Detroit Lions surplus of skill players will force tough roster decisions

Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

For the first time in a long time, the Detroit Lions are going to have to choose to waive NFL caliber skill positions players prior to the September 5.

Doesn’t it suck you can’t eat as much pizza as you want without consequences? Doesn’t that two-drink limit at the open bar sometimes leave a bad taste in your mouth? The Detroit Lions will soon be facing a similar issue as they have too much of a good thing and will soon be forced to choose.

Having major depth at skill player positions and being forced to choose between good and better isn’t familiar territory for Detroit. But it’s something they have to figure out very soon nonetheless as the deadline to cut rosters to 53 is next Saturday, September 5.

Bob Quinn has been quietly putting together a deep group of running backs and wide receivers the past few years. And the process looks to finally be showing top to bottom improvement of talent in each group.

Let’s dive into each group and see just what they have and who they might not by next Saturday.

Running Backs

Bob Quinn and company seem to have a love thing for running backs lately. While it’s the most dispensable position on the field, they still went on and drafted five running backs in the last three seasons.

Including, Kerryon Johnson (2018), Nick Bawden (2018), Ty Johnson (2019), D’Andre Swift (2020), and Jason Huntley (2020). Two of whom were high second-round picks.

This is with good intentions, the Lions running game has been the team’s number one problem in the Matthew Stafford era. In Stafford’s time in the NFL the Lions have the least amount of rushing yards.

I just wish a couple of those or other picks would have gone to offensive lineman as they’ve only drafted three of those in the past four years … but that’s another article.

As they currently have eight running backs rostered:

  • Kerryon Johnson
  • D’Andre Swift
  • Ty Johnson
  • Bo Scarbrough
  • Jason Huntley
  • Jonathan Williams
  • Wes Hills
  • Nick Bawden (FB)

Out of those eight running backs, I believe six have the talent to be on a 2020 roster.

Now on average, NFL teams keep four running backs on their 53-man. In the four seasons under Bob Quinn, he’s kept five backs in four of those years and four in 2019, including a full-back every year besides 2017.

As of now, I have the Lions keeping five without a true full back ala 2017. Including D’Andre Swift, Kerryon Johnson, Ty Johnson, Jason Huntley, and the final spot up between Scarbrough and Williams. Scarbrough winning out if able to return to practice anytime soon.

Wide Receivers

Unlike running backs where it feels like they have gone through a hundred and dwindled it down from there, the Lions have been extremely efficient in drafting and signing wide receivers.

Detroit has only drafted three wide receivers since Calvin Johnson’s retirement in 2015. Including Quintez Cephus, Travis Fulgham, and Kenny Golladay.

Detroit currently has ten receivers rostered in:

  • Jamal Agnew
  • Danny Amendola
  • Victor Bolden
  • Quintez Cephus
  • Geremy Davis
  • Kenny Golladay
  • Marvin Hall
  • Marvin Jones Jr.
  • Tom Kennedy
  • Chris Lacy

Of those ten I believe six maybe seven if you like Lacy like I do, deserve to be rostered in the NFL.

Now on average, NFL teams keep about five wide receivers on their 53-man rosters. In Bob Quinn’s four seasons he’s kept anywhere from four to six on the initial 53. The problem is we are already keeping five running backs…so four or five would be ideal here.

As of now, I have five wide receivers in Golladay, Jones, Amendola, Agnew, and Cephus. Hall was a nice story last season and from everything I heard he’s doing great in camp. But speed isn’t lost on this roster anymore with Agnew and Huntley available.

Both Agnew and Huntley can play wide receiver, running back, and special teams. When you’re trying to find an extra few spots, you get a major leg up on the competition with that kind of versatility.

Remaining Roster

The overload of skill players will have to mean a cut or three elsewhere on the roster. I think the obvious place to start is within the two groups in question, we’re looking at you full-back. They have already been experimenting with linebacker Jason Cabinda at full-back dating back to last season, and also have options there with tight end Isaac Nauta.

They could try and go into the season with only two quarterbacks, which wouldn’t be unusual any other season. But in the COVID injury world, it would be ideal to keep three around at all times.

But keeping the extra skill player(s) really comes down to finding another player or two you can fill another role or three. This is where the versatility of an Agnew, Huntley, Nauta, Cabinda, like rookie offensive guard Logan Stenberg who is now cross-training at center comes into play.

A big help in this situation is the 2020 rule change to allow NFL teams to keep up to sixteen practice squad players. But more importantly, protect four of them.

light. Must Read. This Detroit Lions rookie is turning heads at training camp

While this would make it easier on the nerves sending down one of the skill players mentioned or that sacrifice offensive lineman. Even with the ability to protect four now, the Detroit Lions are still going to have some tough decisions to make.