It’s almost guaranteed that not every draft pick will pan out from a given year—it’s just a stark truth of the gamble that is the NFL Draft. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a draft pick to not even make the roster in their rookie year. Could that happen for the 2022 Detroit Lions?
The waiving of draft picks is not a foreign concept to those who have followed Detroit for a while. In 2020, fifth-rounder Jason Huntley failed to make the initial 53-man roster and was claimed off waivers. The year prior, seventh-round defensive tackle PJ Johnson was waived on cutdown day. In 2017, two rookies failed to make the roster: quarterback Brad Kaaya (sixth round) and defensive end Pat O’Connor (seventh round).
In Brad Holmes’ first year as the general manager for the Lions, he went a perfect seven-for-seven with his draft selections making the team—not only that, but most of them contributed significantly throughout the season. Even after an active offseason, it seems likely that most, if not all, of these players will make this year’s roster as well.
The 2022 draft class might be a different story, but not due to a lack of good picks.
Barring some outrageous circumstances, the Lions’ first four selections should be roster locks. Aidan Hutchinson is the much-needed pass rusher along the defensive line. Jameson Williams is the explosive playmaker. Josh Paschal is a versatile chess piece. Kerby Joseph is, at the very least, solid safety depth.
The ensuing four picks, however, might have a bit more uncertainty. As you would expect, James Mitchell is likely to make the roster, but thanks to a deep and very unsettled tight end group, there are no guarantees. Not only does Mitchell need to come back healthy, but he needs to fend off the likes of Devin Funchess, Garrett Griffin, Brock Wright, and Shane Zylstra, among others.
Next up are a pair of linebackers, both of whom could face tough competition. Malcolm Rodriguez’s best path to the roster is via special teams, but so too are a bevy of other players. Chris Board, Jarrad Davis, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Natrez Patrick, Anthony Pittman, and Josh Woods could very well push him for one of the few special teams spots. As for James Houston, not only does he have to fend off the linebackers listed above, but he is also facing competition on the edge. He faces a stiff learning curve in the NFL, and it seems like scaling back his role early on is the Lions’ go-to strategy for him.
Finally, Chase Lucas joins an already crowded cornerback group. Not only do the Lions have starters Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye, but the depth is solid as well. Jerry Jacobs, Ifatu Melifonwu, AJ Parker, and Mike Hughes are just some of the names ahead of Lucas on the depth chart—not to mention safety Will Harris getting extended looks at corner. Coupled with his status as a late-round pick, Lucas has ample competition for a spot on the roster.
The Lions roster is much-improved from 2021. Will that cost a draft pick a spot on the roster?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Will any draft picks miss the initial 53-man roster?
My answer: I think three of them won’t make the initial 53-man roster: Jameson Williams, James Houston, and Chase Lucas.
Before you angrily type away about Williams not making the roster, this is because he could land himself on the Physically Unable to Perform list (and therefore wouldn’t count towards the roster limit). The timeline for Williams is still up in the air, but the Lions may opt for the patient route with him; once healthy, he’ll be a valuable asset on offense.
As for the other two players, I think they could be victims of the numbers game.
In 2021, the Lions carried five linebackers on their initial 53-man roster. Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes should be locks, but that leaves two or three (maybe four at most) backup spots between Houston, Rodriguez, Board, Davis, Hamilton, Patrick, Pittman, and Woods. Given that Houston is a bit of a project compared to the other linebackers, he might be destined for the practice squad—if he clears waivers.
Okudah, Oruwariye, Melifonwu, Jacobs, and Parker put the Lions at five cornerbacks, six if you include Will Harris. There’s a non-zero chance Mike Hughes gets cut, but entering training camp, he seems like a good bet to make the team. Lucas will have to impress on defense and special teams to make the roster. Early on, Lucas impressed coaches during OTAs. If he can translate that to training camp and the preseason, he could rise up the depth chart. At this point, however, I still see him on the outside looking in.
With eight new draft picks joining the Lions roster, how many of them will find themselves on the 53-man roster come September?