Offseason Power Rankings for Every Player on the Detroit Lions Roster
When it comes to player power rankings in the offseason, most players only care about the top 22 (starters) and the top 53 (on the roster). The order within that isn't important, as long as they're getting their respective jobs done.
Of course, we aren't players, so we can discuss this all we want. There's nothing fancy about this; there are no special rules—just a rundown of the 53 best players on the Lions roster, listed in order of their effectiveness.
Of course, there are more than 53 players currently on the roster, so that means this is also sort of a final roster prediction. Suffice to say, nothing has really changed from the time I put together a roster prediction in early May, so this power ranking will be based on the players I listed in that prediction.
This is obviously a subjective analysis and a difficult one considering the number of new faces on the team, but it should be fun, even though you can all probably guess who No. 1 is already.
53. Ogemdi Nwagbuo, DT
If the season started right now, Nwagbuo would (probably) be the Lions' fourth defensive tackle. His current competition in that role is Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and undrafted free agent Michael Brooks. Nwagbuo is the only player in this prediction that I actually don't expect to make the final roster. Look for the Lions to find their fourth DT when roster cuts come down in September.
52. LaAdrian Waddle, OT/G
A big-bodied undrafted free agent, Waddle has a strong chance to make the roster because of his 330-pound size and his experience playing left tackle at Texas Tech. He's probably a guard in the NFL, but that just means he has size and versatility, two things the Lions like. Of course, he'll have to play exceptionally well to earn a roster spot.
51. Carmen Messina, LB
One of the MVPs from the 2012 preseason, Messina should be able to crack the roster because of a general lack of depth at linebacker. He'll make the roster if he can prove his mettle on special teams.
50. Ronnell Lewis, LB/DE
Lewis earned all of one snap on defense last year. Based on the Lions' decision to draft two defensive ends in the first four rounds of the 2013 draft, it's probably safe to say the Lions aren't especially high on Lewis' rate of development. He's a good special teamer, though.
49. Corey Fuller, WR
Matthew Stafford said this about Fuller, according to Tim Twentyman on the Lions' official site: “I haven’t worked with him a whole lot, but he’s got size, he’s got speed and pretty good hands. He’s an exciting prospect.” Exciting, yes, but the learning curve for receivers is steep, and he has plenty of talent to fight through before he's a major part of the offense.
48. Amari Spievey, S
This offseason most likely determines the future of Spievey's career, which is to say whether he has one. He won't be asked to start this year, but if he finally gets his head together (both mentally and physically), he could be a valuable depth player at safety for a team that has needed it badly.
47. Kellen Moore, QB
Moore should make the roster on account of a dearth of other quarterbacking options, but he will need to show a great deal of progress over last season to be anything more than a dead-duck third-stringer.
46. Theo Riddick, RB
Barring injury, Riddick will have some difficulty getting reps with Reggie Bush, Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell in his way. He has talent but not more than those other guys. He might have to show up on special teams for a while or figure out some other ways to get on the field.
45. Kris Durham, WR
Durham made some splash plays last year in limited time with the team, and taking an offseason with the Lions may make him even better. It's hard to say what Durham's long-term future is with the team, but he's an intriguing player to have around.
44. Chris Greenwood, CB
Greenwood has the physical talent to be maybe the best cornerback on the roster, but he missed almost all of his rookie year with an abdominal injury and has a long way to go to show he isn't just a workout warrior. Early returns from OTAs have been encouraging, though.
43. Ron Bartell, CB
Bartell is a veteran, which is likely why he's getting first-team reps early in OTAs. But the Lions are loaded with talent at corner, and Bartell wasn't good enough to play for the Raiders, which should tell you all you need to know.
42. Bill Nagy, G/C
A former starter with the Cowboys, Nagy is only this low because he has an injury history and hasn't shown anything while with the Lions. If he plays as well as he appears he can, he's a good 10-15 spots higher than this.
41. Devin Taylor, DE
Taylor has long arms to hold up his high ceiling, but he's still a rookie and has much to learn before he's anything more than a rotational defensive end. He'll still get playing time in a Lawrence Jackson-type role this year.
40. Sam Martin, P
Really now, how high can I put a rookie punter?
39. Michael Williams, TE
I've just ranked the Lions' 2013 seventh-round pick higher than the Lions' 2013 fourth, fifth and both sixth-round picks. Yes, I believe Williams was a steal of a pick who fits perfectly into the role the Lions want him for.
39. John Wendling, S/ST
The good news is that Wendling is one of the best special teams coverage guys in the league. The bad news is that special teams is all Wendling can do, which limits his impact on the team.
38. David Akers, K
In 2011, Akers had one of his best seasons. In 2012, he had one of his worst. Which season he replicates in 2013 will determine whether he is way too high or way too low here.
37. Mike Thomas, WR
There's an awful lot of "maybe" when discussing Mike Thomas in terms of his potential fit on the team, but all I see is someone who isn't the best on the team at anything. Ryan Broyles is a better slot receiver, and Joique Bell beat him out for a return role late last season. What is his role, other than to be second string at everything?
35. Darius Slay, CB
This is probably a bit high for an injured second-round rookie, but there's no denying Slay's talent. He has a lot to prove (starting with his ability to get on the field in the first place) but has the ability to start for the Lions in the near future.
34. Ashlee Palmer, LB
Technically, Palmer is in the mix for a starting linebacker position, in the same way John Wendling was once considered a legitimate safety. Palmer is a better linebacker than Wendling is a safety (he's a reserve that doesn't cause stark terror for a defensive coordinator), but both are best relegated to a special teams role—where they both are extremely skilled.
33. Corey Hilliard, OT
Hilliard will battle for a starting spot at right tackle, but I expect him to lose out to Jason Fox, who has been waiting three years for this opportunity. That's OK, because Hilliard is a great insurance policy at either tackle position. He's not great, but he's solid.
32. Don Carey, S
With the Lions short on options last season, Carey went from being an afterthought to being a solid player. The Lions were so impressed with his play, Carey opened up OTAs playing with the first team in place of the injured Louis Delmas. Speaking of whom...
31. Louis Delmas, S
By talent, Delmas deserves a spot in the top 15, maybe top 10. But this is where he goes until he can prove he can stay on the field. It doesn't matter how talented he is while he's rehabbing his knee.
30. C.J. Mosley, DT
Mosley is indirectly responsible for one of the most epic moments in Detroit Lions history. Now he's a valuable reserve tackle who will factor in a rotation with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Mosley is a starting-quality player who will get a ton of snaps in Detroit, despite (most likely) not starting.
29. Travis Lewis, LB
An underrated seventh-round pick in 2012, Lewis is a contender to start in place of Justin Durant this season. He and Tahir Whitehead will battle throughout training camp, and whoever wins isn't likely to win by much. Both players have lots of talent.
28. Willie Young, DE
If Young is going to become a great speed-rusher, now is the time for him to do it. He won't have to start in 2013 because of the Lions' emphasis on defensive ends in the draft, but he needs to show that he's a talented enough one-trick pony to be productive in passing situations.
27. Jonte Green, CB
Green faced struggles typical of a sixth-round rookie shoved into a starting role by injuries in 2012. But given his circumstances, he was surprisingly solid as a rookie, and if he learns and develops from the experience, he should grow a great deal for the 2013 season.
26. Tahir Whitehead, LB
Rangy and athletic, Whitehead is the favorite to start at OLB in place of Justin Durant in 2013. He'll face tough competition from Travis Lewis and Ashlee Palmer (mostly Lewis), but he should win out.
25. Bill Bentley, CB
Bentley is loaded with talent and has some game experience from starting in 2013. If healthy, Bentley could be a starter, either on the outside or in the slot. He fits better in the slot in the long run, but there may be no better option on the wing, depending on how Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood and Darius Slay play in training camp.
24. Jason Fox, OT
This may be a bit unfounded for a player who has barely played at all in three seasons, but I'm a firm believer in Fox. Fox only slipped to the Lions in the fourth round of the 2010 draft because of injury concerns, but he has been (mostly) healthy for a couple of years now and just because he's been largely forgotten doesn't mean he can't play.
23. Larry Warford, OG
Though Warford may turn out to be the best interior lineman to grace Detroit since the days of Kevin Glover, he's still just a rookie who has to prove himself first. Still, he has all the tools to succeed and a roster spot ready and waiting for him, so he should grow into this spot (and maybe higher) in short time.
22. Ezekiel Ansah, DE
Like Warford, hopes are high for Ansah, and like Warford, he's not one of the Lions' best players until he proves he is. He's almost guaranteed a starting role by the end of training camp, but what he does after that is up to him.
21. Don Muhlbach, LS
The best long snapper in the game is still just a long snapper. But just think about this: When is the last time you saw the Lions botch the snap on a punt or field goal?
No. 20: Tony Scheffler, TE
It's hard to say with Scheffler. He's talented but frustratingly inconsistent.
The Lions tried to make him a primary receiving target in 2012 with the receiver position decimated by injury, and he disappeared.
Scheffler is a good football player, but he seems to play his best football when nobody expects him to. He hasn't been the receiving target that the Lions have wanted him to be, and he's in a free-agent year.
Scheffler is still talented, and that's what puts him this high. But he's here because of how good he can be (and has been, at times). If he continues to regress, he might be not only too high on this list but possibly not on it at all, if undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria starts to flex his potential in training camp.
No. 19: Shaun Hill, QB
Yes, Shaun Hill is a better player than some of the Lions starters.
He doesn't get used much since Matthew Stafford has remained healthy, but in those moments when his number is called, he still shines.
Hill was solid for the Lions in 2010 and nearly pulled off an epic comeback against the Tennessee Titans, throwing for 178 yards and two touchdowns in less than a quarter of work.
Like any backup quarterback, the Lions hope they never have to use Hill, but when the time comes, they could be in worse hands.
No. 18: Joique Bell, RB
An unheralded hero for the Lions last year, Bell is a grinding running back who displays playground-like ability to elude tackles.
Though the Lions' acquisition of Reggie Bush will limit Bell's touches, he should look to play a Maurice Morris-type role in 2013, absorbing carries and grinding out the clock when Bush and Mikel Leshoure need a breather.
Bell has Bush's ability to catch passes and Leshoure's ability to absorb contact, but he doesn't have the speed of Bush or the power of Leshoure.
He may, however, make an interesting kick returner, provided that he works on his ball security.
No. 17: DeAndre Levy, LB
DeAndre Levy finally got to play two years in a row at the same position, and the results were...mixed.
Levy still isn't a huge impact player and can struggle to fight through blocks, but he has been solid and still has room to grow.
Levy and Justin Durant were considered about equal last season, with Levy being better against the pass and Durant better against the run. The Lions opted to stick with Levy, and while that may or may not be a good decision, Levy is, at the very least, the second-best linebacker on the team right now. That has to count for something.
No. 16: Riley Reiff, OT
This is as high as I can justifiably put Riley Reiff, given that we're not yet sure how he'll hold up at left tackle.
He started one game at left tackle last season and was inconsistent (as rookies are) in both run and pass blocking. He played mostly as a "sixth lineman" in rushing situations last season, and he was great. We at least know he can push guys around.
Reiff is a good lineman and should improve significantly as the season goes on. It should be clear by the end of this season whether his future is at left tackle or elsewhere along the line, but he's still good enough (in either scenario) to occupy this spot.
No. 15: Ryan Broyles, WR
Ryan Broyles only got to show his stuff for a couple of games before blowing out his (other) knee, but for those games, he was solid.
Against the Texans on Thanksgiving, he was really good, with six receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. And that was without the protection afforded by Nate Burleson.
There should be little to no doubt of Broyles' ability at this point, but it's fair to question his health. Since November 2011, Broyles has blown both his ACLs.
If he comes back fine from his latest injury, he'll be a key component in the Lions offense. If not, it's going to be a bad time for everyone.
No. 14: Jason Jones, DE
The fact that Jason Jones has only one season logged at defensive end is cause for concern, but his body type is scheme appropriate for the Lions.
Now the Lions have a player at right defensive end who can play the run.
It is a concern that Jones may not have the explosion necessary to get after the passer as quickly as the Lions want, but that didn't stop him from flattening Ryan Fitzpatrick.
If nothing else, Jones is far and away the most reliable DE on the Lions squad right now.
No. 13: Mikel Leshoure, RB
Mikel Leshoure's long-awaited debut for the Lions in 2012 didn't blow anyone's doors off, but then, what in the Lions' running game did?
Leshoure is a valuable part of the Lions offense, and he will be even more so now that Reggie Bush is on the team.
Leshoure was never intended to carry the full weight of the running game as he often did in 2012. He was intended to be a powerful complement to a speed back (Jahvid Best, at the time). He doesn't have breakaway speed because he wasn't supposed to.
Leshoure's job is to get four to five yards per carry and wear down the defense so the speedy guys can take advantage of their fatigue. Last year, he did his job, but there was no speedy guy. This year, there is.
No. 12: Dominic Raiola, C
Yes, Raiola is showing signs of age-related regression, and yes, he's too small to generate much forward push on running games.
But Raiola is still playing at a high level and understands defensive schemes like few linemen in the league do. He always knows where the blitz is coming from, and he's clever. He uses positioning, technique and great upper-body strength to make up for his physical shortcomings.
Raiola just might be in for a bit of a renaissance with Larry Warford showing up on his right side. He can combo block with the best of them, and now he has a big-bodied teammate to do it with.
11. Brandon Pettigrew, TE
Brandon Pettigrew is a talented football player, which is why his recent performances have been so frustrating.
An obvious victim of regression in 2012, Pettigrew remains a great blocking tight end with reasonable athleticism, but he just cannot hang onto the football. He dropped passes thrown right into his chest and had a ball taken away from him by Titans linebacker Alterraun Verner and returned for a touchdown.
That's not going to cut it for Pettigrew. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt with this ranking, but if Pettigrew wants to be the best tight end on this team, much less one of the league's elite, he needs to stop catching the ball like it's a cactus and stop carrying it like a water balloon.
10. Rob Sims, G
Sims has been so good over the past few seasons, there haven't been many calls from fans to replace him. No other recent Lions lineman can claim that.
Sims isn't the kind of guy who garners a lot of recognition, and that's both good and bad. He isn't an elite-caliber player and probably never will be. He's the type of guy who quietly does his job and doesn't get flagged. He's quietly, subtly above average—no more, no less.
A team with a Rob Sims-caliber player at each offensive line position could win a Super Bowl without sending a single lineman to the Pro Bowl.
9. Glover Quin, S
Quin is like the Rob Sims of safeties. He's solid, stays healthy and does his job without much fanfare.
Quin might not be a superstar in the Lions defense (though he still has room to improve), but he did cause headaches for his opponents.
In terms of overall talent, Quin is probably the second-best safety on the team next to Louis Delmas. But when you factor reliability into the equation (Quin has started all 16 games for the Texans for the last three seasons), he's easily the best safety on the team.
8. Stephen Tulloch, LB
Tulloch may not have been the most impressive middle linebacker in football last year, but he gets the job done for the Lions. Apparently, he's better than Darrelle Revis, according to Pro Football Talk.
That's obviously a bit of a stretch, but he does exactly what the Lions need in the middle of their defense. Tulloch is a leader, he's quick and athletic, and despite being a bit small, he uses his intelligence and instincts to diagnose and shut down plays before they start.
Tulloch struggled a bit to wrap up his tackles in 2012, but that's a technique issue that he can and should fix. He remains one of the best players and most important leaders on this Lions squad.
7. Nate Burleson, WR
Burleson's stock gets a boost with the news that he is so far ahead of schedule, he's already back on the field in OTAs.
Admittedly, I am factoring leadership into these rankings, which is why Burleson, despite never being a standout player statistically, ranks so highly. Burleson is a vocal team leader, and he is also leading by example by working so hard to get back on the field early.
Burleson is sneaky in the way he posts his numbers. He isn't terribly consistent, but he shows up in big moments and in big ways. In 2010, with the Lions missing Calvin Johnson for the final game of the season, Burleson caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
In addition, Burleson spent much of 2012 trying to prop up Titus Young as the Lions' next superstar, and only now are we seeing how misguided that effort was. Losing Young should result in addition by subtraction not only for Burleson but for the entire Lions squad.
6. Reggie Bush, RB
If Bush fits in the Lions offense as perfectly as it looks like he does, this is way too low for him.
But for now, Bush is just a free agent who needs to prove he belongs, which is why I have to leave him out of the top five.
Bush should be a crucial component to completing the Lions offense. If he can force defenses to respect the run at all, the Lions' entire offense will improve, and Bush will have a career year.
But until we see it, it's all speculative, so Bush stays here for the same reason Ansah and Warford stay outside of the top 20.
5. Nick Fairley, DT
Nick Fairley started slow in 2012, partially due to the same lack of focus that resulted in two offseason misdemeanor arrests.
This year, Fairley is keeping himself out of trouble, and he seems to have matured from the experience, according to the Detroit Free Press. Fairley looks to be in great shape early in OTAs, which should let him hit the ground running in 2013.
Maturity and commitment were the two big issues that Fairley faced coming out of the draft, and the Lions have come face-to-face with both. In 2012, Fairley showed a lack of maturity by getting into trouble and a lack of commitment by showing up to training camp out of shape.
This year, it appears neither will be an issue, which clears the path for him to become half of the most dominant DT tandem in football.
4. Chris Houston, CB
Consistently underrated even by his own fans, Houston continues to get better and better under everyone's noses.
While Houston may not fit into that elite "shutdown" tier of cornerbacks, Houston has started to put together strings of games where he blacks out half of the football field. He has top-end speed and improved his ability to play the ball.
If there's something Houston lacks, it's consistency. Too often he has put together solid ball games, only to ruin the performance by giving up a big play. He needs to fix that tendency, but with the way he has improved year over year, there's no reason to believe he can't.
The Lions roster has a lot of young talent, and Houston may not occupy the position he does for long. But until someone else makes a very loud statement, Houston is the second-best defender on this football team.
3. Ndamukong Suh, DT
It's probably time for Lions fans to accept that Suh's rookie year was a statistical anomaly. It's not realistic to expect 10 sacks a year out of him, and that's OK.
It's also time for everyone else to accept that Suh's sophomore year was equally an anomaly. After leading the league in personal fouls in 2011, Suh took two penalties—both offsides—in the entire 2012 year.
Suh's 2012 is probably a good year to build from. He cleaned up his act,and notched a respectable eight sacks with a notable lack of minus plays. There is still improvement for Suh to make, and he needs to figure out how to beat trap blocks but he's still one of the most explosive and feared defenders in the game.
Suh is probably always going to face penalties for hitting someone too hard or throwing someone to the ground the wrong way. But the Lions will take that. That's who Suh is: a throwback player who isn't on the field to make friends and has a tendency to toe the line.
The Lions wouldn't have him any other way.
2. Matthew Stafford, QB
For the first time in a long time, the Detroit Lions have a franchise quarterback.
Stafford is on pace to break just about every passing record in the Lions' record books. Most of those records are held by Hall of Fame legend Bobby Layne, and I want to point something out here.
Layne joined the Lions at age 24. Stafford is about to break all of Layne's records at age 25.
Granted, this is a passing era, and Stafford is throwing a record number of passes to one of the league's all-time great receivers. But on the other hand, the Lions have had a lot of quarterbacks, and none of them, not even Greg Landry in his 11-year Lions career, could touch Layne's marks in over 50 years.
By the time Stafford is done, at his current rate, he could triple Layne's career passing-yards mark.
The question is no longer about whether Stafford is a good quarterback, it's about how high he can go.
1. Calvin Johnson, Superhuman
Calvin Johnson's 2012 accomplishments include appearing on the cover of Madden and then proceeding to break both the Madden Curse and Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record.
When you have the best season in league history for a player at your position, you're the best player on your team, period.
This isn't close. There is no debate. "Megatron" is the best player on this team by such a wide margin, he should have the top five spots to himself.
The only thing left to wonder is at what point he stops exceeding expectations. At some point, those expectations have to get too big even for him, right?