As exciting as it is to see players added to the Detroit Lions roster, there are always repercussions when upgrading positions.
On Monday, Jeremy Raisman named five players who benefited from the results of the Lions 2023 draft, but there is another side to that coin. In this accompanying article, we’ll look at five Lions players who could see their roles negatively affected by the Lions draft. Some players will now have a more difficult path to capture, while others may be pushed into the roster bubble and may fight for a place in the 53-player roster.
The Lions operate primarily from a nickel defensive scheme, which means they only deploy two linebackers in their starting lineup.
In 2022 Alex Anzalón was captain, wore a green point helmet (play call distributor), and played over 95% of the Lions’ defensive snaps. Elsewhere, Rodriguez held the other starting role, playing 54% of the team’s snaps—which would likely have been more had it not been for the upper body injury. Derek Barnes has seen about 30% of the defensive snaps, and Anthony Pittman has seen 5%, with the remaining snaps divided among reserves no longer with the organization.
This season, Anzalone signed a new three-year deal with $9 million in guarantees, almost assuring that he will return to his starting role. While the other starting shortstop would presumably eventually land at the feet of first-round draft pick Jack Campbell. This should create a ripple effect through the rest of the position group.
Unless Rodriguez outperforms expectations (again), he will likely head to the bench, even though he will be a first team player ready to play. Now there is an argument to be made that Rodriguez’s roof is higher than Anzalón’s, but the team has more faith in the veteran player, which makes Rodriguez’s climb up steeper.
If anyone can beat the odds, it’s Rodriguez, but things just got a lot tougher for the second-year player.
Zylstra started 2022 on the practice squad but once the Lions traded TJ Hockenson he was promoted to the lineup and played the season as TE2/3.
The Lions spent the 34th pick on Sam LaPorta and the smart money has to finish training camp in a starting role, or on a platoon with current rookie Brock Wright. James Mitchell was drafted knowing he would be limited as a starter, but now that he’s healthy, he has to compete for more picks.
This leaves Zylstra as TE4 and firmly on the list bubble.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the Lions would prefer to keep a tight four, and that opens the door for Zylstra, but that’s far from a guarantee. Will the Lions still hold four tight ends once Jameson Williams is out of action? It’s also possible he’s converting back to wide receiver –Black site He’s no longer listed at 240 pounds, but instead at 215, which was the college weight when he was playing receiver—but switching jobs wouldn’t be a great sign of a job security.
If eat melifonwu
Tracy Walker appears to have almost fully recovered from his Achilles injury, Kirby Joseph has solidified himself as a starter, the Lions have signed Chauncey Gardner Johnson in free agency, and drafted Brian Branch in the second round — though Gardner Johnson and Branch will play mostly in the slot. Lions can enter the season with these four in place and feel comfortable being safe.
But odds are that the Lions would like to add more of a traditional deep safety. They seem to be patient with Melifonwu as it goes topical, which seems encouraging. But they also brought back Saivion Smith, who got a starting role before getting injured, and will definitely be in contention.
Branch is considered by many Draft theftAnd while that may be true, Melifonwu may be left to pay the price.
In 2022, Jones settled into the DT3 role in the Lions’ three-man indoor rotation. This offseason, Jones and Isaya Baggs re-signed, joining Alim McNeil in getting the band back together. But General Manager Brad Holmes was not satisfied with restoring the status quo and was traded in the third round to select Brodric Martin.
The Lions gave up three draft picks to land Martin, something teams don’t do for a bubble player. The cost involved to get Martin is a good sign that they’re planning on him in the rotation, perhaps as the DT3 — which is bad news for Jones.
Jones may be the beneficiary of the Lions’ desire for more bodies on the inside, making DT4 a real possibility, but based on what we’ve seen this past season, there’s no indication that things are going that way. Therefore, Jones may be called upon to outsmart the team’s third-round pick or replace one of the starters. Ask Saab.
Last season, Stenberg was in competition with Evan Brown (now in Seattle), Dan Skipper (a free agent), and Kayode Awosika (still on the Lions). But the Lions lifted their losses off the season by returning Halapoulivaati Vaitai from injury, adding former star player Graham Glasgow, and drafting Colby Sorsdal in the fifth round — whom they declared to the NFL Draft as a guard.
Stenberg may be behind Awosika on the depth chart as it is, but a further upgrade in talent between Vaitai, Glasgow and Sorsdal could be enough to take Stenberg off the roster.
Stenberg will get a chance to compete, and he might even be the team’s second-string left guard, but he’ll need to make some serious moves in order to carve a spot on the roster.
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