The draft is over and rookie minicamp is this week. While the Detroit Lions' roster is fluid, here's the first very, very early guess at who might end up on the 53-man roster for the club when the season kicks off in September.
Remember, this is an early guess and could change immensely by the end of June's minicamp. On Tuesday, we looked at the offense.
Today, we finish with defense and specialists.
DEFENSIVE END (5):
Thoughts: Typically, I wouldn't project the Lions to carry six defensive ends, but the way this team is structured, it might happen again. Jones, Tapp and even Taylor to an extent offer inside/outside roster flexibility, so it helps to keep those players around. Ansah will be the focal point of the line as the emerging star enters his third season -- and his first without Ndamukong Suh. This is another spot where a veteran could pop up -- remember, no one thought George Johnson was making the Lions at this point in 2014.
Roster locks: Ansah, Jones, Taylor.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ansah, Jones, Taylor, Webster, Tapp.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4):
Thoughts: Even after the draft, this is still not a deep group. Ngata is a locked-in starter and figure Walker and Wright will compete for the spot next to him. The other will be a rotational tackle. Reid will need to show improvement in his second season. The rest of the players listed are competing with Reid and some of the flexible ends for one, maybe two, roster spots. Like end, this is a spot where a veteran or two might be signed and could make the roster (Andre Fluellen, perhaps).
Roster locks: Ngata, Walker, Wright.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ngata, Walker, Wright, Reid.
Thoughts: This was, by far, the toughest group to call. At one point, I had eight different linebackers slotted in before filing these projections and bounced between six and seven linebackers. I settled on adding another receiver in place of a linebacker, which cost Stanford a spot. Copeland was also under heavy consideration and even Snyder could push for a roster spot. Anyone past the top four linebackers will be in an interesting position. For the final linebacker spot, it came down to Lewis over Stanford. Lewis, provided he's healthy, offers more value and is a strong special teams player.
Roster locks: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy, Whitehead.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy, Whitehead, Bynes, Lewis.
Thoughts: After Mathis, Slay and Carter, this becomes a very intriguing group. Bentley and Lawson are coming off season-ending injuries. Diggs is a strong, but undersized, prospect. Wilson is a longtime vet who can provide depth. Seisay has major potential as well, and Butler has some experience. There's a glut of slot corners, though, between Bentley, Lawson, Diggs and Wilson. It's a tougher competition than in years past and special teams capability could play a role in who sticks.
Roster locks: Mathis, Slay, Carter.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Mathis, Slay, Carter, Bentley, Lawson, Diggs.
Thoughts: Last season, this was one of the most competitive groups out there. Still is, although there is likely only room for four safeties on the roster since both Mathis and, theoretically, Carter, can play safety in a pinch. Johnson is an intriguing prospect and if he impresses in camp could stick at the expense of Carey or a cornerback. I'm not listing Ihedigbo as a roster lock until he shows up to camp and looks like his typical self.
Roster locks: Quin, Abdul-Quddus
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Quin, Ihedigbo, Abdul-Quddus, Carey.
Reserves: Kyle Brindza (K/P), Jordan Thompson (LS)
Thoughts: Not many. The specialists are set, barring injury. Brindza is a camp leg who can kick and punt. Thompson is also a tight end.
Roster locks: Prater, Martin, Muhlbach
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Prater, Martin, Muhlbach.