Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Estimated Charts for the Lions

For many years now I have been doing an estimated Salary Cap chart for the Detroit Lions and for about half as long I've also been working on an estimated depth chart. While the salary cap chart gets updated continually all year long the estimated depth chart tends to last just over half a year... that is from the beginning of February to the beginning of September. The other day I copied both to google docs and now have a permanent link to both, they can be found over to the right here in the blog and also there are permanent links now in my forum. Remember, these are ongoing, they will change, they never really stop changing this time of the year... I only halt the estimated depth chart about a week before they starting cutting the roster to see how accurate I am before they create the actual 53 man roster (my best was in 2014 with only 4 wrong).

At this time of the year I always include all the draft picks, since they wouldn't have drafted them had they not figured on at least hoping to keep (and possibly play) them. By mid-August I may change my mind on a one or more but until then (or an injury) I keep them on. I also tend to stick in an undrafted player or two if I think there are any that might make the final roster despite the unlikeliness of that happening. This year there happens to be a few I truly feel have a chance. As the summer goes on I may change my mind on them as well. In fact, the whole thing (as I said before) is in flux but that's the point of an estimated depth chart, taking information as it becomes available then making appropriate educated guesses from there.

The salary cap chart has a ton of info as well, I use it to keep track of the salary cap numbers for the Lions to do my weekly tweet updates. Rather then cover both charts in one blog entry I think I shall focus on just the estimated depth chart for now. If you do look at the chart you will see it's split into a left and right section. The left side is the 53 I think presently may make the final roster (to start game 1). The right side are those who I believe are going to have to work the hardest to fight for a roster spot. I try to also keep them lined up across from those they are competing against, but that doesn't always work since some years it's the 7th LB fighting the 6th WR fighting the 10th DL and the 9th OL for two spots (for example). Regardless, even though it's constantly in flux, having a graphic visual of the estimated depth chart seems to work for me better then just some list (such as in the cap chart).

Now to be a little more specific on why I have what I have listed. At Wide Receiver I currently have 5 listed, there could be 6 but for now I'm going with 5. Calvin Johnson (CJ) and Golden Tate make the team barring injury, but so do their respective backups; Corey Fuller and Ryan Broyles. That leaves room for a slot receiver and presently I have T.J. Jones in that spot until I see someone more likely. In the past they also kept a 6th WR (Jeremy Ross) because he was the kick and punt returner, this year the KR/PR might be a RB or a CB instead, so I went down to 5 for now. I personally like Andrew Peacock but he might not be able to crack the final 53 just yet, perhaps after another year on the practice squad. Some of the others fighting for the WR spots I believe will also make the practice squad if they fail to take the slot WR job or one of the backup jobs, there just happens to be a few months to go yet before I can make that call.

The next 5 spots listed are the offensive line... both starters and backups. My preferred starting left tackle would be Cornelius Lucas but the Lions seem to like Riley Reiff there. They also drafted Corey Robinson and then promptly stated he's a left tackle, but I'm not so sure that's where he finishes up at. I also am not sure the Lions will be comfortable with three undrafteds as the starter and two backups on the offensive tackle positions, so I'm keeping a 5th, presently that is the converted TE Michael Williams (Waddle being the other current starter at RT). How this shakes out in the end has yet to be determined. The starting center and guards along with their backups is also in a total state of flux. Lot's of youth and new bodies to sort out, so for now you can see I went with Laken Tomlinson at LG, Manny Ramirez at C, and Larry Warford at RG (this is the only one I'm comfortable with at present). Backups being Travis Swanson and maybe Torian Wilson (or Al Bond)... or maybe even someone not yet on the team.

At tight end I'm shaking things up by pushing Joseph Fauria out and keeping the undrafted free agent Casey Pierce. Why? Fauria did well his rookie year for the other coaching staff and their scheme but has shown nothing to these coaches and they have no personal skin in keeping him. Also, Pierce is noted for having sure hands and good blocking ability in college, a skill set I can see these coaches desiring on the roster. He may not be able to be NFL ready in his rookie year so may end up on the practice squad but for the moment I've got him at TE #3. Pettigrew's salary is mostly guaranteed as is all of Ebron's so they are both staying put.

At QB you have Stafford, Orlovsky and Moore. They stay. The undrafted rookie Anthony Boone will likely be the camp arm that never sees any action in preseason so that the Lions can feel comfortable cutting him to sign him to the practice squad, just as they did last year.

At Running back they will keep Joique Bell and Theo Riddick and of course their 2nd round pick will stay (Ameer Abdullah) but I feel that Bell's backup will be Zach Zenner an undrafted player this year instead of George Winn, just an early guess on my part (and ZZ might be the kick returner if Ameer is not).

At fullback the Lions will want a pass catching player and that spot goes to 5th round pick Michael Burton until someone beats him out of it.

That 26 on offense, there is almost no chance of there being 27 and they could go to 25 but I currently feel comfortable with 26.

At defensive end Ansah stays on one side and Jason Jones on the other with the backups likely to be Larry Webster and either Darryl Tapp or Devin Taylor or even Phillip Hunt. Taylor did well with the old coaching staff and scheme but struggled last year with the new coaches and scheme so we'll have to wait and see how this one progresses from here. At defensive tackle the Lions are forced to do wholesale changes but I like Ngata and Tyrunn Walker with backups Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright so I'll stick with them for the time being. The Lions could look at some free agents for more help to compete amongst the DL or one of the guys fighting for a spot (like Proctor or Cudjo) could push someone for a job, it's just too early to tell right now. I have made my educated guesses and plan to stick with them for now.

At LB the Lions are sitting pretty with starters Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, and Kyle Van Noy... but of course they only need 3 starters so Van Noy might be reduced to situational plays only... but that makes for some great quality depth for the Lions. Add to that Travis Lewis and Brandon Copeland (a special teams player) and you have a solid LB corp... or even better if someone like Bynes, Harris or Stanford beats out one of them for a job, meaning they are an upgrade from my suspected core group.

At corner you have starters Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis along with draft pick Alex Carter, the Lions usually keep 5 CBs and they liked Seisay last year plus they drafted Diggs to play nickel so that should round out that group nicely unless one of the others plays lights out and takes a job from someone else.

At safey you have starters Glover Quinn and James Ihedigbo (who is currently holding out for what will likely be an unsuccessful demand for more money) along with backups Don Carey (special teams), Isa Abdul-Quddus and perhaps Nate Ness or one of the others vying for a roster spot.

This makes for 24 on defense and the most likely scenario unless they go to 23 or 25, which I don't see at present unless Carter wins the kick return job then they might keep only 3 RBs and 6 CBs (for example).

The special teams group of 3 will remain Martin at punter, Prater at kicker and Muhlbach at long snapper. They already brought in a camp kicker (Kyle Brindza) and soon will sign a camp punter, and most likely a camp long snapper as well. Prater was once a camp kicker when Hanson was the Lions starter and was then signed by Denver before ending up back here as a Lion.

There is my current estimated depth chart, subject to multiple future changes, and a handy visual tool for trying to determine who might make the final roster and who has work to do if they want to take a job, for that is what they will have to do, earn it. As I hear about those making that kind of effort, or injuries, or new signees, I'll update the chart accordingly. At other times I may make a change simply because of a gut feeling, some of which even occasionally pay off.

Before I go I'll mention that the salary cap available for the Lions is sitting at around $3,950,693... this figure will change slightly as the draft picks are signed... but only the top 51 contracts count presently so for every new contract another lesser one falls off keeping the cap situation under control for the time being. Don't expect any major free agent signings however, the Lions are trying to keep their comp picks for next year's draft as high as possible and not signing expensive free agents is part of that formula.

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