tracy Walker
Kerby Joseph (R)
Will Harris
DeShon Elliott
C.J. Moore
Jalen Elliott
Brady Breeze
JuJu Hughes

The additions of third-round pick Kerby Joseph and free agent DeShon Elliott means the Lions will have to sacrifice some special teamers in favor of players who bring serious potential on defense. Joseph has a real opportunity to start on Day 1, but the Lions may prefer to put someone with experience like Elliott in there first.

As tempting as it was to keep Jalen Elliott over Will Harris, it’s clear the Lions really like Harris’ versatility as an emergency option at cornerback.

Specialist (3)

P Jack Fox
LS Scott Daly
K Riley Patterson
K Aldrick Rosas
K Austin Seibert

There will be a legitimate kicker training camp battle this year. Austin Seibert started the season strong for the Lions, going 10-of-12 on field goals. But after his injury, rookie Riley Patterson took over and was nearly perfect 13-or-14. I’m giving the early edge to Patterson, but don’t count out Aldrick Rosas, either. Though he didn’t get much of a shot last year, playing in just one game for Detroit, Rosas is a former Pro Bowler who has shown more long-distance consistency than the other two kickers. He’s a solid 10-of-16 from 50+ yards, including a long of 57.