One of the side effects of building a competitive roster is that the final few roster spots become tougher and tougher to secure. The 2023 Detroit Lions are significantly more talented than their 2021 counterparts, but that could lead to fewer underdogs sneaking their way onto the initial 53-man roster.
By most accounts, the 2022 roster cuts went as expected. Aside from a few surprises like cutting cornerback AJ Parker, Pride of Detroit’s final 53-man roster prediction was nearly spot on. The likes of John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs were considered outsiders when acquired during the offseason, but they quickly established themselves in Detroit. We will get that type of clarity regarding the 2023 roster as training camp and preseason progress, but as of now, there are still a few sleepers that could squeak their way onto the roster.
If you read Jeremy Reisman and Erik Schlitt’s post-draft 53-man prediction, you’ll be familiar with a few of the upcoming position battles. The Lions had an upheaval at running back this offseason, and while Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery are locks, the backup spot(s) are firmly up for grabs with no obvious answer. With the NFL adopting the Lions’ proposed emergency third quarterback rule, there could be some merit to keeping an additional backup. Jared Goff is obviously the starter, but rookie Hendon Hooker’s recovery timeline is still in question. That leaves Nate Sudfeld and Adrian Martinez, meaning both QB2 and QB3 spots could be up for grabs.
Elsewhere on the roster, there are the typical roster battles encountered every season: the final receiver spot, the eighth/ninth offensive lineman, a defensive lineman or two, battling backup linebackers, and secondary showdowns. The difference between 2021 and 2023 is that the Lions have far more roster locks, meaning that those bottom-of-the-roster players will be competing for fewer roster spots. For example, Tom Kennedy and Trinity Benson secured roster spots in a weak 2021 receiving corps, but an improved position group in 2022 led to both missing the initial roster.
With another offseason in the books, do you have a sleeper to make the 53-man roster?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who is your sleeper to make the Detroit Lions’ 2023 roster?
My answer: Greg Bell is my sleeper to make the roster.
As mentioned, the running back battle will be fierce during training camp. Gibbs and Montgomery are the lightning and thunder, Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson are returning veterans, and undrafted rookie Mohamed Ibrahim is entering camp with a lot of hype. That seemingly leaves Bell as the sixth and final running back on the roster. Bell was a complete afterthought for most Lions fans last season, suffering a late July injury after signing as an undrafted free agent. Bell would be waived before reverting to the Lions’ injured reserve, where he stayed the entire year.
A great story in 2021, Reynolds cooled off in his second season in Detroit, though he was still brought back. Although Jefferson initially made the roster, he was quickly waived and spent the entire season on the practice squad. Neither player is a sure-fire pick to make the roster, opening up a third or fourth running back spot.
The reason why I give Bell the nod over Ibrahim—although both could feasibly make the roster—is that Bell offers more elusiveness. Ibrahim is a bowling ball, and while that has some merit, he may prove to be more of a “take what’s given” type of back. That bodes well for a talented starting offensive line like Detroit’s, but he and Bell are more likely to run behind second- and third-string linemen. As a result, I think Bell could stand out more compared to Ibrahim. If Bell can add a special teams component to his game, that could further boost his value.