Seemingly every year, there are players that fly under the radar and wind up on the 53-man roster. Will we see a similar story this season?
In 2021, almost nobody expected Jerry Jacobs to make the initial roster. With logjam at cornerback, it seemed unlikely that the undrafted rookie would claim a spot after a modest preseason. Not only did he make the roster, but he wound up being one of the Detroit Lions’ best corners. Expecting that type of success from a player on the roster bubble is a bit of a lofty goal, but it goes to show that these coaches know their players pretty well.
Just last week, Erik and Jeremy released their post-OTA roster prediction. With training camp and preseason still to come, as well as new signings and new injuries, expect a lot to change as we approach September. Using another 2021 undrafted rookie as an example, cornerback AJ Parker went from unanimously out on August 17 to unanimously in on August 29. A player that might look like an obvious cut in July could very well surprise everyone come August.
With many position battles being waged throughout the team, which player could sneak their way onto the roster? Alternatively, which player could vault themselves onto the roster with an excellent training camp?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who is your sleeper to make the final roster?
My answer: My top sleeper to make the 53-man roster is Anthony Pittman.
Both Erik and Jeremy left him off their initial roster prediction, with five linebackers getting the nod ahead of him: Alex Anzalone, Chris Board, Derrick Barnes, Malcolm Rodriguez, and Jarrad Davis. The linebacker competition will be fierce, as Erik and Jeremy not only left off Pittman, but James Houston, Josh Woods, Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Natrez Patrick. Outside of maybe Patrick, you could make a decent case for any of those linebackers to make the team.
As with many bottom-of-the-roster players, special teams is where they need to shine to secure themselves a spot. With Anzalone, Board, Barnes, and Rodriguez likely to make the team (as of now), the Lions may opt for a player with less upside on defense and more upside on special teams. That could give Pittman an edge.
Along with Jerry Jacobs, Pittman was another player that few people expected to make the initial roster in 2021. Pittman wasn’t a household name last season, but he was a significant contributor. Playing in all 17 games, Pittman led the team in special teams snaps by a wide margin. Adding in a handful of defensive snaps, and Pittman had far more action than we would have predicted entering the year. As the new season approaches, Pittman may find himself a valuable commodity for the Lions.
I wouldn’t count out Pittman making the roster again in 2022.