BREAKING NEWS: Six players that declined Detroit Lions 2024 NFL Draft..

6 Detroit Lions players that benefitted from the 2024 NFL Draft

These six players benefitted from the Detroit Lions’ 2024 NFL Draft class

The NFL Draft is not just about which players get drafted. Oftentimes, it is the players that weren’t drafted that play a large role in the roster’s shape.

Thanks to countless mock drafts, some positions were seen as sure-fire landing spots for rookie draft picks. Instead, these positions may have gone unaddressed in the draft. This could open up new opportunities for returning players, while also providing a slight security blanket for players once on the bubble.

On Monday, we covered six Detroit Lions players that have a lot to prove following the 2024 NFL Draft. Today, we will take a look at those players that quietly benefitted from the Lions’ draft class.

Antoine Green, WR

The Lions walked away from the draft without a receiver added to their arsenal. They added two players as undrafted free agents—Isaiah Williams and Jalon Calhoun—but the roster remains otherwise untouched from a free agency period that saw them lose Josh Reynolds to the Denver Broncos. Though a free agent signing could manifest in the coming weeks, as it stands, I believe Antoine Green has benefitted the most.

Green, the 2023 seventh-round selection, saw minimal action in his rookie season, but he could be in line for a larger role barring an aforementioned signing. Amon-Ra St. Brown will be the top target on offense, while Jameson Williams’ role will likely grow entering his third season, but the depth pieces have some questions. Kalif Raymond is a spark plug on the field, but his size limits him from being a replacement for Reynolds. Donovan Peoples-Jones was brought back for another look after being acquired by trade, but with just 58 receiving yards after coming to Detroit, expecting him to slide into the WR3 role is far from guaranteed.

Green has the size (6-foot-2 and 200 pounds) and speed (4.47 40-yard dash) to be a weapon on the Lions offense. The onus is on him to earn that spot.

Josh Paschal, DE

Although the Lions signed Marcus Davenport, there was still an opportunity to upgrade the pass rush in the draft. Josh Paschal and John Cominsky were among the myriad of players rotating in and out across from Aidan Hutchinson to mixed success. They were worth having on the roster, but their play was far from level needed to truly complement Hutchinson.

Detroit came away from the draft without a defensive end, perhaps a vote of confidence for their former second rounder. The Lions did draft a defensive lineman with pass rushing pop in Mekhi Wingo, but he will likely challenge Levi Onwuzurike for a spot, not one of these outside edge defenders.

Paschal and Cominsky were co-starters in 2023, but I believe Paschal has the edge going into next season thanks to a steadily increasing snap count down the stretch. Cominsky also took a pay cut this offseason, signaling that the Lions like him, but not that much. Given that Davenport is coming off an injury, he might not be a 800+ snap defender. In that case, I think Paschal could be the first guy off the bench.

James Houston and Mathieu Betts, OLB

Speaking of pass rushers, the Lions’ lack of action on draft day is good news for James Houston and Mathieu Betts. Houston and Betts are the frontrunners for the pass rushing linebacker spot on defense in wake of Julian Okwara’s departure. It may not be a sizable role, however, so it could very well be a singular spot to be had between the two.

Houston exploded onto the scene as a rookie, but his follow-up season was slowed with injury. Even prior to his injury, he was lower on the depth chart than many would have expected. Yet that rookie season still looms large, and if the Lions can get even a fraction of that production, it would be significant.

Betts, meanwhile, joins the Lions after a 18-sack campaign with the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions. While that sack total is impressive, it also came against lesser CFL tackles. Additionally, Betts has little experience at linebacker, so the occasional drops into coverage could prove to be a steep learning curve.

Unless undrafted edge defenders Isaac Ukwu or Nate Lynn impress in training camp, at least one of Houston or Betts should be destined for the final roster.

Brandon Joseph, S

I mentioned safety as a pressing need post-draft despite the selection of Sione Vaki. With Vaki slated for an offense-first role, the Lions are still in need of safety help. Brandon Joseph is the only returning non-starting safety from 2023, and given that the only signings as of yet have been a few undrafted rookies, it might bode well for Joseph’s chances.

Kerby Joseph, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and Brian Branch are entrenched as the starters on defense, but Joseph could sneak his way onto the roster. The Lions lost C.J. Gardner-Johnson and released Tracy Walker, so there is an opening for a least one safety spot. Joseph stuck around all of 2023 on the practice squad before signing a futures deal. That is as much of a vote of confidence as you can get for a practice squad player.

The Lions seem destined for a free agent signing, but that might not be a disaster for Joseph if he can demonstrate some special teams ability. Joseph’s status as a player who went undrafted in 2023 means he could easily be bumped off the roster, but he at least has a year under his belt. Will that be enough of an edge?

Michael Badgley, K

Drafting a kicker is not a proposition often liked by fans, but the Lions were in a position where such a move would have been welcomed. Michael Badgley had reclaimed the starting spot from Riley Patterson, but a lack of leg strength had hampered the Lions offense. An upgrade via the draft was more than possible, but by the end of the seventh round, Badgley remained the only kicker on the team.

The Lions are reportedly signing Michigan product James Turner as an undrafted free agent, but I am skeptical that he will beat Badgley for the starting role. Many of the best kickers in the NFL were undrafted, but Turner shares many of the problems that Badgley does. His longest successful kick in college was just 50 yards and that lack of distance means he will need an incredibly accurate training camp to beat out Badgley—or a horrific camp from the veteran.

Had the Lions drafted or signed a strong-legged kicker, I believe Badgley’s spot would have been at risk. Instead, he seems like the strong favorite entering training camp. That being said, the UFL season will soon come to a close, so Jake Bates could be on the market for Detroit. Stay tuned.

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