Ranking Lions’ top 5 best players


Now that the Lions have finished upgrading their roster through the draft and free agency, I’ve decided to rank the franchise’s five best players.


1. Ezekiel Ansah

Ansah has grown into the best young player on the team. Finishing his third season with a career best 14.5 sacks, Ziggy looks to best player from the entire 2013 NFL Draft class. After Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley departed via free agency, Ansah became the most dangerous player on the defensive line.

Going forward, Ansah will be expected to lead this semi-rebuilding Lions team. Over the past few seasons, he’s been able to utilize his rare mix of size and speed and convert it to power. The Lions added A’Shawn Robinson in the 2nd-round of the draft, which should help take some pressure off of Ansah on the line.

2. DeAndre Levy

Levy missed basically the entire 2015 season due to injury. Other than that however, Levy has been remarkably durable throughout his career in Detroit. Before his injury, he had established himself as the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the game.

Detroit Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy (54) established himself as one of the league’s best before his injury in 2015. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

He has always been solid against the run but his pass-coverage has steadily improved over the past few seasons. He has the versatility to play in the middle, but the Lions like using him as a weapon on the outside. He can blitz when needed or drop and cover some of the better tight ends in the league. The defense really missed him last season and is looking forward to his return.

3. Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford will have to prove what he can do without Calvin Johnson next season. However, he looked as good over the final 8-games of last season as he has ever looked in his career. He threw 19-touchdowns to just 2-interceptions, under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. His reversal from a terrible start to the season was a key factor in the team winning six of their final eight games.

The team signed wide receiver Marvin Jones, who should help add a true deep-threat to counter Golden Tate’s short and intermediate game. Stafford has gotten better at taking care of the ball and will surely benefit from Detroit’s investment in the team’s offensive line in the draft and free agency. He will have to prove he wasn’t a product of Megatron’s greatness. It’s time for Stafford to take ownership of this team, like that of an Andrew Luck or Cam Newton.

4. Darius Slay

Slay is one of the exciting young players on the roster. He has turned into a top-10 corner in the game, according to safety Glover Quin and Pro Football Focus’ rankings. Slay doesn’t have the elite interception totals, but has amazing athleticism and speed that he can use to bail himself out when he gets beat. Slay’s always had the talent but was able to put it all together under defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (23) has blossomed into one of the best young corners in the league. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Going forward, without veteran starter Rashean Mathis, Slay will have to step up and be the leader of the team’s young group of corners. He’s now the old man of the group in just his fourth season. He won’t have a veteran presence across from him anymore, but more likely it will be Quandre Diggs or someone less experienced than Slay. He and Quin must handle things on the back end to help out the talented, yet inexperienced defensive line.

5. Golden Tate

Tate could be in for a monster year without Calvin Johnson around to take away touches. Despite Marvin Jones being a very good number-two receiver, Tate moves into that number-one receiver role that Johnson had held for the past nine seasons. He has shown he is capable of handling that role. When Johnson was sidelined in 2014, Tate had the best 3-game stretch of his career.

He may not in Antonio Brown’s class, but he has a very similar skill-set. He has the versatility to beat you deep and can be deadly with his ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He thrived down the stretch in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense and one can only imagine what he will do with an entire off-season to prepare to be the focal point of the offense. Tate will likely be Matthew Stafford’s go to guy next season.