Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 31st 2016 - Defensive Line

The post draft defensive line situation.

The Detroit Lions have 15 defensive lineman currently on the roster. They will likely keep 9 on the final 53. Sure, like other positions, it could be one more or one less (8 to 10) but in a normal year 9 players would be the target. So let's see what we have to work with here at this point in time.

At Defensive End we have our first lock to make the final 53, that being Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah. There is some confusion here as a few of the players on the team can play both inside (defensive tackle) and outside (defensive end). To further confuse things, outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been called a defensive end by the Lions a couple of times already this off season, yet he wears a linebacker number. That means he'll play a bit of both most likely. It also makes him valuable, able to play two positions for the Lions. So, if he makes the team as a linebacker, it's very likely the Lions will only keep 4 true defensive ends and 5 tackles, one of which can also rotate out from time to time. The other three defensive ends to likely make the roster are Devin Taylor who for a long while this off season was only the 2nd of 2 DEs on the roster; free agent pick up Wallace Gilberry who was paid a signing bonus of $340,000 and has a workout bonus of $25,000 plus an $885,000 salary AND $500,000 in NLTBE bonuses in his contract; then there is the 6th round draft pick Anthony Zettle who is a very athletic DE (as mentioned in previous blog entries) who received a $123,724 signing bonus. Fighting for a spot (and insurance for any injuries are 3 undrafted players (who are likely playing for a practice squad spot) James DeLoach, Deonte Gibson, and Louis Palmer. It would really take some impressive play (and practices) to have one of these 3 undrafted players take a roster spot away from the other four.

At defensive tackle we have a couple of locks to make the team. Haloti Ngata received a 2 year contract a couple months ago along with a $4 million signing bonus. That money along with his experience and ability makes him a lock to make the final roster. The Lions 2nd round draft pick A'Shawn Robinson has his salary guaranteed and had a $2,006,280 signing bonus last month paid to him, he is obviously a lock. Stefan Charles has a 1 year $1 million contract to go with his $550,000 signing bonus, he is not exactly a lock but is definitely on the "Likely to make the final 53" list.

That leaves 2 spots for Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid to fight off challengers Gabe Wright, Kerry Hyder and Khyri Thornton. Once again I think we are looking at injury insurance however should one of these guys prove he deserves a roster spot then one of the others could be in trouble, not just the DTs but at some other position. You just never now when the team will go short somewhere else to keep a guy they just can't part with.

So the final analysis is this, Kyle Van Noy (OLB) if he makes the team, will help back up at DE.
Ziggy Ansah, Haloti Ngata, and A'Shawn Robinson are all three locks to make the final roster.
Devin Taylor, Wallace Gilberry, Stefan Charles and Anthony Zettle are all "likely to make the final roster".
Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid are fighting to keep their roster spots against Gabe Wright, Kerry Hyder, and Khyri Thornton, who are also trying to open up a 10th DL spot with their play.
Finally there is James DeLoach, Deonte Gibson, and Louis Palmer all fighting for that same roster spot but are also trying to at least make the practice squad.

{update}: after completing the blog I realized that the retired scout with 30 years of NFL experience ranked Anthony Zettel as a B with a score of 6.40; the B means a player you would draft in rounds 2 or 3 and the 6.40 means "A solid college player with traits to succeed at the next level. Hey may ultimately become a 6.5 or better player and become a starter. You view this player as a solid backup type. Provides good depth for a championship team and should be able to play in a rotation. A backup with staying power." That is why I have him as likely to make the final roster. Also he ranked Robinson as an A with a 6.90 score which means "A player with not quite as talented as a 7.0. Should start early in his career, hopefully as a rookie. Has the potential to ascend to a Pro Bowl type player. Will be one of the better players on your team. Has multiple traits for the position. Can be dominant at times. At top 20-25 pick." It's going to be a tough year to make the roster this year, but everyone has a chance depending on how they do, as you can tell if you read all my blog entries in the estimated depth chart series. Am I forgetting special team? No, not really, Matt Prater will be the kicker, Sam Martin the punter, Kyle Christy is insurance and looking to catch on with another team as long as Sam Martin stays healthy, and as I explained in my after draft segment, 6th round draft pick Jimmy Landes will win the long snapper job if he can do the job, and if he can not, Don Muhlbach stays on for another year when the Lions will try again to find a new long snapper. Since that paragraph isn't long enough or provide any new information there is no reason to make a blog entry out of that, hence wrapping things up with this entry, on the defensive line.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 30th 2016 - Linebackers

The post draft linebacker situation.

The Detroit Lions have 11 Linebackers on their roster at present. They usually keep 6 players at that position. It is entirely possible they could keep 5 or 7 depending on circumstances (such as other talent to important to lose or other players able to play linebacker and say safety or defensive end) but the typical result is 6 linebackers on the final roster, so let's take a closer look at what they have to work with.

There are two locks to make the final roster; DeAndre Levy (due to his talent) and Tahir Whitehead (talent and the fact he just received $3 million in signing bonuses this year). Both of those players can be slotted in right now at weakside and middle linebacker respectively.

The highly likely to not make the team goes to Stephen Tulloch. Cutting him saves $5.5 million in salary cap space this year plus it was announced by him in February that he wouldn't be on the team this year. Yet the Lions paid him $500,000 as a roster bonus in March, apparently because it was guaranteed. The press has tried multiple times to find out why he's still on the roster but don't get a full explanation. My guess is that there is some kind of wording issue in his contract that is preventing them from making the cut. I assume that it will eventually be worked out, so I am not including him on the roster or even in the fight for a spot on the team.

The 5th round draft pick Antwione Williams was paid a signing bonus of $204,640 which is not enough to consider him a lock, but as a 5th round pick he would have to suck big time to end up on the cut list. He ends up on the "highly likely to make the team" list. Another on that list is Jon Bostic, since Quinn traded to get him with his former team, giving up the 7th round pick the Lions got for a trade 2 years ago with them. Neither player cost so much that they couldn't be cut, but all things being equal I would have to say they make the team.

That leaves 2 spots open for 6 players. Kyle Van Noy still has 2 years remaining on his contract but he really needs to show something this year to be considered. Josh Bynes did fairly well filling in last year, he probably has a leg up on the others but it's by no means assured. Brandon Copeland is on the team due to his special teams play, but with so many others now on the team that can also play special teams this no longer may be enough for him to make it. Then the three free agents picked up this year come into play as well; they being Jerry Franklin, Khaseem Greene, and Zaviar Gooden. While it's easy to just say Van Noy and Bynes have the final two spots locked up, I don't think it's going to be that easy when it's all said and done. Still, for now at least, that is the way I am leaning... but I'm also keeping my eyes and ears open for guys who could upset that apple cart.

In summary then:
2 Locks: DeAndre Levy and Tahir Whitehead.
2 Highly likely to make the team: Antwione Williams and Jon Bostic.
2 Open spots with Van Noy and Bynes penciled in but with Franklin, Greene, Gooden, and Copeland hot on their heels.
1 Likely to be cut: Stephen Tulloch, presumably after June 1st sometime yet no one knows why the delay.

That is how the linebacker corp appears to me at this point in time.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 27th 2016 - Defensive Backs

The post draft defensive backs situation.

Over the past week the Lions have made a couple of roster moves, two cuts, both due to injury. RFA Tight End Timothy Wright was cut due to injury today and a couple of days ago they cut UDFA Offensive Tackle Darius Johnson. Neither cut changes the salary cap situation for the Lions who currently have $14,965,950 in cap space available using the league's top 51 contract rule that is in effect until the first week of the regular season. Both players were guys who I thought had a very good chance of making the final roster and I suppose either could be re-signed at a later time once they can pass a physical. This gives GM Quinn two open spots on the roster to bring in bodies that he otherwise could not have without making these cuts. This also alters my estimated depth chart. I now move both cuts to the cut column and move over TE Matthew Mulligan and RT Michael Ola onto the 53. More moves will be forthcoming, just giving an update on the moves made to date (since my last update).

Now as to the defensive backs, the Lions typically keep 10, some years 9, some years 11, but for the most part, 10. It's usually pretty much 5 corners and 5 safeties as well, but it could go 6 and 4 or 4 and 6 if the players warrant such a move. At this point in time we will assume the total will remain 10 and the ratio will remain at 5 each.

Looking at Safety, the Lions have two Locks. Pro Bowler Glover Quin and their 2016 4th round draft pick Miles Killebrew. They also have two newly signed (this year) free agents in Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson who I believe have the edge over the incumbents Don Carey and Isaiah Johnson. In my opinion, both Don and Isaiah are competing against Johnson Bademosi for the final spot. Bademosi can supposedly play either safety or corner and would be a mainstay on special teams. I do believe Don and Isaiah are mostly insurance against injury but I can not say that Bademosi or Wilson or Bush are locks. So, on paper at least, there are actually 5 playing for 3 spots. Presently.

Now at Cornerback there is one lock in Darius Slay. There are 3 more that are highly likely to make the final 53 and they are Alex Carter, Quandre Diggs, and Nevin Lawson. Diggs and Lawson because they showed last year they are capable of playing in the NFL and Carter because he's got talent and despite his year off due to injury I fully expect him to own a roster spot on his talent alone. If I'm accurate here that leaves one spot for undrafted rookie Ian Wells (who I think has a great chance here) to compete against free agents Darrin Wells and Crezdon Butler and fellow undrafted rookies in Charles Washington and Adairius Barnes. Now if Bademosi doesn't play any safety at all and is in this group instead of at safety the team will have to decide if they go 6 and 4 or possibly keep 11 instead of 10 DBs on the final roster. There is going to be a lot of competition for the one or possibly two spots that appear to be contested here, yet that doesn't mean that a player not expected to win a roster spot can't prove his worth and force the team to keep him on. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying their hardest to make the team, just pointing out how it appears at this point in time, and how it appears now may not be anything like it will appear by the end of August.

So with that qualifier, this is the summary of how I see it playing out at this point in time:
Locks: Safety Glover Quin, Safety Miles Killebrew, and Corner Darious Slay.
Likely to claim a roster spot: Safety Rafael Bush, Safety Tavon Wilson, Corner(Safety?) Johnson Bademosi, Corner Alex Carter, Corner Quandre Diggs, and Corner Nevin Lawson.
Probable final spot available: Corner Ian Wells versus Safety Don Carey, Safety Isaiah Johnson, Corner Darrin Wells, corner Crezdon Butler, corner Charles Washington and corner Adairius Barnes.

Injuries would (of course) open up more then one spot, and a player who performs so well they Lions can't make themselves cut him could open up an 11th spot at DB, so this "final spot" scenario is not carved in stone either. Then there is always the chance of regression, where a player from a prior season doesn't, for whatever reason, progress but rather regresses and is then surpassed by another player on the team. However things work out though, it's going to be a highly contested group of players fighting it out for the roles available, and that is a good thing.

Update: After completing this blog I realized that Bademosi was given a $2 million signing bonus in 2016 on a 2 year contract AND has $900,000 of his salary guaranteed so he truly belongs in the "Lock" category and not in the "Likely to claim a roster spot" category. There is almost no chance of his being cut. While there were signing bonuses for the two free agent safeties as well, they were at a quarter million and half million and therefor are not high enough to consider those players locks, though perhaps they should be slightly higher then just "Likely" to make the team.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 18th 2016 - Offensive Line

The post draft offensive line situation.

As of today the Detroit Lions have 15 players on their roster that play on the offensive line. Teams in the NFL tend to keep the 5 starters and then 5 backups for a total of 10 players (well some teams do, definitely not all teams). The Lions tend to keep 9, with one player who can back up two positions. Sometimes they get lucky and have more then one player who can backup more then one position. Either way, they usually keep 9 players, so let's see what the options are as of today.

There are currently 3 players on the team who can play center (that I now of, I haven't heard of any guards practicing at center so far this year). They are last year's starter Travis Swanson the 3rd round pick in the 2014 draft but who was ranked as the worst center in the NFL last year (if I recall correctly). There is this year's 3rd round draft pick Graham Glasgow and then there is Gabe Ikard who the Lions signed last year as a free agent player but is the same age as Swanson. These guys could play guard in an emergency, but I suspect the Lions will keep two of them. As the 3rd round draft pick this year the lock is Graham Glasgow. He may even win the starting center job, after all, you can't complain about how bad the OL was last year, draft a number of players that play OL, then not actually play them. With Glasgow the lock, that leaves the two 25 year olds Swanson and Ikard fighting it out for the other roster spot at center. Most assume that Swanson is a lock here, I do not believe that is the case. Oh sure, he's got more starting experience then Ikard, but his progress in developing into a quality starting center in the NFL was no where to be found this past year. For now, I'm giving Swanson the edge in making the final roster over Ikard, but I'm not going to call it a lock, not by any stretch of the imagination.

The Lions have 7 players on the roster who can play guard. Some will be better at left, some at right, and 4 of these 7 could play tackle as well, one or more might even be at tackle instead of guard by the end of August. Last year's starter and 1st round pick in 2015 Laken Tomlinson is purely a guard, he did develop a little as the year progressed last year, just what his ceiling is I do not know, but his entire contract is guaranteed so he will make the final roster (unless he was to get traded, which I doubt). Larry Warford, last year's starting right guard, is still on the team, but he will be facing competition for that job this year, and facing competition for a spot on the roster as well. If he can stay healthy he stands a chance of making the team, but he doesn't seem to stay healthy so this year needs to be his first year he does (stay healthy). One such competitor for his spot (and starting job) is the free agent pick up Geoff Schwartz. Unlike Warford, Schwartz can play guard or tackle, making him more valuable. Schwartz was only paid an $80,000 signing bonus but he has $120,000 of his salary guaranteed. Now $200,000 in guarantees doesn't make a player a lock to make the team, but Quinn obviously really wanted him on the roster, so it's going to take some significant play by others to knock him off of it.

Another player with some momentum to make the roster is this year's 5th round draft pick Joe Dahl. His signing bonus was $245,916... but Mr Dahl is being tried out at tackle and guard right from the get go, and he's more athletic then all the starters from last year at either position, so he is actually talented enough to play either. He's not a lock, but like Schwartz, it's going to take some effort by others to knock him off the team. Edit: I forgot to include this info on Dahl, the 30 year ex-scout who I referred to before on other players has Dahl ranked ahead of Lee and the others, in fact, he gave him an A grade (player you draft in the first two rounds) and a 6.60 score which is "A very good college player who should develop into a solid and consistent NFL player after a period of adjustment. Will eventually start and help a championship team win on a consistent basis. A late first or top half of second round player. You win BECAUSE of this type of player."

That's four. But, like I said, Dahl is being tried at tackle, he might be one of the four guards, and Warford is not a lock to make the final roster, or even to stay healthy, so there are some more players fighting for the one or two spots remaining. They are the undrafted guard Chase Farris who was paid $10,000 to sign an undrafted contract with the Lions; then there is Andrew Zeller also undrafted who can play guard or tackle and is also, like Dahl, extremely talented and physical. The last member of this group is another undrafted, in fact he was signed after the rookie OTAs where he was invited as a try out player and then signed, and he also players tackle or guard. His name is Darius Johnson. Which spot they settle on for him is not yet known.

Another lock to make the final roster is tackle Riley Reiff (again, unless he is traded). Reiff had his 5th year contract option picked up last year, which makes it guaranteed. When you guarantee a player's salary and that salary is $8.07 million then that player is a lock to make the roster. Now he may not end up as the left tackle, maybe not even the starter, but he'll make the final 53. I did not mark him down as a possible guard because even though pundits say he should be moved inside he hasn't actually played inside so it's unknown if he even could. It's also unknown if he could play right tackle in the NFL. I anticipate that perhaps, with the large influx of new talent on the OL, that Reiff might get moved around some early on to see exactly where he might be best at in Cooter's offensive scheme.

Yet another lock is this year's 1st round draft pick Taylor Decker. His entire 4 year contract is guaranteed, so he's a lock to make the team (again, unless traded) for the next 4 years. Whether he ends up at left tackle or right tackle remains to be seen, though I heard they are trying him at left tackle first (no idea how truthful that is).

The last set of players fighting for a roster spot are some of last year's roster; they are Michael Ola, Corey Robinson, and Cornelius Lucas. None of these guys have a salary cap reason for making the team. None of these guys were signed by Quinn. So all 3 of these guys would need to win a roster spot via their talent only. As none of them is known to play guard, their versatility is limited to playing right or left tackle. With Ola's starting experience last year he is probably a step ahead of the other two, but it's not a giant step... nothing that couldn't be overcome anyway. If you're still with me you are probably trying to remember how many locks there and who is fighting for what... and I plan to summarize that in just a bit. I just want to clarify, there are definitely locks to make the roster, there are no locks to be the starter. That includes every single one of the starters from the OL in 2015. And I do mean every single one. When your OL was as bad as the Lions' was last year, you can not even start to think you have it made. The fans shouldn't think that way, and the players had better not think that way.

Center Lock: Graham Glasgow. Swanson as the backup (or starter) with Ikard hard on his tale to take his spot away from him if he's not the starter.

Guard Lock: Laken Tomlinson. His entire remaining contract is guaranteed. Unless he's traded he makes the final roster.

Tackle Lock: Riley Reiff AND Taylor Decker. Both contracts fully guaranteed for this year (and 3 more years to follow in Decker's case).

That's 4 locks and 1 backup center that's between two players, so 5 spots locked in out of 9. These next guys are highly likely to make the final roster, not exactly a lock, but the next best thing to it.

Likely to claim a roster spot: G/T Geoff Schwartz AND G/T Joe Dahl. One a free agent signed by Quinn and the other a 5th round draft pick selected by Quinn.

That leaves us with 2 roster spots left for these 7 guys to fight over.
G Larry Warford
G Chase Farris
G/T Andrew Zeller
T/G Darius Johnson
T Cornelius Lucas
T Michael Ola
T Corey Robinson

As you can see, some serious talent may not make the final roster. In fact, it's possible that two of last year's starters may not even make the team. It's also possible that two more of last year's starters will be backup's and not starters this year. Fans and pundits alike were after the Lions to fix the OL, and this is how they are going to try doing just that. After writing this blog entry today I'm actually going to have to change my estimated depth chart, as it doesn't match the locks and the guys likely to make it. So I'm changing my estimated depth chart to this:

LT: Riley Reiff and Joe Dahl.
LG: Laken Tomlinson (also backed up by Joe Dahl).
C: Graham Glasgow and Travis Swanson (or it could be Ikard).
RG: Geoff Schwartz and Andrew Zeller.
RT: Taylor Decker and Darius Johnson. (edit: Ola may make the roster over Johnson if he doesn't show enough).

Chase Farris is going to be challenging both Zeller and Johnson for a roster spot, and the loser makes the practice squad. Since I don't know for sure who ends up at guard and who ends up at tackle the mix could be re-scrambled at a later time once word leaks out who is settling in where. For the time being though, this is how I see it going. Of course, the other 6 guys aren't going to just lay down either, and then there's the possibility of Quinn finding a trade partner, heck there is even a chance more free agents will be signed to get into the mix. A lot of variables in play, I only know a shake up is going to happen, and we all know, somewhere deep inside, a shakeup needs to happen, as far as the offensive line is concerned.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 16th 2016 - Tight Ends

The post draft tight end situation.

The Detroit Lions currently have 6 tight ends on the roster but one of them, Brandon Pettigrew, injured his knee in week 14 of the 2015 season. While players do come back from an ACL, and often before a full year has gone by, they usually aren't themselves until the season after. Pettigrew turned 31 a couple of months ago. If he's cut after June 1st (a couple of weeks from now) he'll cost the cap $1 million this year and the same next year... but it'll save $3.65 million this year and $4.35 million next year in salary... for a net savings of $2.65 million in 2016 and a net savings of $3.35 million in 2017. Instead of freeing up that cap space the Lions could keep Pettigrew if he is in fact healthy enough to play, put him on PUP if it's going to take a couple extra months, or even put him on IR with the intent on keeping him for next year when he will be 32 years old. I do not believe that is what will happen. In fact, I'm not sure if they will keep him until August to see how his knee is doing, but they might. After all, with only 5 others and probably 3 spots up for grabs there is no hurry, it's not like Pettigrew could pass a physical for another team just now.

Lock #1: Eric Ebron. Ebron will cost the salary cap $3,340,676 in 2016 whether he is kept or cut. His salary is guaranteed. Therefor he is a lock to make the team in 2016 (and probably in 2017 as well). Even without that guarantee he probable is still a lock to make the team in 2016, this is his year 3, the year when rookie tight ends usually make their biggest leap and show by the end of the season what kind of NFL player they will really be (from here on out).

If Pettigrew is cut, traded, put on PUP, or put on IR, then that leaves 2 more roster spots for these 4 players. The 2016 Restricted Free Agent Timothy Wright (who Quinn knows from the Patriots and we now from last year's Lions roster); the 2016 free agent that was signed by Quinn Matthew Mulligan; and two undrafted free agents form this draft class of Adam Fuehne and Cole Wick. Timothy Wright has a nice salary IF he earns all his NLTBE bonuses, but to earn them he must make the roster and play in the games. That is not a sure thing at this point by any means. If he were cut at any point this summer it would cost the salary cap $96,250 in dead space and that would be it. If Matthew Mulligan was cut it would cost the cap $80,000 in dead money. If Wick is cut it would cost the cap $10,000 in dead money. And at this point we don't know if Fuehne would cost the cap anything if cut (no contract details have come to light as of yet for him). So really, salary cap will play no part in the decision on who to keep or cut. I think Timothy Wright is the vet presence, pass catching type TE (not so much of a blocker) that could lose his roster spot to either of the undrafted guys if they show enough in pre-season.

Matthew Mulligan is the veteran presence, blocking type tight end. Formerly of the Jets (so once again, Quinn knows him well from the Patriots division opponents) and not so much a pass catching type. Like Wright, his roster spot is in jeopardy only if one of the rookies shows something in the pass blocking area. As I said before though, his 1 year contract is not going to ensure him a roster spot by its self. He will have to fend off the competition (and hope that Pettigrew is indeed too hurt to play or won't remain on the team). Mulligan isn't a lock to make the team, but he is definitely leaning on to that side of that fence.

Adam Fuehne is 6'7" tall and 253 pounds which is big for a TE, but then Cole Wick is 6'5" and 256 pounds which is also big. Wick has more explosion, is faster, and has a better vertical, then Fuehne, but either could prove to be a decent TE (in time). As I explained before though, Wick wins the #RAS score and meets many of the measurables that top TE's have... it just remains to be seen how his skills translates into the NFL, and the same for Fuehne. It also remains to be seen if either Wick or Fuehne can show enough in pre-season to take the roster spots away from either Wright or Mulligan (or both).

In summary, at tight end, it appears at this point in time to be:
TE: Brandon Pettigrew; a post June 1st cut.
TE #1: Eric Ebron; a lock to make the final roster.
TE #2: a Blocking Tight End in Matthew Mulligan makes the roster unless either Wick or Fuehne can unseat him.
TE #3: a pass catching Tight End in Timothy Wright makes the roster unless either Wick or Fuehne can unseat him.
TE for practice squad: if either Wick or Fuehne fail to take a roster spot from the vets Wright or Mulligan then they are the only two who could qualify out of the six for a seat on the practice squad.

I like the potential that is Cole Wick, I'm just not sure if he can unseat Timothy Wright as the #2 TE in his rookie year. I also like the potential in Fuehne, but I don't think he will unseat Mulligan, so it's the practice squad for him. Between the two undrafted players I would keep an eye on Cole Wick, and if he shows something I'm not sure I'd risk trying to get him to the practice squad, but I don't now what Quinn's gambling level is in that regard, at least not yet. I do, however, like the odds of Wick beating out Mulligan as the blocking TE, at least right now, I may change my mind on that later.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 15th 2016 - Wide Receivers

The post draft wide receiver situation.

With the retirement of Calvin Johnson many pundits expected the Detroit Lions to draft a wide receiver in the 2016 draft, and early at that. Most mocks had that nearly as a mandate in the first couple rounds. The Lions however drafted nary a one in 10 pics. They did sign 3 undrafted players however, and before the draft, signed 6 free agents, giving them a total of 12 wide receivers (currently) on the roster. They will probably keep 5 on the roster after the final cuts, unless someone beats out the 3rd QB, or the 4th RB, or the 10th Dlineman, or the 7th LB, or the 10th DB, or whatever position gets trimmed back in order to keep that one WR dude they just can't let go. So yeah, it could be 6 or even 7 but it will most likely be five.

Lock #1: Golden Tate. Tate was signed in 2014 to a 5 year deal and has already proven his worth to the team and to the fans. He is as much of a sure thing to make the team as there is.

Lock #2: Marvin Jones. Jones was signed this year to a 5 year contract that is nearly identical to the one signed by Golden Tate two years ago even including the same $8 million signing bonus. For cap reasons alone he makes the team, but he is also expected to bookend the WR spots with Golden Tate to make up the beginning of what could become a very interesting offense for Mr Cooter.

Highly probable #1: Jeremy Kerley. The Lions picked up Kerley in free agency on a one year prove it type deal to bolster the WR corps. Neither his $50,000 signing bonus nor his $40,000 workout bonus will prevent him being cut if need be, but he only gets his bonuses of $260,000 (as in not likely to be earned bonuses) if he hits play time incentives, this would be on top of his one year salary of only $760,000. Yet this meager contract still makes him the 3rd highest paid WR on the Lions, that plus his age, familiarity with Quinn, and abilities makes him highly probable to make the final roster.

Most likely to take the 4th spot: TJ Jones. Jones has begun to show progress on his development and has 2 years remaining on his 6th round 4 year contract he signed after the draft in 2014. In my opinion he has shown more value then his fellow 6th round pick (from 2013, the year before) Corey Fuller. He has the upper hand to be the 4th WR on the roster but it is by no means guaranteed a spot. He will be challenged not only by Fuller but by everyone else on the current roster.

Insurance: Andre Caldwell. Caldwell is insurance in case anyone of the above gets injured. He was signed to a one year vet minimum deal, the $80,000 signing bonus is cheap insurance if anything goes wrong due to injury or lack of development of the youngsters. However, if all the top 4 are healthy he likely fails to make the final roster. Like I said before, Quinn is ruthless.

The final WR spot(s): Corey Fuller, Ryan Spadola, Corey Washington, Austin Willis, Jace Billingsley, Quinshad Davis, or Jay Lee. Lions fans know Fuller from the past 3 years of course. Spadola, Washington and Willis were signed this off season to compete. Billingsley, Davis and Lee were signed after the draft when they went undrafted and also are in the mix. You would think that Fuller would have the best chance of making the final roster but I don't feel that is the case at all. His time to shine was last year, and he failed to make that 3rd year jump that wide receivers make if they are to succeed in the NFL. He gets this one extra off season to prove otherwise, but I have a feeling it is someone elses turn to begin the process of development.

My pick? The undrafted rookie Jay Lee. His #RAS is better then the rest of the WR corp. His likelihood of NFL success is better then his competition. His future is very bright indeed, if he applies himself to the task fully. In the last post I mentioned a 30 year scout who used real NFL rankings on players and showed his ranking for the QB the Lions drafted, well Lee also made his list, and he was ranked one notch higher the Rudock. Lee also had a B grade (meaning a player you would select in rounds 2 or 3) and his score was a 6.50 which is "Will need a little more time to develop but should become a solid starter. Will be a quality backup his first and second year depending on a team's needs and strengths but could start earlier if a top team is weak at the position. A second to third round pick. You win WITH this type of player." None of the other undrafteds even made the list at all to garner a score.

In summary, at wide receiver, it appears at this point in time to be:
WR: Golden Tate and Marvin Jones; both locks in my opinion.
WR3: Jeremy Kerley (vet presence with slot and outside experience, younger then Caldwell).
WR4: TJ Jones (has been developing better then Fuller).
WR5: Jay Lee (has the most potential of them all).

Andre Caldwell is insurance in case any of the first 4 get injured. Corey Fuller, Ryan Spadola, Corey Washington, Austin Willis, Jace Billingsley and Quinshad Davis are all competing against each other; against Kerley and Jones and Lee for one of those nearly locked up spots; and against the rest of the roster to show they belong as an extra WR instead of another position on the team.

It's going to be some good competition, and some decent talent may end up being cut before the season starts. (if you just had a case of deja vue that is because that is exactly what I said about the RB position). Several of the "losers" will likely make the practice squad though not all of them qualify.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 14th 2016 - Running Backs

The post draft running back situation report.

The previous blog entry was on Quarterbacks, this will be on Running Backs. However, I did forget one comment on the 6th round draft pick QB Rudock. That is, his ranking (pre-draft) from a former scout with 30 years experience (using the NFL version of ranking players). http://www.profootballweekly.com/draft/grades/index.xml Rudock had a B ranking (or a player you would draft in rounds 2 or 3) and a score of 6.4 which is "A solid college player with traits to succeed at the next level. Hey may ultimately become a 6.5 or better player and become a starter. You view this player as a solid backup type. Provides good depth for a championship team and should be able to play in a rotation. A backup with staying power." Okay, now that I got that over with, some running back discussion.

The Lions have one full back on the team unless they try to convert a tight-end to that position. That pretty much assures Michael Burton of his roster spot. Still, that leaves 6 players who play running back and most likely 4 roster spots on the team. Yes, it could be 3 spots or 5 spots but the most likely scenario is 4. I believe the lock at this position is Theo Riddick. His pass catching prowess was on full display last year and there is almost no chance he fails to make the roster in that role (barring injury, knock on wood). Ameer Abdullah is also a lock as his entire salary for this year is guaranteed and also because he was productive in only his 1st year in the league. This leaves one vet, two undrafted players from previous years, and this year's 7th round pick for the final 2 spots. The salary cap will play no part in differing these players from each other, their cap hits are all within $212,000 of each other.

The vet, Stevan Ridley formerly of the Patriots, was playing well for his previous team before injury took him out of the picture. Assuming he is fully healed, will remain healthy, and has not lost anything, he brings a veteran presence to the RB corp that won't be easily dismissed. He isn't a lock to make the team but in a tie he probably wins the spot. Basically, if he's healthy and able he's in. If not, he may be out.

George Winn, the undrafted player for the Lions in 2014, has an uphill battle. His experience with his fellow players and the current coaching staff gives him a small advantage, which he will have to use in full to remain on the team come September.

Zach Zenner, the undrafted player for the Lions in 2015, also has an uphill battle. He too has the one year experience with this coaching staff and that same time period with his fellow players. But, he's up against this year's 7th round draft pick. If Zenner can stay healthy it's possible he could beat out Winn, but he would have to really show some good things in order to beat out either a healthy Ridley or the Lions newest 7th rounder.

Dwayne Washington, this year's 7th round draft pick, is the final player in the group fighting for a roster spot. His first advantage is that he was drafted. His second is his ability to be a scoring threat from anywhere on the field (at least he was in college). It remains to be seen if he can transition into the NFL, if he can remain healthy, and if he can learn enough quick enough to beat out some pretty decent competition for the roster spots involved. His #RAS score is somewhere around fantastic (meaning his measurables are great). As I explained a few posts down, if a running back exceeds 5'10" in height, 4.5 seconds in the 40, and 10' 4" in the long jump he has a 78% of success in the NFL. Dwayne Washington exceeds all those. The only thing I can not find on him, and I've looked 8 pages deep in both google and bing, is his hand size. I have a personal preference of 9.5" or larger hands, but basically it's the larger hand size the better the odds. Dwayne has had some issues with drops/fumbles, but if it's not physical (meaning hand size) then it's correctable, with coaching on focus and ball security. It is entirely conceivable that Dwayne will be the Lions number 1 running back before his 4 year contract is up. It's also possible he'll end up cut and on the practice squad. This is a total boom or bust draft pick, it just happens that the odds are more in favor of a boom then a bust, even though he lasted until the 7th round. One thing for sure, he is going to be giving Ridley, Winn and Zenner a run for their money.

In summary, at running back, it appears at this point in time to be:
FB: Michael Burton; lock.
RB: Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah; both locks in my opinion.
RB: Steven Ridley (vet presence but health and ability remaining are concerns) and Dwayne Washington (draft pick but needs to learn fast) vs Zach Zenner and George Winn (both have shown something but both were undrafted and by previous regime at that) for the final two spots.

It's going to be some good competition, and some decent talent may end up being cut before the season starts.