Lions Skyrocket in New ESPN Roster Health Rankings

Brad Holmes Rod Wood

Getty Brad Holmes and Rod Wood mix it up during Lions training camp in July 2021.

The Detroit Lions roster has had some problems lately, but the team could be turning a big corner as it relates to that if a new analysis is to be believed.

While ESPN might be not a fan of the Lions’ offensive line, the site does seem to believe that the team is heading in the right direction in terms of being able to restructure their roster for the future.

The site enlisted the help of Football Outsiders and writer Scott Sprath as it relates to ranking talent under 25 years old. Detroit came in seventh overall, which was way up from their previous rankings in recent years. In 2020, the team was 26th, and in 2021 they ranked 23rd.

As Sprath admitted, the Lions might have some tangible hope moving forward given where their roster could be at.

“But unlike some previous hapless Detroit teams, Campbell’s Lions offer a reason for optimism in their leap from the bottom 10 in under-25 talent in 2020 and 2021 to seventh this year,” he wrote in the piece.

Specifically, in terms of analysis, Spratt praised what the Lions had on the offensive and defensive lines in the form of Penei Sewell and Aidan Hutchinson. At skill positions, he cheers Amon-Ra St. Brown as well as Jameson Williams, and admits the team can lean on D’Andre Swift until Williams gets back.

Defensively, Spratt likes what the Lions have in the front seven, especially Julian Okwara and Alim McNeill. Additionally, he refers to Derrick Barnes as a “fourth-round steal” for what he did as a rookie with regards to broken tackle rate in 2021.

Add it up and it’s clear the team is pushing forward with some solid new talents. The ranking is a huge feather in the cap of Detroit’s staff and front office.

The Best Lions Players Under 25

As the piece hints, the Lions have plenty of players under the age of 25 years old that have made a big difference for their roster and will into the future. Picking the best one can be difficult, given the dearth of options.

Perhaps Sewell could make a case, given his importance for the offensive line. St. Brown is going to be a fixture on the team for a while as a weapon at wideout. Jonah Jackson, who is 25, also makes a case. From a weapon standpoint, D’Andre Swift remains a key player.

Defensively, the team has Hutchinson, McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike as younger players. Barnes and Julian Okwara are also key personalities that can grow with the team, and Jeff Okudah is only 23 as well. If he develops, that could be a big deal for Detroit.

Add it up and it’s clear the Lions have a big possible advantage in terms of the youth of their roster.

How Lions Have Reshaped Their Team This Offseason

It’s taken a few offseasons full of work for Brad Holmes to restructure the Lions, but in 2022, he has made some headway.

Before free agency, the Lions brought back wideouts Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds, safety Tracy Walker, defensive lineman Charles Harris and linebacker Alex Anzalone. In terms of outside spending, Detroit didn’t do much, adding wideout DJ Chark to the offense and linebackers Chris Board and Jarrad Davis, safety DeShon Elliott and cornerback Mike Hughes to the defense. All are underrated players who could break out for the Lions in 2022.

When the draft came around, the Lions landed Hutchinson in a stroke of luck. After that, the Lions traded up for wideout Williams, who should add a dynamic element to their offense. Day two brought the team some more defensive help with gritty and classy Josh Paschal. Super athletic safety Kirby Joseph closed out round three, and should contend for a role in the Motor City. During day three, the Lions added James Mitchell, a tight end, Malcolm Rodriguez, a linebacker and James Houston, a linebacker. Chase Lucas, a cornerback, was the team’s final selection.

As a whole, the additions could have the Lions set up to be in good shape moving forward. That, combined with their roster, could give the team what looks like a bright future.

READ NEXT: Amon-Ra St. Brown ‘on a Mission’ for 2022

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