Breaking Down Detroit Lions' Roster After 2014 NFL Draft
So what happens now?
The 2014 NFL draft has come and gone, free agency has long been settled and the undrafted free agents are flooding Detroit in the hopes of finding a roster spot.
But again, I ask, what happens now? Who is going to be lining up where, and what positional battles will be blowing up the message boards throughout the summer?
You've got questions, I steal a tagline.
In all seriousness, everything you need to know about the Detroit Lions' current roster is in this slideshow. Enjoy, and let me know what you think will happen in the comments section.
The quarterback position has seen some upheaval since January, but the top story hasn't changed. In fact, the pressure has only intensified for Matthew Stafford.
Stafford chugged through the first half of the season playing the best ball of his career. He was sharp, avoiding turnovers and leading an explosive offense that seemed destined for the playoffs.
As everyone knows, he fell apart like the rest of the team. He didn't meet an interception he didn't like and overthrew wide receivers as if he was trying to throw away games.
Now, he has a coaching regime that is specifically geared toward getting the most out of him. With the addition of a couple of new flashy weapons, the season will rest in his capable, yet consistency lacking hands.
Longtime backup Shaun Hill has departed for St. Louis, leaving veteran Dan Orlovsky to hold off Kellen Moore and undrafted rookie James Franklin. While it's possible that Moore takes a step up the ladder or Franklin's athleticism captivates fans during the preseason, it's Orlovsky's job to lose.
The only place where the Lions didn't make a single adjustment this offseason was at running back. And that's a good thing.
The tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will continue to be 1A and 1B on the depth chart. Aside from Bush becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher for Detroit since 2004, the duo became the first set of running backs to each post over 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in NFL history.
Second-year rusher Theo Riddick will likely keep his spot at third in the rotation, although the continuing presence of Mikel Leshoure could mean there will at least be a battle. It's doubtful that Leshoure will carve out any meaningful role since Bell converted on 80 percent of his 3rd-and-short opportunities last season.
Rounding out the roster is relative unknown Steven Miller. Although he could make a push at Jeremy Ross' job due to his explosiveness, that's likely the only contribution he has.
OK, I lied. There was one small adjustment in the form of adding an entire position. That's why the Lions signed Jed Collins from New Orleans and also undrafted free agent Chad Abrams from Florida State. They'll be going head to head all summer for the right to be Detroit's first fullback in a few years.
It's sacrilegious to post a picture of anyone but Calvin Johnson on the wide receivers slide. Consider me a hypocrite.
The offseason signing of Golden Tate will open up the field for Johnson. Tate's reliability—only five dropped passes in three years—will be a huge asset to an offense that dropped the most passes in the league.
The third receiver spot will be a major storyline moving forward. First-round pick Eric Ebron, although a tight end, will probably win the spot by virtue of his ability to line up all over the field. But veteran Kevin Ogletree and sixth-rounder T.J. Jones will be given a fair shot at the slot position.
I've said it a number of times, but you can't count on Ryan Broyles at this point. He has the skill, but three straight seasons cut short by leg injuries is a pretty dismal pattern. Hopefully, he can rebound and bring something to the squad, but counting on it would be a fool's errand.
Kris Durham doesn't have the right mix of skills for the slot position and will duke it out with the aforementioned trio for the fourth spot. Last year's sixth-round pick, Corey Fuller, could also make a run at it, while Naaman Roosevelt and undrafted free agent Andrew Peacock try to capitalize on their long shots to make the roster.
The selection of Ebron sent shock waves throughout Lions nation (Is that a thing?). Some fans and media members were extremely miffed, but the smart ones figured out how intelligent the pick was.
The main reason? Ebron isn't going to play the role of traditional tight end.
For now, we'll place him at the top of the depth chart, but there will be plenty of scenarios where he and Brandon Pettigrew will be on the field together. Pettigrew was brought back on a four-year contract but will only be carrying $3 million in guaranteed money after the 2014 season. If he underwhelms, it won't be too difficult to cut ties with him.
However, Pettigrew has an integral role on this team. He'll handle the blocking duties as well as trying to find a niche as a fourth or fifth option in the passing game.
Fan favorite Joseph Fauria's spot on the roster is likely safe thanks to his red-zone prowess (seven scores last season). If Fauria can develop his in-between-the-20s game, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi shouldn't hesitate to break out the two-athletic-tight end set that the New England Patriots popularized.
The real fight will come down to Michael Williams, Dorin Dickerson and undrafted free agent Jacob Maxwell. They'll be lucky if there is one spot on the roster left for them.
Detroit's offensive line was one of the best in football last year. As a group, the starters were only responsible for eight total sacks, according to the number-crunchers at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
No matter how you slice it, that's extremely impressive for a team that threw the ball 634 times. The only real gripe might be the running game. The Lions averaged 112 rushing yards per game and finished in the middle of the pack.
Presumably, the coaching staff will allow the group of LaAdrian Waddle, Riley Reiff, Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola and Larry Warford to keep their good thing going. Reserve tackle Corey Hilliard will stay at the ready in case one of the tackles goes down, and Rodney Austin will man the backup guard spot.
Joining Austin will likely be third-round choice Travis Swanson. The big man from Arkansas will be groomed as Raiola's replacement while also getting some work at guard in the preseason.
The storyline all offseason has been Ndamukong Suh and his contract-extension talks. Regardless of what happens over the next few months, it appears he'll still be anchoring the middle of the defensive line.
He'll be joined in the middle by Nick Fairley, whose fifth-year option was declined by the front office. Whether he earns a new contract will be entirely up to him, but don't be surprised if the Lions let him walk since he only seems to get motivated when there's money on the line.
Jason Jones will return at defensive end after having his season cut short in the third game. Of course, he'll be bookended by last year's first-rounder, Ziggy Ansah. If Ansah can take the coaching of defensive line gurus Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek to heart, a nice bump in productivity could be coming for the former BYU stud who racked up nine sacks last year.
The reserve units will be led by veteran defensive tackle C.J. Mosley and defensive end Devin Taylor. The always-steady Mosley provides great depth, and Taylor flashed real potential last year with 15 quarterback hurries and two sacks in just 308 snaps.
Fifth-round pick Caraun Reid will fight with Andrew Fluellen for the fourth spot in the tackle rotation. Reid is an interesting prospect who can handle all facets of the game. He's stout enough to stuff the run but is at his best rushing the passer with a bevy of moves.
With Willie Young moving on to Chicago, the Lions drafted explosive rookie Larry Webster. Webster put up numbers similar to Jadeveon Clowney at the combine, but he will likely need some serious coaching before he's ready to contribute at this level. More than likely, free-agent signee Darryl Tapp will grab the fourth spot among the ends.
At the bottom of the pile are defensive tackles Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Corvey Irvin and Vaughn Martin, and defensive ends George Johnson, Xavier Proctor and Kourtnei Brown.
The second-biggest move by the Lions in the draft was easily Kyle Van Noy. General manager Martin Mayhew moved up five spots to grab Ziggy Ansah's college roommate, and the Lions will be much better for it.
He fits an immediate need as the pass-rushing linebacker defensive coordinator Teryl Austin desperately needed. Unlike his predecessor, Ashlee Palmer, he'll be able to stay on the field for all three downs due to his ability to drop into coverage.
The starting lineup will remain unchanged besides the one position. Middle backer Stephen Tulloch returns and weak-side linebacker DeAndre Levy will look to build on his impressive 2013 season when he posted six interceptions.
Palmer will stay on as valuable depth. He wasn't overly impressive last year, but he'll carve out a lengthy career due to his special teams abilities and solid reserve play.
Julian Stanford will battle with once-promising players Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis to find a spot on this team. Lewis will be returning from his four-game suspension for failing a drug test, giving him little room for error with a new coaching staff.
Lastly, Cory Greenwood and Brandon Hepburn will have a lot of work to do if they plan on making the team.
There is a logjam at the cornerback position for Detroit, and it's unclear if any of them should be a starter.
Last year's second-round choice, Darius Slay, will get plenty of coaching and every opportunity to grab a starting spot. However, to do so, he'll have to beat out Rashean Mathis, last year's most surprising player.
The Lions did draft Nevin Lawson in the fourth round, but the 5'9" cornerback won't figure into the starting rotation. His best role will be on the inside as either a nickel or dime back.
To get the nickel spot, he'll have to fight Bill Bentley. Bentley had an up-and-down year and should benefit from Austin's arrival.
There are plenty of players who will be trying to hang on at the bottom of the roster. Lions fans surely remember the names of formerly exciting rookies Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood, but they'll be duking it out with undrafted free agent Mohammed Seisay, Aaron Hester and relative veteran Cassius Vaughn.
In a widely panned move, Detroit failed to grab a safety in the draft. Too bad those critics are wrong.
Glover Quin returns after finishing as the 11th-highest-rated safety. The new coaching staff will be transitioning to free safety, instead of being the utility player he was last year. That type of focus should only help elevate his game.
Joining him on the back line is James Ihedigbo. He has plenty of experience with Austin and head coach Jim Caldwell from Baltimore, where he executed the ins and outs of playing strong safety. In fact, he followed closely behind Quin as the 16th-best safety.
The depth will be handled by longtime Lion Don Carey. He might not be a favorite son, but he's more than capable of handling the Don Kelly role for this team. That was a baseball reference for the uninitiated.
DeJon Gomes and Isa Abdul-Quddus will face some intense competition from undrafted free agents Jerome Couplin and Gabe Lynn. Out of the two of them, Couplin offers the most upside.
The only position that is set in stone is Sam Martin. He pounded the rock last year to the tune of 41.2 net yards per punt.
Other than that, things are a bit up for grabs.
As mentioned before, forgotten wide receiver Ross (he won't be lining up there) will have to keep Miller and T.J. Jones at bay if he wants to hold down the return job. He's certainly the favorite, just far from a lock.
As for who will be inheriting Jason Hanson's job (David Akers never happened), the competition will be between rookie Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio. Freese didn't miss a kick last year in college, and he has the type of consistency to win the job. More than likely, the gig is his.