With the NFL Draft and the schedule release in the rear-view mirror, now is the time to get started on our Detroit Lions roster projections! As with every NFL franchise, the Lions made a ton of moves throughout the offseason; general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have done an incredible job of retooling this team and getting rid of a large number of the “Patricia Guys”, but the stench of the last failed regime will not just fade away so easily.
This rebuild will not be for the faint of heart, they are starting from the ground up. It’s important to note that the roster as it stands now, is not going to be the opening day roster. The team will add and cut players all the way up to the start of the season, but with that being said, here are my 2021 Detroit Lions roster projections.
Detroit Lions Roster Projections: Offense
It’s going to be odd not seeing Matthew Stafford lining up at quarterback this season. Jared Goff is, at worst, a stopgap solution for the Lions and at best a solid quarterback that won’t make too many mistakes. This new regime made signing Boyle a priority during free agency so they obviously like him as a backup.
After the release of Kerryon Johnson, the running back position became a toss-up with this prediction. Outside of Swift and Williams, who are locks to make the roster, the other three backs are unproven rookies, with Rakeem Boyd and Mills being added after the draft. For now, I went with Mills’ power style and Jefferson’s patient running, making the team but Boyd, or a late veteran signing, could easily unseat one of them. Nick Bawden has dealt with injury issues his entire career and Cabinda proved he could jump in and play a few offensive snaps in addition to contributing on special teams.
This was the hardest position to predict this early. There is hardly any proven talent. Williams is the number one receiver by default but hasn’t played a down of football since the 2019 season. Perriman is on his fifth team in six years, and while Cephus showed some potential last season, he also didn’t inspire much confidence while on the field. Fourth round pick St. Brown rounds out the top four receivers which leaves eight players fighting for, at most two spots.
The Lions dished out a $100,000 guarantee to McKinley as an undrafted free agent so they obviously have higher hopes for him. Fellow UDFA Surratt just barely makes the roster with his slot receiver potential, but Kalif Raymond could get past him with his return ability. This battle will be the most hotly contested one of the entire preseason.
Josh Hill‘s sudden retirement threw a wrench into the Lions’ tight end plans but they rebounded nicely by bringing former Lion Darren Fells back. Fells should compliment Hockenson well as TE2 and Mack has spent some time with Campbell in New Orleans.
The Lions lucked out with Sewell falling to them during the Draft. Sewell, Ragnow, and Decker will form a solid foundation for years to come. Jackson played serviceably last season at LG. If Stenberg can show out during camp and preseason, he could very well be in the plans at RG but if not, Big V should play better than last season by default now being flanked by Ragnow and Sewell. Crosby can play both guard and tackle spots in a pinch and Nelson looked solid when he had to step in at RT last season.
Detroit Lions Roster Projections: Defense
While WR was a hard position to predict due to lack of proven talent, the defensive line was almost as hard because of the excess of talent. Flowers, Brockers, and Romeo Okwara are the three easiest picks, with Julian Okwara and newcomers McNeill and Onwuzurike being locks as well. Penisini had flashes of potential last season, as did Bryant, while Harris was just brought in by the new front office. The biggest battle will go down between Hand and Nick Williams. If, and this is a big if, with his injury history, Hand can stay healthy and revert back to his rookie season, he should make the team.
Collins and Anzalone will be the two linebackers on the field the most this season. This regime made Reeves-Maybin one of the few holdovers to be resigned and he brings valuable special teams skills. Barnes was a fan favorite selection during the draft and should see time on the field early. Hamilton brings seven starts over three seasons and if Campbell and Co. can turn Tavai into a valuable, contributing piece of this defense, he should win Coach of the Year on that alone.
Okudah and Oruwariye should be the day one starters with Dunbar and Ford backing them up. Elder brings the most slot corner experience to the team and Melifonwu could be a very interesting project player who could see time early.
Walker and Harris will have to bounce back from dreadful 2020 seasons while Marlowe slots into the Jayron Kearse/Duron Harmon third safety role. Moore and Price round out the position with their special teams experience.
Detroit Lions Roster Projections: Special Teams
Bullock wins the starting kicker job for now, but don’t be surprised if Matthew Wright sneaks past him a la Jack Fox last season.
P: Jack Fox
Speaking of Fox, there isn’t another punter on the roster at the moment so that makes projection easy.
LS: Don Muhlbach
Death. Taxes. Don Freakin Muhlbach is the best long snapper in the league.
Thanks for reading my 2021 Detroit Lions Roster projections! For more NFL content please follow me on Twitter @Huntingjacob.