The Detroit Lions are still one or two offseasons away from being a true contender.
But the Lions appear to be heading in the right direction under Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz.
Here is my breakdown of the Detroit Lions roster as it stands now before April's draft.
Depth Chart: Matt Stafford, Shaun Hill, Drew Stanton
Breakdown: Stafford is the obvious face of the franchise and starter going into next year. I do like Mayhew's move to bring in Hill as the second-string quarterback. He has proven that he can come in and win for a few weeks should happen anything to Stafford.
Some feel as though Stanton never got a fair shot, but I feel if he had anything one of the many coaches we have had would have found it by now. But it is looking like Stafford is going to be at least a quality starting quarterback in this league with the potential to be great.
Depth Chart: Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown, Cedric Peerman, DeDe Dorsey
Going into last year, this position seemed to be set for the next few years at least. But the injury bug hit Kevin Smith. As he was recovering from a torn ACL and a bum shoulder, Maurice Morris took over and proved to be a quality No. 2 running back in this league. I do not think that Morris has what it takes to be a No. 1 running back in this league.
Aaron Brown showed his big play ability last year, but he also struggled with the playbook, being caught out of position numerous times. As for Peerman and Dorsey, I think if they have an outstanding showing this offseason, they have a chance to make the roster, but it is doubtful.
Hopefully Smith can bounce back from his injuries and still be a productive back. I expect Mayhew to address this position in the draft to help Stafford out on offense.
Depth Chart: Jerome Felton
Felton proved last year that he is more of a runner than an actual fullback. I think that the Lions staff will look to move him to running back and look in the late rounds to add somebody or find somebody in free agency to help out our running game. I actually think this was a big contributor to our struggles last year in the running game.
Depth Chart: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Bryant Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, Derrick Williams, Adam Jennings, Brian Clark, Michael Ray Garvin, Eric Fowler, Kole Heckendorf
Calvin Johnson has the potential to be up there with Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, if he is not already there now. But one thing is for sure: He needs some help. Mayhew brought in Burleson to be that eraser for Megatron. Burleson had his best years under Scott Linehan, so we will see if he can regain that form.
Bryant Johnson struggled as the No. 2 receiver last year and will hopefully be pushed by Williams for the slot receiver job this year. Dennis Northcutt had some key drops last year and struggled to help out Calvin at all. Meanwhile, Jennings, Clark, Garvin, Fowler, and Heckendorf will have to battle it out on special teams to keep their jobs on this team.
I feel as though Mayhew might try to find a sleeper in this draft to potentially be the eraser for Calvin.
Depth Chart: Brandon Pettigrew, Will Heller, Dan Gronkowski, Matthew Michaels, Jake Nordin
Pettigrew was starting to show why he was a first-round pick last year before the injury bug hit us yet again. Hopefully this injury will not stop him from developing into the Pro Bowl-caliber tight end we need him to be. Heller proved to be a very quality No. 2 tight end and did an excellent job taking over for Pettigrew.
Gronkowski bounced back and forth last year between the practice squad and the roster last year. I think with another year under his belt he will lock down that third tight end spot and hopefully contribute to our special teams.
As for Michaels and Nordin, they will either be cut or one of them signed to the practice squad.
Depth Chart: Jeff Backus at LT, Gosder Cherilus at RT, Jon Jansen, Kirk Barton, Corey Hilliard
Our staff likes Backus a lot and thinks that he had a Pro Bowl-caliber year last year and would have made it if the left guard position wasn't a revolving door. I personally have never liked Backus but have faith in the staff and will be content with him being our left tackle next year.
This is Cherilus' make or break year, as Mayhew and Goz have said themselves. Hopefully he proves worth of the first round pick we spent on him and locks down that right tackle position. Jansen will be hopefully coaching Goz and waiting in the wings should he not pan out this year.
I think Mayhew will try to find a young left tackle to develop this year in the draft and stick him behind Jansen and Goz at right until he develops. Barton and Hilliard are more or less bodies that we need on the offensive line that was decimated by injuries last year.
Depth Chart: Daniel Loper at LG, Stephen Peterman at RG, Manny Ramirez, Roy Schuening, Kurt Quarterman
As much as it hurts to type, I think Loper right now has the starting job at left guard. Hopefully Mayhew will find a starter in this year's draft to replace him from day one. Peterman was having a great season until the injury bug bit him. Ramirez has proved to be nothing more than a decent backup. Schuening and Quarterman are just bodies.
I would love to address this position twice in the draft, once to find a starting left guard and another time for a backup to Peterman in case he goes down to injury again. I feel that this position is what caused our offense to struggle so much last year.
Depth Chart: Dominic Raiola, Dylan Gandy, Dan Gerberry
Raiola is a quality starting center in this league and is the leader of our offensive line. I think this is one of the positions we do not need to address this offseason unless it is a backup to Raiola.
Depth Chart: Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Jason Hunter, Turk McBride, Copeland Bryan, Robert Henderson
I love the KVB signing. He brings good leadership, a veteran presence, and a nonstop motor. Cliff Avril has shown promise, but I think he is a situational DE. Unless he develops a mean streak and starts defending against the run better, he will never be a full-time DE. I think if we have a rotation of Avril and Hunter, we can get by this year without adding another end to our roster.
Bryan played well at times but is nothing more than a backup, and I do not think Henderson even saw the field.
Depth Chart: Corey Williams, Sammie Lee Hill, Andre Fluellen, Landon Cohen, Joe Cohen, Terrance Taylor
I was a huge fan of the Corey Williams trade. I feel as though he was underutilized in a 3-4, and if he regains his form that he had in Green Bay, he can be a starting UT for us and give us a quality defensive line for once.
Hopefully SLH continues to develop and can provide us with a NT that our defense needs to compete in the NFL. Fluellen, Joe, and Landon provide some good depth, and Terrance Taylor is a hometown signing.
I would love to have the Lions draft Ndamukong Suh and potentially provide us with one of the dominant defensive lines in the NFL.
Depth Chart: Ernie Sims, Julian Peterson, Landon Johnson, Zack Follett, Vinny Ciurciu
Ernie Sims is entrenched as the starter, but I feel this is kind of his last year to prove his worth. Julian Peterson was arguably our best linebacker last year and showed versatility by putting his hand in the dirt. My biggest problem with Peterson is his contract, but it is an uncapped year, so for the meantime that is no concern.
The Landon Johnson signing provides good depth because he can play all three LB spots and plays well on special teams. Zack Follett proved to be a monster on special teams; the same goes with Ciurciu.
Depth Chart: DeAndre Levy, Jordon Dizon, Ashlee Palmer
This is the year DeAndre Levy commands the defense. We showed confidence in him in not bringing Larry Foote back. I will be thankful for Foote for coming here for that year to help us out, but I agree with the decision to give the job to Levy.
I have always liked Dizon as a player. He is not great but will provide good depth at our ILB and provide us with good special teams play.
I put Ashlee Palmer on the ILB for the reason that I have not heard anything about him and am not sure if he plays on the outside or inside.
Depth Chart: Chris Houston, Jonathan Wade, Eric King, Kevin Hobbs, Jack Williams, DeMarcus Faggins, Jahi Word-Daniels, Jonathan Hefney, Brian Witherspoon, DeAngelo Smith
I think that we stole Chris Houston from Atlanta and he was in the wrong scheme in ATL. Wade has the potential to be a good nickel corner, while King is a good dime back. I think Word-Daniels has potential but is a long-term project.
Hobbs provided good depth last year, and I think Williams will do the same this year. I think Faggins, Hefney, Witherspoon, and Smith are going to fight it out for special teams spots.
No matter what way you try to twist it, we need more talent here. I hope Mayhew addresses this in the draft early and maybe another time in the fourth to fifth round range.
Depth Chart: Louis Delmas, Ko Simpson, Daniel Bullocks, Kalvin Pearson, Marvin White, Marquand Manuel, hopefully Caleb Campbell
Louis Delmas took his place as the leader of our defense and proved he can be a Pro Bowl-quality safety in this league. Hopefully he can continue to play at that level. Ko Simpson played decently when he was not hurt, while Bullocks as usual was hurt for the year.
Kalvin Pearson I think can be a solid backup and special teams player. Marvin White I think will be an offseason cut. Marquand Manuel in my opinion does not even belong on a football field. I feel if he is the Lions should pay us to go to the games.
I hope we sign Caleb Campbell because I would love to see him get a shot in the NFL, and just imagine how scared return men will be with him and Follett running at them.
Kicker and Punter
Kicker: Jason Hanson
Punter: Nick Harris
Jason Hanson will be our kicker as he always has been, and the same goes with Nick Harris. Barring injury our kicking game should be solid. I cannot see Hanson having two off years in a row. I think it would be in our best interest to find another kicker to replace Hanson in a couple years.
KR: Aaron Brown
PR: Derrick Williams
I would love to see Aaron Brown and Derrick Williams finally take a hold of these positions and solidify our return game. I think a new special teams coach should help them out because I think Stan Kwan is the worst special teams coach in the league.
Well, that is how I see the Lions roster as it stands right now. Hopefully we can have another good draft as we did last year. Who knows—maybe by the end of next year we can start talking about the Lions as contenders.
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