Detroit Lions

Offseason Detroit Lions Player Power Rankings

Brandon AlisogluCorrespondent IMay 29, 2014

Offseason Detroit Lions Player Power Rankings

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Wake up! The NFL season is never over. Ever. Or at least that's what Roger Goodell would have you believe.

    The truth is our days are now filled with semi-meaningless baseball games and maybe a playoff basketball game at night, although every one of them lately has gone down to the mid-third quarter mark. 

    Admit it, you're bored. So am I.

    Therefore, in the American spirit of ingenuity, let's manufacture some fun. I'm going to spend the next 27 slides power ranking the players on the Detroit Lions roster because there isn't a stitch of real activity to dive into for another month.

    How will I do it? That's a great question. And I'm not exactly prepared for it, but in the American political spirit, I'll ramble off some nonsense and wait for my applause. 

    I'm not sure that schtick is working. Anyways, I'm going to equally take into account three different segments for these power rankings: past performance (two years), talent level and how I believe they'll fare this coming season. That way, we'll get a little bit of objective analysis to mix with the subjective and a subtle prediction thrown in to create a most delicious power ranking.

    And in an effort to complete this by the end of the month, I'm limiting the selections to the starters with a few reserves and specialists thrown in for good measure.

    Also, you won't find any talent levels below a six. This is the NFL, not the arena league.

    Enjoy!

    Or don't. Whatever. 

     

    All professional stats, grades or rankings are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription. All combine stats are sourced from NFL.com.

27. Defensive End Jason Jones

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 4

    Jason Jones didn't perform well during his limited showing last season with just two quarterback hurries to pair with two tackles. He was merely average during the year prior with four sacks. 

    Talent Level: 6

    Jones isn't a world-beater. He is probably more equipped to play the inside with his stout size and limited athleticism.

    Predicted Impact: 6

    He will enter training camp as the top left defensive tackle, but will face a stern test from second-year end Devin Taylor. Still, the veteran will have a leg up thanks to his experience with learning defensive systems.

    Conclusion: 16

    Jones isn't an exciting player. He's the type of player that winning teams have on the roster as depth. 

26. Defensive End Devin Taylor

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 5

    It's tough to get a real read on Devin Taylor, as he only played 308 snaps in 2013. He did do an okay job with two sacks and 15 hurries for a league-average grade.

    Talent Level: 6.5

    I'm not as high on Taylor as some of the other Lions pundits out there. He has a huge frame (6'7") and it'll be interesting to see how he develops moving forward.

    Predicted Impact: 5

    As mentioned in the Jones slide, Taylor will get a shot at a starting position. Other than that, I don't expect him to have much of an impact as he learns a new system that may not be a great fit for him.

    Conclusion: 16.5

    This score seems a bit high. However, he performed adequately in his limited role last year, so he will get a chance to build on that, and it isn't like he's skyrocketing up these rankings.

25. Tight End Brandon Pettigrew

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 4

    Brandon Pettigrew has been a league-average tight end when you take his 100 receptions for 983 yards and five touchdowns into account. His run blocking slid from minus-2.6 to minus-9.7 last season, which really brought this number down along with the five fumbles.

    Talent Level: 7

    My original impulse was to give Pettigrew an eight. However, he needs to find the talent that resulted in a first-round pick before I will acknowledge it.

    Predicted Impact: 6.5

    Pettigrew will still be a starter. The real question is if he can take advantage of his new chance with a new coaching staff that loves to run multiple tight end sets.

    Conclusion: 17.5

    The formula seems to have hit the mark here. Pettigrew has been a middling contributor who is buoyed by his supposedly superior talent.

24. Cornerback Rashean Mathis

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 6

    Rashean Mathis was the best cornerback the Lions had last season. However, that's like winning the Tour de France when you're the only one with a bike. He was below average the year prior, leading to his Lions tenure and his average score.

    Talent Level: 6

    Mathis' best years are behind him. Last season's renaissance aside, fans and coaches alike would be smart to keep their expectations to average at best. 

    Predicted Impact: 5.5

    Someone has to play the role of the pessimist. If Mathis is half as effective as last year in a reserve role in 2014, he should probably earn a spot in Detroit's Ring of Honor.

    Conclusion: 17.5

    Let the comments commence! Just keep the expectations in check since Mathis will be 34 when the season kicks off.

23. Cornerback Chris Houston

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 4.5

    No Lion was a better symbol for the 2013 season than Chris Houston. Injuries contributed to his poor showing (minus-8.1), but mental mistakes and misreads were all too common as well. If it weren't for an above-average showing the year prior, this grade might have been the first to find the negative side of the scale.

    Talent Level: 7.5

    You'll see me note more than once that it's tough to peg a player's talent level due to whatever circumstance. Again, Houston is the poster boy. His ceiling is probably that of a solid No. 2 cornerback, giving his talent level a ceiling no higher than eight. You'll notice I wasn't that kind here.

    Predicted Impact: 6.5

    I feel like a broken record. Houston is recovering from toe surgery and missing valuable time with a new defensive staff. However, he is a veteran, and as such, must be trusted to get up to speed quickly once he finally gets back on the field. I'm just not sold that he's a good fit for the current defense as he hasn't proven he can handle a physical style.

    Conclusion: 18.5

    I won't be exercising my right to move his grade any higher. Only Houston can do that.

22. Strong Safety James Ihedigbo

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 6

    James Ihedigbo's arrival does give the Lions a strong safety experience with the new defense. However, his performance last season peaked with 91 tackles and three interceptions, resulting in a slightly above-average grade.

    Talent Level: 6.5

    This feels generous, but Ihedigbo is someone who can tangle with the running game in the box and maybe cherry-pick a pass or two. 

    Predicted Impact: 7

    If Ihedigbo can maintain his 2013 performance, it would be huge for the Lions. Actually, merely staying on the field and being slightly competent may be enough.

    Conclusion: 19.5

    As with everything else with Ihedigbo, he wraps it all up with a slightly above-average score. Here's hoping that's the case come January.

21. Cornerback Darius Slay

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 3

    Last year was a brutal baptism by fire for the former second-rounder. After getting handed a starting position, he was eventually pulled for veteran Rashean Mathis and finished the season as the 92nd-"best" corner.

    Talent Level: 8.5

    Slay is a better talent than he proved last year. Cornerbacks take time to develop, and Slay at least has the makings (6'0", 192 pounds, 4.37 40-yard dash) of a successful NFL cornerback.

    Predicted Impact: 8.5

    It appears Slay is getting ready to cash in on that abundance of talent. The new defensive scheme will allow him to be more physical and aggressive, and he seems to be taking to it quite well, according to MLive.com's Kyle Meinke.

    Conclusion: 20

    The grade seems extremely optimistic. It's on Slay to live up to the hype, and spending time with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson was a smart first step. 

20. Running Back Joique Bell

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 5

    As you'll see when we get to Reggie Bush, this number can't be any higher. Joique Bell's average per carry dropped from 5.0 to 3.9 in 2013, while he dropped twice as many passes (6) as he did the year prior. On the plus side, he has accounted for 11 rushing touchdowns and did very well in short-yardage situations.

    Talent Level: 8

    Despite his fan-favorite status, Bell isn't as talented as his backfield mate. His tough running and generally solid hands keep him in the upper-middle class though.

    Predicted Impact: 6

    As Mikel Leshoure and fullbacks Jed Collins and Chad Abram all make a run at his reps, Bell is the most likely candidate to suffer from the adopted New Orleans Saints' style of spreading the carries. He'll still have an impact, just not as great of one as he had hoped. 

    Conclusion: 20

    I'm pulling out the trump card and giving Bell one extra point since he always gives one extra effort. 

19. Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 6

    Riley Reiff was a consistent performer who did an admirable job staying away from penalties. However, he wasn't dominant, or even good, in any phase.

    Talent Level: 7.5

    He's probably not playing the position he was built for. Reiff is an average left tackle, but would be better off inside or on the right side.

    Predicted Impact: 7

    Another offseason of seasoning should help him improve his performance, but his ceiling isn't that high. If he can at least maintain and keep Matthew Stafford relatively upright, he'll have done his job.

    Conclusion: 20.5

    At first blush, that number seems a bit high, but it's about where an average player should land. 

18. Running Back Reggie Bush

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 6

    Reggie Bush was a solid part of a great one-two punch, but he hasn't been that productive himself. Offsetting his 2,790 total yards and 15 combined touchdown are 16 dropped passes and nine fumbles. 

    Talent Level: 8.5

    Coming out of college, Bush was a superior talent that didn't quite seem to have a fit. He's found his niche in Detroit, yet the mental miscues have kept him tied down.

    Predicted Impact: 7.5

    Bush will still be splitting time with Joique Bell. He should settle into some variation of a Ray Rice-Darren Sproles role in the new offense. 

    Conclusion: 22

    Bush still has value; he just isn't the top banana fans were hoping they were getting when Detroit inked him last offseason.

17. Linebacker DeAndre Levy

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 5

    Despite an impressive 2013, when DeAndre Levy posted six interceptions along with 108 tackles, he merely rates as average when you take into account an abysmal 2012 (ranked 40th out of 43 OLBs).

    Talent Level: 8

    The wild range of Levy's performances keeps him capped at an eight here. If he can repeat his performance, he'll get a nice bump (probably a full point) in next year's edition.

    Predicted Impact: 8

    The new defense will feature more blitzes than Levy has seen in his entire career. He's never been a great pass-rusher, but his coverage skills should benefit the defense when his comrades hurry the quarterback into an inadvisable throw.

    Conclusion: 22

    In the end, I resisted giving Levy a one-point bump. He's a veteran who proved himself when called out by certain scribes who shall remain nameless last year. Fine, it was me. He earned the point.

16. Guard Rob Sims

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7

    Rob Sims fell from the 11th-best guard in 2012 all the way down to the 38th spot. There is hope he can rebound considering he's only 30, but he'll need to prove it.

    Talent Level: 8.5

    Again, Father Time could be breathing down his neck. It seems a bit premature at this stage and he is only one year removed from being nearly dominant. 

    Predicted Impact: 7

    Somewhere right in the middle of his last two years feels like a good settling point for the nine-year veteran. 

    Conclusion: 22.5

    It would be too easy to give up on Sims prematurely. One bad year doesn't diminish what Sims has done during his time in Detroit and what he is still capable of accomplishing. 

15. Free Safety Glover Quin

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7

    Glover Quin is different from his fellow safety Ihedigbo because his career is trending in the positive. He built on a slightly above league-average grade in 2012 (plus-2.3) and vaunted into the 11th overall spot for safeties last season (plus-6.7).

    Talent Level: 8

    Quin has the tools to man the safety position for Detroit for the next five years. However, he isn't going to be come Troy Polamalu of old, but handling the job with competency should be enough for this team.

    Predicted Impact: 7.5

    Let's split the difference here. Again, with Detroit's emphasis on the front seven and creating surprise pressure, Quin might even excel in the back, but his performance so far implies he'll merely do well. 

    Conclusion: 22.5

    And "merely do[ing] well" would be a welcome development in Detroit. 

14. Offensive Tackle LaAdrian Waddle

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7.5

    LaAdrian Waddle was an above-average right tackle last season and just missed out on being good with his plus-7.9 PFF grade. That's a nice start.

    Talent Level: 8

    Despite starting those eight games last season, it's still tough to get a real read on his ceiling. Would he have been better with more snaps? Or would he have been exposed once opponents figured him out?

    Predicted Impact: 7.5

    There's nothing wrong with maintaining an above-average grade. In fact, Waddle will have a successful year if he can mimic his 2013 performance.

    Conclusion: 23

    The possibility of dropping him a point out of concern for being too eager was considered and ultimately dismissed. Waddle has earned his lofty perch.

    For now. 

13. Defensive End Ezekiel Ansah

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 6

    Ezekiel Ansah put on a few exciting performances in his debut season, racking up nine sacks and posting a nice plus-5.5 PFF grade against the run. However, he was very inconsistent as attested by Israel Idonije's ability to get one more hurry despite 134 fewer snaps.

    Talent Level: 9

    We knew Ziggy was a raw prospect coming in and would need a little time to develop. All of that crazy athletic ability could be unleashed in 2014.

    Predicted Impact: 8

    As just mentioned, few can match Ansah's raw attributes. Another year of working with defensive line gurus Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek should do wonders for Ansah's game.

    Conclusion: 23

    Ansah's number is inflated by his tremendous upside, but that's how power rankings work. 

12. Punter Sam Martin

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 8

    Sam Martin certainly didn't mind the pressure of being a fifth-round pick. He had a gross average of 47.1 yards per punt while only having nine go for touchbacks. However, punters shouldn't cost you games, and the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last year was tough to swallow after his shank set up the game-winning field goal.

    Talent Level: 8

    Martin has the big leg and displayed a nice touch. It would be nice to see him down a few more inside the 20 though (23 last year).

    Predicted Impact: 7.5

    The hope is that Martin isn't given much of a chance to have an impact. However, when called upon, Martin has proved he can handle affecting the field-position game in the positive for Detroit.

    Conclusion: 23.5

    An appropriate grade for a punter. Not so high that he gets an inflated sense of self, but healthy enough to know that he's needed. However, taking a look at the ranking, it's no wonder this team is searching for its first playoff win in over 20 years. 

11. Center Dominic Raiola

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 8.5

    Dominic Raiola finished just 0.3 points behind Jason Kelce to finish as the second-best center in the league in 2013. He was 13th in 2012.

    Talent Level: 7

    Raiola hasn't been a top-flight center his entire career. He has been able to lock down his starting spot for the past decade and deserves recognition for that.

    Predicted Impact: 8

    You can't expect Raiola to replicate his incredible performance from last season. If he can captain the offensive line while limiting his regression, he'll have done his job.

    Conclusion: 23.5

    The veteran center with the heart of gold—well, here's hoping the old Lion gets the sendoff he deserves if it is in fact his last season in Detroit. 

10. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy

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    Cathleen Allison/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7

    Kyle Van Noy finished off an impressive college career with 120 tackles, four interceptions, six forced fumbles and 17 sacks over the past two years, per Sports-Reference.com. His performance slumped a bit without a certain former roommate, but his track record lays a nice foundation for the future. And, as always, college performances are discounted an entire point.

    Talent Level: 9

    What can't Van Noy do? He'll rush the passer with his 4.71 speed, drop into coverage with surprising fluidity and take on the run. 

    Predicted Impact: 7.5

    Van Noy is a great fit for Detroit's new defense by virtue of his swiss-army-knife nature and ability to create pressure from a multitude of pre-snap positions. However, fans might be expecting a little much from a rookie in a new place.

    Conclusion: 23.5

    But don't take that predicted impact as a reason not to smile. Van Noy will be a smart pick for Detroit for a long time; just don't go engraving his name on the Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy yet.

     

     

9. Tight End Eric Ebron

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7

    College performances will always take a one-point deduction here. However, breaking Vernon Davis' records while compiling 102 catches for 1,598 yards and seven touchdowns, per Sports-Reference.com,  gave Eric Ebron a good starting point.

    Talent Level: 8.5

    There's a reason he was selected in the top 10. Not many guys standing 6'4" and weighing 250 pounds run a 4.6 40-yard dash. If only there wasn't that concerning drop rate. Also, despite his lack of blocking skills, he doesn't get dinged since he's basically a big receiver.

    Predicted Impact: 8

    Ebron is exactly what the Lions needed to pair with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. He will exploit every matchup he finds himself in and could make a run at Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    Conclusion: 23.5

    This seems like an appropriate place for the talented combo receiver. There's no need to bump him up or down. And he gets the nod over the fellow rookie because his ceiling is just a touch higher. 

8. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7

    For everything that Stephen Tulloch did right last year on his way to posting a ridiculous plus-14.7 grade, he did the exact opposite in 2012 with a minus-5.8. However, he keeps a solid score here by virtue of his 132 tackles and four sacks in 2013.

    Talent Level: 8.5

    The middle linebacker for Detroit climbed out of the pit he threw himself into in 2012, finishing as the fourth-best inside linebacker (both 4-3 and 3-4) in football. There's still plenty of talent left in the tank for the 29-year-old Tulloch.

    Predicted Impact: 8

    It's hard to imagine Tulloch repeating his great 2013 performance. Yet, there's no reason to think he'll take a huge step back either, just a bit of a regression toward his own personal mean, which is still very high.

    Conclusion: 23.5

    His grade is spot on. He's a good-but-not-great linebacker whose leadership will be a great asset for the new coaching regime.

7. Wide Receiver Golden Tate

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7

    The totals of 109 catches for 1,586 yards and 12 scores won't jump off the screen. Seattle's offense has a lot to do with that, but that's the breaks.

    Talent Level: 8

    Golden Tate has some of the surest hands in the game, dropping just seven passes over four years. He can also extend plays once he has the ball secured as his over 800 yards after the catch during the past two seasons attest.

    Predicted Impact: 9.5

    Don't minimize what Tate brings to the table. He'll keep offenses from focusing on Megatron and can take shorter routes for large gains, something the offense has sorely missed for the past few seasons.

    Conclusion: 24.5

    The number feels low. Let's take a wait-and-see approach before blessing Tate with too high of a ranking.

6. Kicker Nate Freese

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 9

    Anybody who can connect on all 20 of his field-goal attempts during his senior year while playing half of his games in the New England weather deserves a high grade. However, the one-point college rule is still in effect.

    Talent Level: 8.5

    Nate Freese's college performance proves him to be an accurate kicker. He only missed two field goals his junior year and nailed three of his four career kicks from over 50 yards. However, it's unknown whether he has the howitzers that recent NFL entrants Blair Walsh and Greg Zuerlein possess.

    Predicted Impact: 8

    There's little need to rehash David Akers' "efforts" here. Had he been a smidge more accurate, the Lions could have finished 9-7 just on his leg alone. Freese shouldn't have that problem.

    Conclusion: 25.5

    Could Detroit have found its next Jason Hanson? It's too early to tell, but the early prognosis is certainly rosy. 

5. Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7.5

    Nick Fairley finished (5th) just behind Suh during the 2012 campaign but took a huge tumble back to 30th in 2013. He had some impact plays, just not enough of them in 2013. 

    Talent Level: 9.5

    In many ways, Fairley is just as talented as Suh. It's all a matter of putting forth the same effort on every play like his more celebrated linemate.

    Predicted Impact: 8.5

    When Detroit declined Fairley's fifth-year option, it did so in the hopes that he would take it as motivation. With a new contract on the line, here's betting the young defensive tackle comes firing out of the gate.

    Conclusion: 25.5

    I wanted to dock Fairley five points for being lazy, but his talent it too enormous to ignore. Plus, his 2012 performance was probably underrated at the time and now.

4. Quarterback Matthew Stafford

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 7

    Matthew Stafford started 2013 on fire and was the engine driving a playoff-ready team. Unfortunately, his inaccuracy and turnovers were the nail in the coffin down the stretch. While he threw for almost 10,000 yards over the past two years, he balanced that out with 49 touchdowns against 36 interceptions.

    Talent Level: 9

    There isn't a pass Stafford can't make. He has the poise and ability to lead a winner, and the arm strength to threaten a defensive back who turns his head for a second. Yet he needs to mentally raise his game.

    Predicted Impact: 9.5

    If you watch the film from the first nine games of last season, for the most part you'll see a quarterback in control of a potent offense. With the addition of Eric Ebron and Golden Tate, along with the calming presence of head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, Stafford should take a huge step forward in 2014.

    Conclusion: 25.5

    Stafford will probably finish the 2014 season with a better score than he earned here. He needed coaches that would be even-keeled, never getting too excited or down about a certain play. He has that now. And, consequently, now is the time if Stafford is ever going to put it all together.

3. Guard Larry Warford

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 9

    I'm cheating and only using his rookie season as the measuring stick. Two-year old college tape is where I draw the line for our purposes here. Warford's performance as the best lineman in Detroit in his debut season is worthy of a nine.

    Talent Level: 9.5

    He was probably the steal of the draft in 2013 and has a serious chance at being the most value Detroit has ever mined outside of the first round. The scary part? He's completely worthy of those titles.

    Predicted Impact: 9.5

    Basically, I'm saying he's going to slightly improve from his first year. Anybody on the 2014 schedule has to be wary of Warford getting another offseason of experience.

    Conclusion: 28

    The numbers don't lie, even when they are based on subjective analysis. 

2. Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 9.5

    There was little that Ndamukong Suh could have done to improve his output. While his sack numbers over the last two years won't wow you (14), he graded as the second- and fourth-best defensive tackle in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

    Talent Level: 9.5

    There aren't many that can match his strength, quickness and ferocity. There's a good reason he will become one of the highest paid defenders in the league.

    Predicted Impact: 9.5

    Suh is the Calvin Johnson of Detroit's defense. With Detroit's new emphasis on unconventional fronts and varying angles of pressure, Suh should find himself with more room to operate in 2014.

    Conclusion: 28.5

    There's no arguing this one. 

1. Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Past Performance: 9.9

    Calvin Johnson racked up 206 catches for 3,453 yards and 17 touchdowns, but a perfect 10 requires a perfect output. No matter how you slice it, 24 drops isn't perfection.

    Talent Level: 10

    Johnson is one of the best receivers of all time and he's still in his prime. How much longer he'll be there is a question due to the hits he's suffered throughout the years, but there's no doubt as of right now.

    Predicted Impact: 10

    Whether through actual production or by taking coverage with him wherever he goes, Johnson can impact every play in a positive way.

    Conclusion: 30

    This is one place where you give that subjective tenth of a point. It's Megatron for Fontes' sake.

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