Predicting Lions depth, fall roster: offense

May, 16, 2014
May 16
9:23
AM ET
The true workout portion of the Detroit Lions' offseason activities begins Friday with the start of rookie minicamp, followed by OTAs and the mandatory minicamp in June.

Before that officially begins, here is a look at the Lions' depth chart -- along with a first shot at what the 53-man roster could look like come fall. And please remember, a lot can change between now and then.

QUARTERBACK

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsThe Lions have used the offseason to add weapons to their offense for starting QB Matthew Stafford.
Projected starter: Matthew Stafford

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Dan Orlovsky; Kellen Moore; James Franklin.

Thoughts: This is one of the most stable positions on the roster. The Lions have an entrenched starter in Stafford who the entire focus of offseason building appeared to be around. Orlovsky is a capable backup who has some starting experience. The third quarterback will come down to Moore or Franklin. That decision will depend on whether the team feels there is reason to continue to invest in Moore for a third season.

Roster locks: Stafford.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Stafford, Orlovsky, Franklin (practice squad)

RUNNING BACK

Projected starter: Reggie Bush/Joique Bell

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Theo Riddick, Mikel Leshoure, Steven Miller

Thoughts: Like quarterback, there is some stability at this position. Bush and Bell are locked up for a decent stretch and they were an effective tandem last season. They should be even more so this season as they will likely get less carries but more touches with short passes. Riddick, as long as he can still be an effective special teams player, should also have a roster spot. Leshoure is an interesting situation because if Detroit emulates New Orleans, it will need more than two main backs.

Roster locks: Bush, Bell

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Bush, Bell, Riddick, Leshoure

FULLBACK

Projected starter: Jed Collins

Backups (in projected depth-order): Montell Owens, Chad Abram

Thoughts: The Lions, crazy as it sounds, might keep two fullbacks on the roster -- mostly for special teams. They will certainly keep one, and Collins seems like a front-runner because he is less expensive and already understands the likely playbook. Plus, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi knows him and clearly trusts him to bring him in. Owens’ hybrid abilities make him intriguing, and Abram was a special teams dynamo at Florida State.

Roster locks: None

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Collins, Abram.

WIDE RECEIVER

Projected starters: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree, Jeremy Ross, TJ Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, Corey Fuller, Patrick Edwards, Andrew Peacock.

Thoughts: There are a lot of players here for not many available spots. Working on the assumption Johnson and Tate are going nowhere and Ross takes up a place as a return man, that might leave 2-3 spots for the rest. How the receivers shake out could be one of the most interesting battles of OTAs, minicamp and training camp. This is also a position where the Lions could go grab an unexpected free agent.

Roster locks: Johnson, Tate

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Johnson, Tate, Ross, Durham, Jones, Broyles (PUP), Fuller
(practice squad), Peacock (practice squad).

TIGHT END

Projected starters: Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams, Jacob Maxwell, Jordan Thompson

Thoughts: There might be a lot of tight ends in camp, but when you look at experience, that number thins out a lot. Ebron and Pettigrew are the likely unquestioned starters and should end up on the field at least 75 percent of the time each by midseason. Fauria is the biggest question here, the decision will be based on how much he has improved in the offseason. Anyone else who makes the roster is on special teams.

Roster locks: Pettigrew, Ebron

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria, Williams.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Projected starters: Riley Reiff (LT); LaAdrian Waddle (RT)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Corey Hilliard, J.B. Shugarts, Cornelius Lucas

Thoughts: This is a tricky position right now. There is not a ton of depth here, but Hilliard could present an interesting case if it ends up being a close battle for either the starting right tackle slot or depth. Lucas could end up being Waddle-like in how he surprises people throughout camp. As long as Waddle builds on last season, though, he should end up as the starter.

Roster locks: Reiff, Waddle

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Reiff, Waddle, Hilliard, Lucas.

OFFENSIVE GUARD

Projected starters: Rob Sims (LG); Larry Warford (RG).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Rodney Austin, Darren Keyton, Alex Bullard, D.J. Morrell.

Thoughts: Didn’t put third-round pick Travis Swanson at guard, because he’s going to project as the backup to Dominic Raiola at center. Warford is set, and barring someone showing very well over the next month, so is Sims. After that, it's murky. The Lions clearly liked Austin enough to keep him around last season when Tennessee tried to take him off the practice squad. Bullard is intriguing because he can play all five offensive line slots.

Roster locks: Warford.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Warford, Sims, Austin, Bullard (practice squad).

CENTER

Starter: Dominic Raiola.

Backups: Travis Swanson.

Thoughts: Raiola should end up being the starter here this season. He will groom Swanson to take over in either 2015 or 2016, depending on Raiola’s play in 2014.

Roster locks: Raiola, Swanson.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Raiola, Swanson.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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