Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Since the draft is over it is now proper time to assess the depth chart. This is a projection as to how the Lions will enter their first mini-camp. This entry focuses on the offense, and we’ll tackle the defense later.
QB: Matt Stafford, Shaun Hill, Kellen Moore, Alex Carder
Notes: The first two are set in stone. Moore has the advantage of familiarity on Carder in the battle for the #3 spot, with the chance to take over for Hill and his expiring contract after 2013. The only real question is if the Lions decide to keep just two QBs instead of three to hang onto an extra linebacker or wide receiver. Any further changes are unlikely.
RB: Mikel Leshoure, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Devin Moore, Steven Miller, Jahvid Best
Notes: Leshoure and Bush figure to see the vast majority of the action, with Bell and Riddick battling for the 3rd spot and 3rd down back gig. Give Bell the edge because he can run inside and knows the passing game well. Leshoure holds the starting job but will have to fight off Bush to keep it. The Lions could still be in the market for a low-priced veteran speed back. Moore or Miller can help themselves quite a bit by showing return skills. Best is still on the roster but will not play.
WR: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Mike Thomas, Brian Robiskie, Patrick Edwards, Kris Durham, Corey Fuller, Terrence Austin, Devin Thomas, Chastin West, Cody Wilson, Troy Burrell, Lance Long
Notes: Johnson is the only set commodity here. He is coming off one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. Burleson will be the other starter if fully recovered from a broken leg last October. He should be ready to go. Broyles is dicier, as he tore his right ACL in December a year after tearing his left ACL. He is the starting slot receiver but could start the season on PUP. Fuller will be given every chance to be the top outside reserve and figures to see action in 3WR sets with Burleson sliding inside. He will start the offseason behind journeymen Mike Thomas and Robiskie. Mike Thomas is built like a slot receiver but has the skillset of an outside guy. He caught just 5 passes in 7 games last year and will have to play well this summer to earn his spot. Durham has size the team covets and chemistry with Stafford but lacks speed and really struggled when thrust into a bigger role. Robiskie and perhaps Devin Thomas will challenge him for the final spot, with special teams being the tie-breaker. There is an opening for the old Kassim Osgood role of special teams ace. Give that edge to Devin Thomas, as he excelled in that (and only that) role with the Giants. Edwards has a shot as a shifty slot guy with return skills but must prove his durability and value quickly.
TE/FB: Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Michael Williams, Joseph Fauria, Shaun Chiapas, Nate Overbay, Dominique Curry, Jon Morgan
Notes: Pettigrew is locked in as the starting TE and figures to finally be fully healthy in 2013. Scheffler has held the flex/move TE role for a while but played poorly in 2012 and could be overtaken by the younger/cheaper options. Williams will likely fill Riley Reiff’s rookie role of extra blocking tackle, but he’s sneaky in the red zone and short yardage and will take Will Heller’s role there as well. Fauria was the subject of a UDFA bidding war, which means he must make the team or else another will claim him on waivers before he hits the practice squad. If Fauria shows promise, look for him to make the team at Scheffler’s expense. Chiapas and Overbay are fighting for a fullback option for a team that almost never uses a fullback. Curry is converting from wideout to tight end and could spend 2013 on the practice squad completing the transition.
Tackle: Riley Reiff, Jason Fox, Corey Hilliard, Austin Holtz, LaAdrian Waddle
Notes: I broke out the tackle situation here in depth. As an additional note, Holtz and Waddle are likely fighting for the same roster spot, but it also happens to be the most likely spot for a UDFA to make the team.
Guard/Center: Rob Sims, Larry Warford, Dominic Raiola, Rodney Austin, Dylan Gandy, Bill Nagy, Skyler Allen, Derek Hardman
Notes: Sims and Warford are the starting left and right guards, respectively. Barring injury those spots are carved in marble. Raiola took a pay cut to play one more year with the team, and the coaches find his leadership invaluable. He will enter the year as the starter, but if he struggles the team will not hesitate to replace him with either Austin or Nagy. Austin was the team’s prized futures contract and there is great optimism in Allen Park that he can take over for Raiola in time. Nagy has the inside track on the other reserve inside job if he’s healthy, but that is a big question mark. Gandy gets that role if Nagy isn’t up for it. Allen seems destined for the practice squad as a UDFA.
Tags: Austin Holtz, Bill Nagy, Calvin Johnson, Corey Fuller, Dominic Raiola, Joseph Fauria, Kellen Moore, Michael Williams, Mike Thomas, Mikel Leshoure, Patrick Edwards, Riley Reiff, Rodney Austin, Tony Scheffler