* = 2019 full-time starter

Need #1: Defensive Tackle

Notable Free Agents:

  • A'Shawn Robinson* (2017 2nd rounder, has not developed into the player the Lions were hoping for - only 5 career sacks - 1.5 in 2019, and has underwhelmed vs. the run, there is some untapped potential - but a change of scenery is likely for both sides)
  • Mike Daniels (injuries limited him in 2019, Lions will probably look for a younger solution)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Damon Harrison (does not seem to fit in the Lions defensive scheme, injuries have led to a decline in quality of play, expected to be released)
  • Da'Shawn Hand (2018 4th rounder, showed some promise as a rookie, but essentially missed the entire 2019 season due to injury, has starter upside if/when healthy)
  • John Atkins (NT, has made 6 underwhelming starts over the past 2 seasons)

Need Level: Very High

Need to Address: The Lions defense was horrible last season and the struggles started up-front, they need to overhaul the position and target more disruptive players.

Updates:

  • Released Damon Harrison
  • Signed Nick Williams (had a breakout year in Chicago last season - 6 sacks and lots of disruption, but that was his only season of notable production - despite being 30 years old, certainly has some upside, but 2019 could've been a fluke)
  • Signed Danny Shelton (NT who has never lived up to 1st round billing, had some nice moments in New England, but was at least partially responsible for Derrick Henry running all over the Pats in the playoffs, Belichick let him walk away in FA for a reason)
  • Drafted in 6th Round: John Penisini (NT type, lots of experience, good run stuffer, not much of a pass rusher)

Need #2: Cornerback

Notable Free Agents:

  • Rashaan Melvin* (was somewhat ineffective across 12 starts in 2019 - unlikely to return)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Darius Slay* (elite CB, 2019 was a bit down from his usual standards - but was still superb, has tension with front office / coaching staff - which could result in a trade)
  • Justin Coleman* (big 2019 free agent signing, started the season strong, but finished poorly, much better in the slot than on the outside)
  • Amani Oruwariye (2019 5th rounder, showed promise as a rookie - 2 INTs in limited snaps)

Need Level: Very High

Need:

  • The Lions gave up the most passing yards in the NFL last season - this position needs a refresh, which should include the acquisition of at least one, but possibly two (if Slay is traded) new starters.

Updates:

  • Traded Darius Slay
  • Signed Desmond Trufant (very solid starting CB - missed some games last season, but generally a very durable and reliable player, a quality pickup)
  • Signed Daryl Roberts (had a strong 2018 season for the Jets - got a contract extension - then played poorly in 2019, injuries may have been to blame, has impressive physical traits)
  • Drafted in 1st Round: Jeff Okudah (excellent cover corner, has prototypical size and athletic ability, very technically sound for a young player, still developing in certain respects, only 3 career INTS)

Need #3: Linebacker

Notable Free Agents:

  • None

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Jarrad Davis* (2017 1st rounder, excelled in 2018, but took a step back in 2019, struggles in coverage, mediocre tackling production, not guaranteed a starting job in 2020)
  • Christian Jones* (started 13 games in 2019 - did not make a substantial impact - did get a slight in-season contract extension, but team may not view him as an ideal starter)
  • Devon Kennard* (two straight seasons with 7 sacks, career high 58 total tackles in 2019, team captain, solid player)
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin (2017 4th rounder, core special teamer, has yet to develop a significant defensive role)
  • Jahlani Tavai (2019 2nd rounder, flashed some upside across 6 starts - but struggled in coverage, team will hope he blossoms into a full-time starter in 2020)

Need Level: High

Need to Address:

  • The Lions LB unit struggled in 2019 - both in coverage and vs. the run, an overhaul is in order.

Updates:

  • Released Devon Kennard
  • Signed Jamie Collins (very productive last season for Patriots, can be a big-time impact player... but last time he left New England the results were disappointing)
  • Signed Reggie Ragland (was a part-time starter for the Chiefs, specializes in run-stopping, not going to solve the team's LB coverage issue)
  • Signed Elijah Lee (reserve LB and special teamer)

Need #4: Interior Offensive Line

Notable Free Agents:

  • Graham Glasgow* (excellent interior offensive lineman who can play both guard and center, will likely command a lot of $$$ in free agency)
  • Kenny Wiggins (experienced reserve, was of part of Lions peculiar OG rotation last season)
  • Oday Aboushi (reserve OG, made 2 starts in 2019)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Frank Ragnow *(2018 1st rounder, is already considered one of the better centers in football)
  • Joe Dahl* (2016 5th rounder, enjoyed his best career season in 2019, somewhat locked-in to starting LG job in 2020)
  • Beau Benzschawel (2019 UDFA, made the team but did not play as a rookie, could be in contention for starting role in 2020)

Need Level: High

Need to Address:

  • The Lions need to either resign or replace Glasgow at RG. Depth is also a glaring need.

Updates:

  • Resigned Kenny Wiggins
  • Resigned Oday Aboushi
  • Signed Josh Garnett (former 1st rounder, career has been a bust to this point, did not play football in 2019, a low-risk shot in the dark)
  • Drafted in 3rd Round: Jonah Jackson (started at LG for OSU in 2019 - after transferring from Rutgers, better pass than run blocker, not a great athlete, but technically sound)
  • Drafted in 4th Round: Logan Sternberg (experienced OG, plays with a serious nasty streak, not much of an athlete, far better run than pass blocker)

Need #5: Offensive Tackle

Notable Free Agents:

  • None

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Taylor Decker* (solid LT - not necessarily Pro Bowl caliber... but reliable, team should consider an extension)
  • Ricky Wagner* (struggled at RT in 2019, has not completed a full 16 games in any of his 3 seasons with the Lions, was better in 2018, possible cap casualty?)
  • Tyrell Crosby (2018 5th rounder, showed some promise across 5 starts in 2019, will serve as swing tackle in 2020, and could potentially start down the line)

Need Level: Moderate

Need to Address:

  • The Lions could stand to upgrade RT.

Updates:

  • Released: Ricky Wagner
  • Signed: Halapoulivaati Vaitai (20 starts over the past 4 seasons in role as Eagles swing tackle, quality of play good - not great, not sure the monstrous contract he received is money well spent, though he is a likely upgrade over Wagner)

Need #6: Safety

Notable Free Agents:

  • Miles Killebrew (core special teamer, saw limited action on defense in a LB/S role)
  • Tavon Wilson* (effective over 13 starts in 2019, better in run support than in coverage, may not be brought back - as a secondary overhaul in Detroit is likely)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Tracy Walker* (2018 3rd rounder, filled the stat-sheet in 2019 and has emerged as one of the Lions better defense players, a building block going forward)
  • Will Harris (2019 3rd rounder, had an up and down rookie year, showed promise early, then missed a bunch of tackles and got benched, did look better later in the season, could contend for starting job in 2020 if he makes a leap)

Need Level: Moderate

Need to Address:

  • The Lions appear to have a stud in Walker, but could use a coverage-specialist type safety to start next to him.

Updates:

  • Resigned Miles Killebrew
  • Traded for Duron Harmon (had served as the #3 safety in New England for a while, has knack for making big plays in clutch moments, excels in coverage, plus ball skills, a nice pickup for the Lions)
  • Signed Jayron Kearse (started 5/62 games over time with Vikings, did flash upside at times, projects as a special teamer with a degree of starting upside)

Need #7: Defensive End

Notable Free Agents:

  • None

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Trey Flowers* (solid all-around player, but not a major threat as a pass rusher - has never topped 7.5 sacks in a season)
  • Romeo Okwara (1.5 sacks in 2019, did have 7.5 in 2018, Lions seems to view him more as a rotational rusher than as a full-time starter)
  • Austin Bryant (2019 4th rounder, spent most of rookie year on IR, has some upside if health permits)

Need Level: Moderate

Need to Address:

  • Trey Flowers is a fine edge-setting DE, but the Lions need to add an explosive pass rusher to start on the opposite side.

Updates:

  • Drafted Round 3: Julian Okwara (lengthy pass rusher, powerful, appears to be good athlete - but did not do much testing at the Combine, needs to develop more pass rush moves, production did not increase from junior to senior year, but has nice upside, could be a big-time steal)
  • Drafted in Round 7: Jashon Cornell (versatile - can play anywhere on the line, not an explosive athlete, mediocre college production)

Need #8: Running Back

Notable Free Agents:

  • None

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Kerryon Johnson (2018 2nd rounder, has started 14/32 games, injuries have been a major limitation, was much more effective in 2018 than he was in 2019, has legit talent - but hard to entrust with RB1 role at this point)
  • Ty Johnson (2019 7th rounder, put up decent numbers in a featured role after Johnson got hurt, nice depth)
  • Bo Scarbrough (showed some promise across 5 2019 starts, adds a power element to the depth chart)

Need Level: Mild

Need to Address:

  • The Lions need to find an RB2 who can compliment and provide insurance for Kerryon Johnson.

Updates:

  • Drafted in Round 2: D'Andre Swift (very productive against top SEC competition, runs with great vision and instinct, a threat in the passing game, has 3-down RB potential, should start as a rookie, nice value at pick #35)
  • Drafted in Round 5: Jason Huntley (excellent kick returner, great in space, can be a home run threat as a change of pace RB, also a factor catching the ball, there is nothing wrong with the Lions adding playmakers)

Need #9: Quarterback

Notable Free Agents:

  • Jeff Driskel (lost all 3 starts he made in relief of Stafford, not accurate but is effective running the ball, the Lions are expected to move in a different direction)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Matthew Stafford* (was on pace for a Pro Bowl-caliber 5,000 yard, 38 TD, 10 INT stat line before a back injury ended his season after 8 games, clearly can still play at a high level, prior to the injury had been incredibly durable, though back injuries can linger and at 32 years old - it's not too soon to begin thinking about replacement options)
  • David Blough (2019 UDFA, struggled through 5 starts, will have to earn a roster spot in camp/preseason)

Need Level: Mild

Need to Address:

  • The Lions need a much better option at backup QB - the team had no hope without Stafford. A developmental QB would also make sense.

Updates:

  • Signed Chase Daniel (solid backup, lots of experience, but at 32 years old - he is not developmental option)

Need #10: Special Teams

Notable Free Agents:

  • Sam Martin* (above average punter but prone to shanks)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Matt Prater* (above average kicker, with plus leg strength)

Need Level: Mild

Need to Address:

  • The Lions need to either resign or replace Sam Martin at punter.

Need #11: Wide Receiver

Notable Free Agents:

  • Danny Amendola (was a solid fit in the slot - nice safety blanket for Stafford)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Kenny Golladay* (established himself as a legit WR1 in 2019 - even with less than stellar QB play post-Stafford injury, Lions should sign him long-term)
  • Marvin Jones* (solid WR2 with a knack for making big plays, but at 30 years old and with his contract up in 2021 - Lions may want to consider long-term replacement options)
  • Marvin Hall (vertical specialist, averaged an eyeball-popping 37.3 yards per on 7 catches, should have an opportunity to further establish himself in 2020)
  • Travis Fulgham (2019 6th rounder, did not catch a pass in 2019, not guaranteed a 2020 roster spot)

Need Level: Mild

Need to Address:

  • The Lions will need to either resign or replace Danny Amendola in the slot. They also need to increase depth/competition behind the starters. Note that both Golladay and Jones are 2021 free agents.

Updates:

  • Resigned Danny Amendola
  • Signed Geronimo Allison (moderately productive over tenure in Green Bay, nice depth signing)
  • Round 5: Quintez Cephus (possession WR who lacks speed but has good hands, decent college production, likely a slot WR in the NFL)

Need #12: Tight End

Notable Free Agents:

  • Logan Thomas (highly athletic former QB, showed some promise in a rotational role, will likely look for more playing time on the open market)

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • T.J. Hockenson* (2019 1st rounder, looked like an All-Pro in Week 1, then more or less disappeared, injuries did play a role his slump, he has the skill to be a game-changer, but needs to be much more reliable in 2020)
  • Jesse James (disappointing 2019 FA acquisition- only had 16 receptions and was a below average blocker, needs to rebound in 2020)
  • Isaac Nauta (2019 7th rounder, appeared in 6 games, caught 2 passes, bigger role in 2020 is a possibility if Thomas isn't resigned)

Need Level: Very Low

Need to Address:

  • Despite underwhelming 2019 results, the Lions TE depth chart is complete.