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Ranking the Detroit Lions 2022 roster: Cracking the top 30

A look at the players on the 2022 Detroit Lions roster who cracked the top 30 in our rankings.

Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Our countdown of each player in the 2022 Detroit Lions roster has reached the top 30. At this point, we’ve reached a set of players who may not be roster locks, but are pretty darn close to it. It would be a pretty big surprise if any of these players weren’t on the 53-man roster come Week 1 (unless for injury reasons).

This list of 10 players features potential starters, special teamers, and a lot of role players and depth. There’s a lot of promise with this range of players, but there is still a lot to prove for many of these players. Is this better than last year’s range of 21-30 players? That’s for you to decide.

Previously:

30. CB Jerry Jacobs (Highest ranking: 21; Lowest ranking: 36)

Last year’s ranking: 80

I don’t believe there was a single player who made a higher jump in this year’s rankings. I mean, how could you? A 50-place jump is kinda insane, but that’s just the kind of unpredictable season Jacobs had. Initially buried on the Lions cornerback depth chart in camp, Jacobs clung to Jeff Okudah for inspiration, and that proved to be a strong strategy. But give Jacobs some credit on his own, he had initiative, drive, and clearly did what the coaching staff was looking for.

Jacobs made the 53-man roster, and then beat out Bobby Price for a spot in the starting roster once the injury hit. Jacobs will have to fight his way back from a torn ACL, and he’s not likely in line for a starting job, but how could you possibly count this guy out after what he did last year?

29. CB/S Ifeatu Melifonwu (Highest: 22; Lowest: 37)

Last year’s ranking: 28

Melifonwu drops a spot after spending most of his rookie season on injured reserve. He now enters Year 2 with an unclear future. As of Wednesday, it appears he may be considered a full-time safety, which could take some acclimation time. And with DeShon Elliott and Tracy Walker occupying the top spots, Melifonwu may be headed towards just a situational role on defense this year.

28. DT Michael Brockers (Highest: 19; Lowest: 42)

Last year’s ranking: 7

Last year, the lowest vote Brockers got was 11. This year, the highest was 19. It was a rough year for the veteran defensive tackle, as he adjusted to a new home and a new role as the team’s oldest defender.

He is still the only Lions player above 30, but there is hope that a change in defensive philosophy will better play to his strengths. That said, expectations are clearly lower this year, and just one look at his contract suggests that unless he blows those expectations out of the water, this is likely his last year in Detroit.

27. S DeShon Elliott (Highest: 20; Lowest: 52)

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Elliott has a very solid track record when he’s on the field. He earned a PFF grade of 69.7 in 2019, 69.6 in 2020, and 65.6 in 2021. Problem is, he has missed 21 games over that three-year span with varying injuries.

If he can stay healthy and play at his 2020 form—the lone season in which he started all 16 games—Detroit may finally have a nice complement for Walker. Elliott is a strong tackler and, at the very least, an average coverage man.

26. EDGE Julian Okwara (Highest: 22; Lowest: 34)

Last year’s ranking: 29

Okwara jumps up a few spots after dropping from 23 last year. In 2021, we got our first extended look at Julian, as he played 13 games and one start. He managed to flash a little of the pass-rushing skills we saw at Notre Dame, finishing the year with 5.0 sacks, 21 pressures, and a solid 76.8 PFF pass-rushing grade. However, he has still struggled to expand his game beyond that.

This year, though, it appears Okwara could be heading for a unique role. The Lions are using him both as an edge defender and an off-ball linebacker, and his athletic traits seem to translate somewhat well into coverage. His run defense still needs drastic improvement, but he seems like one player who will benefit from Detroit’s defensive scheme changes.

25. WR Kalif Raymond (Highest: 22; Lowest: 35)

Last year’s ranking: 41

When the Lions added Kalif Raymond last offseason, it was a move that went under the radar. He looked like a prime candidate to challenge for a return job, but with only 19 receptions to his name in five seasons, he wasn’t considered a strong offensive add, even in Detroit’s thin receiver room.

Raymond would end up being a decent punt returner for the Lions last year, but when he was called upon to play an offensive role, he rose to the occasion. He finished the year with 48 catches, 576 yards, and four touchdowns.

Though this year he’ll almost certainly have a scaled back role, the Lions do love the speed that he brings, and he’ll likely be good for at least 20 catches this year.

24. C Evan Brown (Highest: 21; Lowest: 40)

Last year’s ranking: 66

When Frank Ragnow was placed on injured reserve after a Week 4 injury, most understandably believed the Lions' offensive line was doomed for the rest of the year. Brown had never started a game in his young career, and nothing about his training camp performance suggested he could come in and provide anything more than replacement-level play.

Instead, Brown produced a solid 66.8 PFF grade and the ninth-best pass block win rate among NFL centers. Now Detroit can sit comfortably knowing that they have a decent backup center on their roster.

23. EDGE Josh Paschal (Highest: 21; Lowest: 33)

Last year’s ranking: N/A

The Lions' second-round pick has an inspirational story and a football mentality as perfect as anyone in the 2022 NFL Draft class. His addition was fascinating after the Lions had just taken Aidan Hutchinson, but after the Lions revealed their plans for defensive changes, his role became clear. He’ll be a good run defender with pass rushing upside on early downs, and a sneaky interior push on passing downs.

Of course, he’ll have to get over his injury first. He’ll be sidelined for a bit with a sports hernia, which is never good for a young player, but the Lions will likely take it slow with the Kentucky defender.

22. FB Jason Cabinda (Highest: 18; Lowest: 32)

Last year’s ranking: 39

Dan Campbell loves himself some Jason Cabinda. Last year, he took every opportunity he could to talk about the Lions’ “superback.” Cabinda, too, falls under the “football guy” category, but his value goes beyond that. He’s a tenacious blocker who comes with an aggressive defensive mindset, and his athleticism makes him a sneaky offensive weapon, too.

21. WR Josh Reynolds (Highest: 13; Lowest: 28)

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Reynolds was one of many reasons the Lions' pass offense saw a nice bump in production down the stretch. There are a lot of other reasons for Detroit’s improvement—their change in play caller, the return of Taylor Decker—but to simplify things a bit, here’s Jared Goff with and without Reynolds in the lineup:

With Reynolds: 112-of-161 (69.6%) for 1,136 yards (7.1 Y/A), 11 TDs, 2 INTs, 107.1 passer rating
Without Reynolds: 220-of-333 (66.1%) for 2,109 yards (5.9 Y/A), 8 TDs, 6 INTs, 84.0 passer rating

Reynolds earned a two-year contract in Detroit, and he’ll likely play a significant role in the offense while Jameson Williams remains on the mend.