Lions post-NFL Draft depth chart: Few 2024 starting jobs available for rookies

The biggest difference between this year and last year, when trying to piece together a starting lineup for the Detroit Lions, is the lack of rookies who can start. In years past, it has been a rather simple exercise. Not so much this time around.

That’s a good thing, for the record.

“It’s a good feeling to be in a spot where we feel good about the depth we have, we feel good about the future we have,” Lions GM Brad Holmes said Saturday after the conclusion of the NFL Draft, where the team added six players. “I know that we’re a better football team.”

Detroit’s roster, on paper, is stronger than it was when the team last took the field — a loss in the NFC Championship Game. Getting that close, with a roster that was still coming along, was an impressive feat. But expectations will be higher now. The roster is ready to win, particularly after free agency and the draft. There’s good depth and few holes. This group is hungry, having been so close to a Super Bowl. Rookies are already talking about how they want to get the team over the top.

Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a closer look at the Lions’ projected starters and key depth, with OTAs around the corner.



Discussing Lions GM Brad Holmes’ NFL Draft picks, and the mindset behind the moves


Starter: Jared Goff

Key depth: Hendon Hooker, Nate Sudfeld

Six teams selected quarterbacks within the top-12 picks at this year’s draft, perhaps a sign of the league’s QB desperation. The Lions don’t have that issue at the moment. They have three-time Pro Bowl QB Jared Goff leading the charge, and only had to spend a third-round pick to get their young backup Hendon Hooker. Holmes says it’s easier to get worse at quarterback than it is to get better. His patience, both with Goff and Hooker, has Detroit’s QB room in a healthy spot.

Running back

Starters: David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs

Key depth: Sione Vaki, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight, Jermar Jefferson.

The selection of Utah RB/S Sione Vaki was not a surprising one. Detroit brought him in for multiple visits, watched him complete workouts at running back, wide receiver, defensive back and special teams and had its eye on him for some time. He fits the culture and offers positional versatility. It sounds like the Lions view him more as an offensive player, after he met with the offensive coaching staff during his top-30 visit. Expect him to start there, while factoring in heavily on special teams.

“We have some options there, but we know he can play safety,” Holmes said. “We know he can do that, but the vision is we’re so intrigued by the running back stuff, especially because he hadn’t been majoring in it, so … how far can this thing go if he’s actually majoring in this thing in one room?”


Wide receiver

Starters: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones

Key depth: Kalif Raymond, Antoine Green

The Lions did not address wide receiver in the draft. Granted, it’s hard to get to everything in a single draft, but this was a deep one with some intriguing talent. Detroit lost Josh Reynolds, and if it doesn’t add a veteran with some starting potential, it will need others to pick up the slack internally. Amon-Ra St. Brown is Amon-Ra St. Brown. Jameson Williams will need to take a leap in his third year, now that he’s years removed from a torn ACL and the gambling suspension is fully behind him. And Donovan Peoples-Jones was re-signed after the Lions traded for him at the deadline last year. He has an 800-yard season under his belt, so perhaps he can provide a similar spark at the X position.

Tight end

Starter: Sam LaPorta

Key depth: Brock Wright, James Mitchell, Shane Zylstra

For a second there, it was unclear if the Lions would have Wright back in the mix. Wright had signed an offer sheet with the San Francisco 49ers, but the Lions matched the three-year, $12 million deal. Detroit trusts him so much in its run scheme — one of the most diverse in the NFL — so asking a rookie to step in and replace that would’ve been tough. He’ll return to back up second-team All-Pro Sam LaPorta, already one of the best receiving tight ends in football, along with James Mitchell and Shane Zylstra.

Offensive line

Starters (from left to right): Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Frank Ragnow, Kevin Zeitler, Penei Sewell

Key depth: Christian Mahogany, Giovanni Manu, Dan Skipper, Colby Sorsdal, Kayode Awosika

The Lions used two of their six draft picks on offensive linemen, which should make for some difficult decisions. The starting five is set, as the Decker-Glasgow-Ragnow-Zeitler-Sewell line figures to be one of the best in football. But how will the rest of the depth shake out? Last year, the Lions kept eight linemen after breaking training camp. You have to think they’ll keep their three recent draft picks — Colby Sorsdal, Christian Mahogany and Giovanni Manu. However, that’s a rather inexperienced bunch. Dan Skipper has emerged as the jumbo package lineman, so he likely has a role. Will there be room for anyone else?

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Starters: Aidan Hutchinson, Marcus Davenport

Key depth: Josh Paschal, James Houston, John Cominsky, Mathieu Betts

The Lions also weren’t able to get an edge in the draft, but draft experts viewed this as a weak class at the position. By the time the Lions were selecting at No. 24, Laiatu Latu, Dallas Turner, Jared Verse and Chop Robinson were all selected. The Lions added Marcus Davenport and Mathieu Betts, the CFL defensive player of the year, in free agency. They have James Houston returning from injury, brought back John Cominsky hoping for a rebound year and have Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal entering Year 3. Another body might not be the worst thing, but it’s certainly possible Holmes likes what he has here. Beefing up the DT room could help, too.


Defensive tackle

Starters: Alim McNeill, DJ Reader

Key depth: Mekhi Wingo, Levi Onwuzurike, Brodric Martin

It’s hard not to love what the Lions did this offseason at defensive tackle. Detroit might have one of the best interior duos in the NFL with Alim McNeill and DJ Reader. McNeill is coming off the best season of his career and has improved each year in the NFL. Reader, a space-eating tackle who can free things up for others, was an excellent addition — my favorite of free agency for the Lions. The Lions were doing their homework on defensive tackles in the draft, and were able to snag Mekhi Wingo — ranked 95th on Dane Brugler’s Top 300 — at No. 189. He can provide some pass-rush juice from the interior and off the edge. We’ll see what the team can get from Levi Onwuzurike and Brodric Martin. New defensive line coach Terrell Williams will hope to get the most out of this group.


Starters: Alex Anzalone, Jack Campbell

Key depth: Derrick Barnes, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Malcolm Rodriguez

No notable additions here. The Lions return their top five linebackers from the 2023 season, and while it’s not a spectacular group, it’s improved quite a bit over the years. Alex Anzalone was one of the better linebackers in the NFC a year ago. Derrick Barnes took a third-year leap last year. Jack Campbell got his feet wet and more is expected of him in 2024. Jalen Reeves-Maybin was an All-Pro special teamer and a valuable sub-package linebacker. And while Malcolm Rodriguez lost his starting gig, having him as a depth piece and special teams contributor is a luxury. Good room here.


Starters: Carlton Davis III, Terrion Arnold, Brian Branch

Key depth: Amik Robertson, Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Emmanuel Moseley, Khalil Dorsey

No position has seen a greater overhaul than cornerback. It’s night and day. Last year’s starters featured Cam Sutton, Jerry Jacobs and Kindle Vildor. Sutton was released after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Jacobs is a free agent. And Vildor is now the team’s sixth corner.

The Lions traded for Carlton Davis III, and the veteran is expected to be Detroit’s CB1 in 2024. As for who starts next to him, there will be a competition. Amik Robertson signed a two-year deal, joining the Lions after starting for the Raiders. The Lions are high on him, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get the nod to start the season. But it’s a matter of when, not if, Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. see the field. They were drafted to be the long-term answers at cornerback. We’ve seen the Lions throw their rookies into the fire before, regardless of the vets in front of them. But they’ll have to prove it on the field first. Robertson will likely begin camp as CB2, but Arnold will be there to offer a challenge, and if he’s as good as advertised, could win it heading into Week 1. That’s exactly what Holmes wants.



Starters: Kerby Joseph and Ifeatu Melifonwu

Key depth: Branch, Brandon Joseph

We’ll see how much work Vaki gets on defense, but it sure sounds like he’ll spend most of his time on offense to start. That leaves the Lions a bit thin at safety. Ifeatu Melifonwu had a breakout year, but the sample was small and he’s battled injures in his career. Joseph is a good ballhawk when he’s on, but there was some boom or bust to his game last year — although he was dealing with a hip injury that needed offseason surgery. It sounds like the Lions are prepping Branch to play some more safety this year, so if Joseph or Melifonwu go down, expect him to fill in there, while a corner like Arnold or Rakestraw moves to nickel.


Starters: Michael Badgley (kicker) OR James Turner, Jack Fox (punter), Scott Daly (long snapper)

The Lions re-signed Michael Badgley in the offseason, but you knew he wouldn’t be the guy without some competition. Though the Lions didn’t draft a kicker, they did add James Turner — a local product who played for Louisville and Michigan — as a UDFA. Turner is 38-of-43 over the last two seasons, including 3-of-4 from 50 yards. Are the Lions done here? That’s to be determined.


Starters: Raymond (punt), Vaki

Key depth: Craig Reynolds, Peoples-Jones, Maurice Alexander

The NFL’s approved change to kickoffs already has Dan Campbell and Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp scheming up ways to gain an edge. Raymond should get the nod as the team’s punt returner again, but the kickoff rule is intriguing. Holmes talked about the potential for Vaki to return, and that’s an intriguing fit. Craig Reynolds and Peoples-Jones have some return experience as well. Maurice Alexander is the sleeper here.

(Photo: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

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