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53-Man Roster Prediction for Detroit Lions

SI All Lions predicts the Detroit Lions' 53-man roster to open up the 2021 NFL season.

The Detroit Lions have reported to training camp, and a majority of their roster is set. 

Yes, there will be a couple injuries and a few more additions and subtractions along the way, but for the most part, the core of the Lions' regular season roster is ready to go. 

Remember, with the 2020 practice squad rules carrying over to this season, plenty of young developmental types will still be with the team, despite not technically being on the 53-man roster.

As of right now, here is my best prediction of what the roster will look like at the start of the season. 

Quarterbacks

1.) Jared Goff

2.) Tim Boyle

3.) David Blough

Every year, I struggle with if the Lions should keep two or three quarterbacks. Ideally, they would only need to keep two, and their third can be stashed on the practice squad. However, Blough was almost poached last season while on the practice squad, and Boyle might not make it long there, either -- not that it would be the end of the world if the Lions lost one in a rebuilding year. 

Running backs

1.) D’Andre Swift

2.) Jamaal Williams

3.) Jermar Jefferson

4.) Jason Cabinda (FB)

Keeping a true fourth halfback really isn't all that important when the top-two options are unlikely to come off the field often. Plus, the drop-off in talent from a fourth back to ones floating around on the open market is not all that much. The coaching staff seems comfortable with Jefferson as the third back in the rotation. At least you would assume that, considering the release of Kerryon Johnson earlier this year. 

Wide receivers

1.) Tyrell Williams

2.) Breshad Perriman

3.) Amon-Ra St. Brown

4.) Quintez Cephus

5.) Kalif Raymond

6.) Victor Bolden

Expect some surprises in the receiving department. The wideout battle is wide open. As usual, the the depth players will typically need to contribute on special teams. This position group will be a fun one to watch throughout camp. 

Tight ends

1.) T.J. Hockenson

2.) Darren Fells

3.) Alize Mack

There is not a lot of depth behind Hockenson. Fells has had some solid seasons in the touchdowns category, and is 35 years old now. Mack made the cut on my list, because of his familiarity with head coach Dan Campbell and maybe he is still developing at a notoriously difficult position. 

Offensive linemen

1.) Frank Ragnow

2.) Taylor Decker

3.) Penei Sewell

4.) Jonah Jackson

5.) Halapoulivaati Vaitai

6.) Tyrell Crosby

7.) Matt Nelson

8.) Logan Stenberg

9.) Drake Jackson

The top-five starters and the two backup tackles are straight-forward. It's the interior line depth that is a bit concerning. Stenberg was always a project, but he was playing behind players picked up off the street last season. It's a new regime, yet same O-line coach from last year. So, showing some improvement in training camp will be very important for his roster security. Lastly, Jackson is an undersized undrafted free agent who played well at the college level. Fortunately for him, the Lions will need somebody to back up Ragnow. 

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Interior defensive linemen

1.) Michael Brockers

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2.) Levi Onwuzurike

3.) Alim McNeill

4.) Da’Shawn Hand

5.) Nick Williams

6.) John Penisini

I've mentioned before that I don't think Penisini is as safe as some think he is. As a true nose tackle, snaps are already limited due to the position alone. Now, with McNeill in the fold, Penisini doesn't fit the athletic, gap-shooting mold of the new regime. I still have him making the roster for his run-stuffing ability, but wanted to point out that I'm still on the fence with him. Williams could also be on the bubble, but his pay cut this offseason helps his chances. 

EDGE defenders

1.) Trey Flowers 

2.) Romeo Okwara

3.) Julian Okwara

4.) Charles Harris

Flowers and the Okwara brothers aren't going anywhere. After that, it's a toss-up. Harris has at least been somewhat productive when on the field. Meanwhile, Austin Bryant can't stay healthy, and hasn't been impactful when he has suited up. 

Linebackers

1.) Jamie Collins

2.) Alex Anzalone

3.) Derrick Barnes

4.) Jalen Reeves-Maybin

5.) Jahlani Tavai

With a 3-4 base defense, it only leaves two off-ball linebackers as starters. In sub-packages, there might only be one linebacker on the field. So, outside of special teams play, there isn't much incentive to load up at the position. 

The slimmed-down Tavai is back to his pro-day weight -- where he still tested poorly -- and seems to be on the coaches' good side for now. However, he will still have to prove he can fit into defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn's attacking-style defense. Perhaps the linebacker who was helped the most by the scheme change was Reeves-Maybin. And, Reeves-Maybin is a solid special teams performer.  

Cornerbacks

Jeff Okudah

Quinton Dunbar

Amani Oruwariye

Mike Ford

Ifeatu Melifonwu

Corn Elder

These six names definitely are the favorites to make the roster. But, in what order? Ford or Elder in the slot? Who starts on the outside? We should find out the answers to all these questions very soon. For the sake of a 53-man roster prediction, those names are my best guesses to make the final squad, with the order to be determined. 

Safeties

1.) Tracy Walker

2.) Dean Marlowe

3.) Will Harris

4.) C.J. Moore

It would not be surprising one bit if general manager Brad Holmes were to bring in another safety for competition -- and possibly to start. At the end of the day, I wanted to keep five safeties, but couldn't justify keeping another one and taking away a player at another position. 

Special teams

1.) Jack Fox (P)

2.) Randy Bullock (K)

3.) Don Muhlbach (LS)

Not many question marks on the special teams side of things. Fox was a standout punter as a rookie a year ago. Meanwhile, Bullock, the successor to former longtime Lions kicker Matt Prater, and Muhlbach bring tons of experience to their respective positions. 

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