My first article in a build-up to the draft is an in-depth look into the state of the Lions franchise, looking at the roster as it stands after the first wave of free agency.
The roster and my grades on offense currently stand as follows:- (players listed according to my perception of the depth chart as it stands)
Chase Daniel (FA signing from CHI)
Matt is an elite starter but the broken back has to be a worry from last year. If he stays healthy, this team will have a chance in every game and would merit an A. Chase Daniels is an inexpensive backup who has shown he can win a few games (albeit with an elite Chicago defense behind him). David Blough showed promise last year in relief of Stafford, another year in the playbook will not hurt him in the fight to be QB2.
Kerryon has been excellent when he's been on the field. Unfortunately he's missed a good deal of his first two seasons, which means year 3 is very important as to whether he's going to be around long term. Bo Scarbrough was the surprise package last year in relief for the injured Kerryon and deserves to go in as RB2. Ty Johnson and Tra Carson have both shown flashes without too much on field time. Wes Hills played one game last year at 2.1 yards per rush but contributed well on Special Teams at college, he may well be a cut candidate, more on that later.
Nick was a 7th round pick in the 2018 draft, but tore his ACL shortly afterwards and was out for that season. He went on to play in 10 games in the 2019 season before going on IR again, making 4 receptions for 17 yards. He was a quarterback in college and I wonder if the Lions should use that to their advantage for a trick play or two this year. His blocking ability was outstanding in college, but he hasn't had much time to show that ability in games. Possible cut candidate but I expect him to make the roster.
Paul Butler (now released per Pro Football Talk)
Hockenson was the no.1 rated tight end in the 2019 draft, becoming the third Lions tight end selected in the first round in the last 11 years (Pettigrew 2009, Ebron 2014). After an incredible game 1, he fell away in the receiving game in the rest of the year. As one of the positions with the steepest learning curve in the pro game, I expect him to take it to the next level this year. Jesse James was a bust last year, but I don't expect Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn to give up on him too quickly, he still easily stands as the TE2. He needs to be more involved this year. Issac Nauta was selected in the 7th round of the 2019 draft and has a shot to get on the roster this year at TE3. Paul Butler and Matt Sokol are signed to reserve/future contracts.
Marvin Jones Jr
Geronimo Allison (FA signing from GB)
Geremy Davis (FA signing from LAC)
Jonathan Duhart (now released per Pro Football Talk)
Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr are two excellent WR1 receivers. Marvin Jones is arguably one of the best free agent pick ups the Lions have made in the last 10 years. Both players were in the top 7 in touchdowns last year, Golladay top with 11TDs. Danny Amendola had an excellent year in the slot receiver position last year, enough to be brought back for another season. Geronimo Allison is a streaky player picked up from Green Bay for the veteran minimum deal which represents excellent value if he can make the roster but was prone to drops last year. Marvin Hall didn't see much time on the field in 2019, but when he did, his 7 catches averaged 37.3 yards per catch. This didn't qualify for ranking, but the highest yards per catch player last year among qualifying players was Mike Williams of LAC with 20.4 YAC. Lacy, Fulgham, Kennedy and Bolden face an uphill battle to make the roster.
Frank Ragnow had an excellent year last season after moving from left guard to the center position which he played mostly at in college. He was often ranked the number 1 centre by PFF last season. This group only gets an A- because there is no depth behind Frank. Bodine is on a reserve/future contract.
Josh Garnett (FA signing)