Is Detroit As Bad As Everyone Thinks?

Jose Juarez/Associated Press

Recently Pro Football Focus released their player grades, ESPN went even farther and decided to rank each team based on the player grades. In the rankings, the Detroit Lions were put at an unreasonably low rank, at number 28 of 32. Even with some of the poor talent that is on the roster, the Lions still have a very competitive roster.

To many fans around the National Football League, this may seem as if it were a correct ranking. But to die-hard Lions fans, this ranking is an extreme undervalue of the talent on the actual roster.

There is no doubt that the Lions do have poor players on the roster, as they have six players that graded out as poor. Three of them were names that are expected to be heard when the starting lineup is announced as Eric Ebron, Haloti Ngata, and Tahir Whitehead. All were graded out as 60 or below, only one being in the 50’s.

Eric Ebron, who was rated at 53.9 due to a poor blocking grade, has a highly misleading grade. Ebron has never come close to what the Lions expected him to become. However, in his three seasons he has progressively become a dependable target.

As Ebron has grown as a receiver, he still lacks what some of the best tight ends in the game do, pass and run blocking. However, Ebron who struggled mightily with that will no longer be thrown in every play that they need as a blocker. This past offseason the Lions went out and signed tight end Darren Fells who was a top five blocking tight end last year.

Haloti Ngata who graded out roughly above 46, will more than likely see a reduced role this year. The Lions went out and signed defensive tackle Akeem Spence to a three-year and $10.5-million deal. They also signed defensive tackle Jordan Hill to a one-year $855K-deal too. Both Spence and Hill are not household names, but a change from Ngata may end well for both the Lions and both of their players.

Tahir Whitehead graded out at a 37.7 and may be the player on the list that sees the field the most. With Lion’s draft pick Jarrad Davis projected as the starting middle linebacker, that means Whitehead will be able to go back to his outside linebacking spot. That does not seem like someone who should be a starting linebacker but in 2015, when he rotated between the two outside linebacker spots of SAM (strong side) and WILL (weak side), he graded out as an average linebacker.

The other players that were graded as poor include wide receiver T.J. Jones who likely will not see the field much as Kenny Golladay and Jared Abbrederis, and Laken Tomlinson, the former first round pick who has been replaced by Graham Glasgow (does not have a huge role unless injuries occur). Finally, D.J. Hayden the cornerback that the Lions signed during this offseason who will play the nickel, but he will have to battle with Quandre Diggs and rookie Jamal Agnew for the nickel spot.

The offensive line, which was upgraded during the offseason, was ranked as an astonishing 24th. Even with the loss of Taylor Decker that ranking seems extremely low. They signed a pro bowl guard in T.J. Lang along with an above average right tackle in Ricky Wagner. They have a blossoming young center in Travis Swanson who will only become better as time goes on. Graham Glasgow improved as the season went on and will likely start over Laken Tomlinson. Left tackle is still a major question with Decker out between anytime between the first and third month of the season.

The backfield may not be as bad as in the past. The Lions have a healthy Ameer Abdullah coming into this season. Not to mention, one, if if not the best receiving running back in the NFL in Theo Riddick. For a power back they have the former South Dakota State Jackrabbit in Zach Zenner, and when given an opportunity took advantage of it.

The Lions no doubt have some below average players but to rank them 28th is mind-boggling. The lowest ranked players all have some type of player to complement their biggest weaknesses.


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