We’re onto the top half of the Detroit Lions’ 2022 roster in our staff rankings of each player. While not everyone in this range is guaranteed to make the team, the majority of these guys will not only find themselves on the 53-man roster, but play some sort of role this season. Some will be rotational players, some will be special teams contributors, while others may only see the field if there’s a run of injuries at their position. Heck, there’s probably a starter or two in this range as well.
If you look at the players ranked in this range last year, I think you could make a sound argument that this year’s depth appears better.
Let’s get into it.
- Players ranked 89-81
- Players ranked 80-71
- Players ranked 70-61
- Players ranked 60-51
- Players ranked 50-41
40. S C.J. Moore (Highest ranking: 35; Lowest ranking: 45)
Moore is firmly on the roster bubble heading into camp, but he’s good enough to land on some NFL roster this year. His special teams are amongst the best at his position, and one Lions coach thinks that goes underappreciated.
“We really don’t talk about C.J. enough,” safety coach Brian Duker said last month. “C.J. is really a useful asset for us. In addition to being a great special teams player, he’s a really good veteran, a really good leader, but has always been ready when his number is called.”
39. S Kerby Joseph (Highest: 27; Lowest: 45)
Last year’s ranking: N/A
One of the players who could push Moore out of a roster spot is the Lions’ third-round rookie. This ranking may seem low to some, but Joseph will be taken along slowly seeing as he only had one year of starting experience in college. Behind Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott on the depth chart, there is no guarantee we see a lot of Joseph on the field this year, but he’s undoubtedly part of the team’s long-term plans at the position.
38. DB Will Harris (Highest: 32; Lowest: 45)
Harris stays put at 38 on our countdown, which seems about right for him. It seemed like his time with the Lions was coming to an end after he struggled for two years under Matt Patricia. However, Harris may have found a second life under Aaron Glenn after sliding to cornerback midway through the 2021 season.
Able to fill in at nickel and outside corner, Harris played particularly well down the stretch and may be entering training camp as the primary outside cornerback depth.
37. LB Alex Anzalone (Highest: 24; Lowest: 49)
Going into 2021, here were our thoughts on Anzalone.
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.
Anzalone wasn’t a major liability in coverage, but he failed to prove he can be a full-time starter. He struggled with tackling (21 missed) and run defense (31.7 PFF grade), but he continued to provide a leadership role and earn the respect of the coaching staff.
With no major upgrades to the linebacking room, Anzalone is likely a Week 1 starter again this year, but if Detroit’s young players develop, Anzalone could shift to a more complementary role.
36. CB AJ Parker (Highest: 23; Lowest: 52)
Parker had one of the biggest jumps of any player in this year’s rankings, and it’s certainly warranted. Parker came into training camp buried on the outside cornerback depth chart. After the Lions shifted him inside to nickel, it was clear Parker was Detroit’s best option there.
While Parker was far from perfect during the regular season (48.3 PFF grade), he provided mostly stable play and blew expectations out of the water.
He’ll have to fight for the job this year, though, as Mike Hughes and seventh-round rookie Chase Lucas should provide ample competition.
35. WR Quintez Cephus (Highest: 23; Lowest: 48)
Speaking of competition, Cephus is going to have plenty of it this year. It’s unfortunate that Cephus was just coming into his own as a solid receiving option last year when he suffered a broken collarbone. He drops a few spots in this year’s rankings likely due to the injury and the better talent in the receiver room.
Now Cephus is in a situation where he may have to fight his way onto the roster, but if first-round rookie Jameson Williams remains on the NFI list throughout training camp and into the regular season, that roster spot could go to Cephus.
34. LB Chris Board (Highest: 25; Lowest: 39)
Last year’s ranking: N/A
Board enters training camp as the expected starting linebacker alongside Alex Anzalone, but that is certainly not guaranteed for the four-year veteran. That said, his roster spot is relatively safe due to his extremely strong special teams play. His former teammate, Anthony Levine, called him the best special teamer in the NFL.
33. LB Derrick Barnes (Highest: 26; Lowest: 43)
As of right now, Barnes likely has the highest upside of anyone in the linebacker room, which is likely why he finds himself as the highest ranked amongst his position group on this list. His rookie season was a disappointment—especially after he looked so good in the preseason—but coaches seem optimistic about his second-year jump potential, especially considering he’s still relatively new to the position.
“When Derrick knows what to do, you’ll see it this fall,” linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard said. “That player there, there’s not many in the league with that statue, with his power, with the way he can run and hit and can do what he can do, once he knows exactly what to do.”
32. CB Mike Hughes (Highest: 27; Lowest: 38)
Last year’s ranking: N/A
It’s unclear what the Lions’ plans for Hughes will be this year, as he has experience as an NFL starter at both the outside cornerback and nickelback positions. Detroit is hoping to pull out the full potential of Hughes, a former first-round pick, and it seems like his best shot at a starting job is at nickel, where he saw some success with the Chiefs last year.
31. DT Levi Onwuzurike (Highest: 20; Lowest: 50)
Onwuzurike drops a pretty significant amount from his rookie season. Expectations have cooled after an undeniably disappointing rookie year.
The optimistic spin for Onwuzurike is that he spent much of last season with a pretty serious back injury and that the defense is now more tailored to his attacking style of play. Of course, many players also see a Year 2 jump simply out of comfort.
Early signs are that Onwuzurike attacked his offseason program with authority—getting healthier and stronger—but the product on the field is still to be determined.