Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for the Detroit Lions

Brandon Alisoglu@@BrandonAlisogluCorrespondent IApril 28, 2013

Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for the Detroit Lions

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    With the 2013 NFL draft wrapped up and most of the free-agent market settled, we can turn to the Detroit Lions depth chart with some clarity.

    There are a few positions where the starter will be a guess, so we've included an explanation. Others will only include the names listed in the order of priority because we already know who the starter is. 

    But you know I couldn't resist adding some of my thoughts anyways. 

    So click through to find out who will be on the field when the Lions kick off against the Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback

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    1. Matthew Stafford

    2. Shaun Hill

    3. Kellen Moore

    There’s little to question here. Matthew Stafford has thrown for over 10,000 yards the last two seasons and has an automatic connection with superstar Calvin Johnson.

    Behind him will be the ultimate backup: Shaun Hill. Remember the Tennessee Titans game where he led the comeback charge to give the Detroit Lions a chance? Exactly. He’s not going anywhere.

    Finally, Kellen Moore is sitting at No. 3. It’s impossible to know how his development is coming along, but he has a limited upside. 

Running Backs

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    1. Reggie Bush

    2. Mikel Leshoure

    3. Joique Bell

    Reggie Bush will ultimately get the nod over Mikel Leshoure due to his explosiveness in the passing game. Scott Linehan and Stafford are going to enjoy the dumpoff option that he provides.

    Leshoure and Joique Bell will continue to split the ball-pounding activities. Bell averaged 5.0 yards per carry, but Leshoure will be given the benefit of the doubt due to hiss lofty draft status and assumed 100-percent health this year.

Wide Receivers

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    1. Calvin Johnson

    2. Nate Burleson

    3. Ryan Broyles

    4. Mike Thomas

    5. Corey Fuller

    Obviously, the guy who set the single-season record for most receiving yards will remain the No. 1 option for Matthew Stafford. But it does get interesting at the second spot.

    Nate Burleson should edge Ryan Broyles out with veteran savvy and because Burleson the more likely of the two to be healthy.

    After those two, Mike Thomas, who was acquired via trade last season, will hold down the fourth spot. He’s had a year in the offense and is more polished than the freshly drafted rookie.

    Finally, Corey Fuller, with his speed and size, will battle with tight end Tony Scheffler for the fifth spot in five-wide sets. He’s too talented to be benched for Kris Dunham. 

Tight End

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    1. Brandon Pettigrew

    2. Tony Scheffler

    3. Michael Williams

    I can understand if you want to see Tony Scheffler start over Brandon Pettigrew. The former first rounder’s drops and inconsistent play have been maddening.

    However, he is a much better block than Scheffler and still has the potential to be a top-seven tight end.

    Michael Williams will hold down the third spot as a big blocker who can catch the ball when left alone.

Left Tackle

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    1. Riley Reiff

    2. Jason Fox

    3. Corey Hilliard

    Riley Reiff survived the draft and free agency, meaning that no one will his status as the starting left tackle. There is some concern about whether he can handle the job, but the Lions’ lack of moves here suggests they have the requisite faith.

    As for the backup, Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard could play there in a pinch. Hilliard has gained more experience due to his health and versatility. 

Right Tackle

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    1. Jason Fox

    2. Corey Hilliard

    Quite frankly, it’s way too early to predict who will start here.

    In one corner, we have Jason Fox, who hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but has more talent.

    In the other corner, we have Corey Hilliard, who has proven to be a serviceable utility man, meaning he can plug holes that open due to injuries.

    In the end, the Lions will value the ability of Hilliard to move around and won’t be able to deny Fox’s talent. 

Left Guard

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    1. Rob Sims

    2. Bill Nagy

    Rob Sims has been entrenched in this position since he arrived in. Nobody on the roster will challenge his supremacy, as he is heads and shoulders above the competition.

    Be honest, have you heard of Rodney Austin before this very moment? He was an undrafted free agent last year and will be kept on as a long-term project.

Right Guard

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    1. Larry Warford

    2. Bill Nagy

    The Lions filled a huge position of need with the pick of Larry Warford. His presence will greatly solidify the right side of the line and help out the new starter at tackle.

    Bill Nagy isn’t as far behind Warford as Austin is from Sims, but he can’t measure up to Warford’s talent. He will be a valuable commodity as a backup though. 

Center

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    1. Dominic Raiola

    2. Dylan Gandy

    There will be at least one more year of Dominic Raiola. That might not seem to be a good thing, but with so much change along the offensive line, he’ll provide a steady presence for everyone to lean on.

    Dylan Gandy won’t be the replacement when Raiola leaves, so there isn’t any hope of him unseating the veteran.

Left Defensive End

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    1. Jason Jones

    2. Willie Young

    Jason Jones will step into the starting role after inking a free-agent deal with the Lions last month. He has to be excited about the prospect of lining up next to two top-notch defensive tackles.

    Willie Young was brought back into the fold, and everyone should rejoice. The defensive line could ill-afford any more loss of talent.

Right End

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    1. Ezekiel Ansah

    2. Devin Taylor

    3. Ronnell Lewis

    There won’t be any sitting and learning the game for Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. It’ll be much closer to a baptism by fire.

    He has to start because his backup is a fellow rookie. Devin Taylor gets the nod over Ronnell Lewis due to his more impressive physical make up.

Defensive Tackles

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    1. Ndamukong Suh

    2. Nick Fairley

    3. C.J. Mosley

    4. Ogemdi Nwagbuo

    This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have a chance to be the most dominating inside force in the league. And it appears that Fairley understands that, considering the news leaking out of Detroit.

    The loss of Sammie Hill hurts, but C.J. Mosley is an underrated offseason pickup that will pay immediate dividends. Ogemdi Nwagbuo is a bit of a wild card at this point.

Strong-side Linebacker

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    1. Ashlee Palmer

    2. Tahir Whitehead

    Try not to cringe so hard that you hurt your neck, but Ashlee Palmer is the starting strongside linebacker at this time. I understand how scary that is.

    Last year’s fifth-round pick, Tahir Whitehead, could make a charge for the job, but nothing has indicated he’s ready for it yet.

Middle Linebacker

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    1. Stephen Tulloch

    2. Travis Lewis

    Last year’s leading tackler isn’t going anywhere. Stephen Tulloch is back to hold down the middle of the defense. Hopefully, he’ll be able to make plenty of plays behind the talented defensive tackles.

    Behind him, Travis Lewis and rookie Brandon Hepburn will battle for backup minutes. Lewis gets the edge thanks to his year in the system, but both should contribute on special teams.

Weak-side Linebacker

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    1. DeAndre Levy

    2. Carmen Messina

    DeAndre Levy will keep his starting position at weakside linebacker. The one-time middle linebacker has to love being free to make plays as opposed to being stuck inside.

    Carmen Messina is not a threat to his starting slot, and will have to fight to stay on the active roster.

Cornerbacks

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    1. Chris Houston

    2. Darius Slay

    3. Dwight Bentley

    4. Jonte Green

    Now that Chris Houston has gained the security he wanted from a multi-year contract, he can turn his attention to providing the same in return for Lions fans.

    However, there is plenty of uncertainty behind him. The presumption is that second-round pick Darius Slay will earn the starting spot over last year’s picks Jonte Green and Dwight Bentley.

    Stay tuned to that fight, since a lot could change between now and September.

Strong Safety

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    1. Louis Delmas

    2. Don Carey

    3. Ricardo Silva

    4. John Wendling

    Oh, how we’ve longed to see Louis Delmas healthy. Because when he is healthy and contributing on the field, the Lions defense is a completely different animal.

    I hate to be mean to Don Carey, but he is a few levels below Delmas. As is Ricardo Silva and special-teams stud John Wendling. 

Free Safety

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    1. Glover Quin

    2. Amari Spievey

    3. Tyrell Johnson

    Amari Speivey has had three years to cement his status as a starter. He failed to do so.

    Therefore, we will all welcome Glover Quin with open arms. The talented and young safety comes to Detroit via the Houston Texans, where he was starting to figure things out.

    Don’t look now, but the Lions might actually have a decent secondary. Just continue to pray for health and it could happen.

Punter

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    1. Sam Martin

    2. Blake Clingan

    Sam Martin was taken with a fifth-round pick. You read that correctly.

    Thus, if Martin Mayhew was willing to take a punter in the fifth round, logic dictates that he will be given every chance to start.

    And it isn’t like he’s facing a legend. Blake Clingan was an undrafted free agent last year.

Kicker

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    1. David Akers

    2. Havard Rugland

    David Akers has plenty of professional experience, which will ultimately land him the placekicking gig.

    Havard Rugland is a fun pick, but one has to wonder how all those youtube videos actually translate to game scenarios. Can he handle the pressure? Only time will tell.

Returner

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    1. Theo Riddick

    2. Mike Thomas

    3. Reggie Bush

    In the end, Mike Thomas will prove too important to the passing game to be the main return specialist.

    And that’s okay. Theo Riddick has plenty of experience returning kicks. He did so often during his first three years in South Bend.

    Lastly, if both the first two options should go down, we know that Reggie Bush made his start as a return man. It wouldn’t be optimal, but it is an option.