Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew's ability to retain all but one of Detroit's 2011 starters during the offseason allowed him to focus on adding depth during free agency and the draft. The result is the most talented team that the Lions have carried into training camp since before ill-fated former GM Matt Millen took control of the franchise in 2001.
The roster isn't without its weaknesses -- secondary depth is an issue -- but solid competitions at several positions should make finalizing the roster a difficult task. Each week between now and roster deadline day, CBS RapidReports will try and solve the Lions' fluid roster puzzle. Here's our first attempt at projecting which players in camp will still be in Detroit's locker room come Week 1.
Notable numbers: When making these projections, we took some license when addressing some unique roster situations Detroit currently faces. RB Mikel Leshoure is suspended for the first two weeks of the season, so he'll be placed on a “suspended” list that by league rule doesn't count against the active roster. RB Jahvid Best and CB Chris Greenwood are also expected to begin the season on the PUP list, which means they won't count against the 53-man roster either. In an effort to be as realistic as possible, we will abide by these two scenarios when making projections.
Stock rising: Seventh-round pick LB Travis Lewis, and undrafted free agent WR Patrick Edwards have distanced themselves from the other rookies on the Lions roster. Lewis' mastery of Detroit's system has seen him take some first team reps when Stephen Tulloch wasn't able to practice due to knee tendinitis, and Edwards' speed is impressive.
Stock falling: WR Lance Long had a fast start to camp, but his play has dropped in recent workouts. The “Vanilla Gorilla” now appears to be on the outside of the roster picture looking in. Veteran safety Sean Jones struggled in coverage during the preseason opener. He's got a fight on his hands to make the team.
QB -- In: (2) Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill. Out: Kellen Moore, R. J. Archer. Analysis: Stafford and Hill are locked into the top two positions on the depth chart, and Archer hasn't seen enough reps to indicate that he's anything more than an extra arm during camp. That leaves Moore as the only question mark, and his performances in camp aren't impressive. Detroit didn't dress third QB Drew Stanton once last season, and the elimination of the emergency QB game-day roster designation devalues keeping a player on the roster destined to be a spectator. If Moore stays in Detroit, it'll likely be on the practice squad.
RB -- In: (4) Kevin Smith, Keiland Williams, Stefan Logan, Joique Bell. Out: Stephfon Green, James Bryant (FB). PUP: Jahvid Best. Suspended: Mikel Leshoure. Analysis: Jim Schwartz appeared to seal Bryant's fate when he recently told reporters that Detroit didn't typically run a fullback-style offense. Green slid down the depth chart when Mikel Leshoure jumped ahead of him -- but behind Smith, Williams, Logan, and Bell -- when he returned to practice Monday. Bell looks to be a direct benificiary of Leshoure's suspension. His 89 rushing yards in the Lions preseason opener went a long way toward convincing Lions coaches that he can handle reserve RB duties.
WR -- In: (6) Ryan Broyles, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Maurice Stovall, Titus Young, Patrick Edwards. Out: Dominique Curry, Jarrett Dillard, Nate Hughes, Lance Long, Wallace Miles, Terrence Toliver. Analysis: Johnson, Young, Broyles, and Burleson are locks to make the team. Detroit usually keeps six WRs, and the competition for the final two spots looks to be between Stovall, Curry, and Edwards. Edwards' speed gives him an edge in the race, but he's battling ball-security issues. It's likely that special teams skill will help decide between Curry and Stovall.
TE -- In (3): Brandon Pettigrew, Will Heller, Tony Scheffler. Out: Nathan Overbay, Austin Wells, Alex Gottlieb. Analysis: There's no competition here at all. Heller is an outstanding blocker, and the tandem of Scheffler and Pettigrew was one of the most potent TE attacks in the league last season.
OL -- In: (9) Dominic Raiola, Stephen Peterman, Rob Sims, Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus, Riley Reiff, Dylan Gandy, Corey Hilliard, Jason Fox. Out: Dan Gerberry, Pat Boyle, Jacques McClendon, J. C. Oram, Jonathan Scott, Rodney Austin. Analysis: Detroit's 2011 starting O-line returns intact. First-round draft pick Reiff offers quality depth the tackle position, while Hilliard can fill multiple roles if needed. Fox gets the final roster spot in this projection over backup center Gerberry, and talented rookie Austin by virtue of his first-team work in camp.
DL -- In: (9) Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson, Ronnell Lewis, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Willie Young, Nick Fairley, Sammie Hill, Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams. Out: Everette Brown, Ugo Chinasa, Edmon McClam, Andre Fluellen, Tracy Robertson. Analysis: The top eight spots on the D-line are practically locked in, leaving the rookie Lewis and veterans Fluellen and Brown to battle for the final roster place. In the end, Lewis' youth, and versatility give him the edge.
LB -- In: (7) Justin Durant, Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Travis Lewis, Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Doug Hogue. Out: Carmen Messina, Slade Norris. Analysis: This unit is one of the deepest on Detroit's roster, and also one of the most stable. Five players return from a solid 2011 LB corps, and rookies Lewis and Whitehead are distancing themselves in camp. Messina is a candidate for the practice squad.
DB -- In: (10) Bill Bentley, Jonte Green, Chris Houston, Jacob Lacey, Alphonso Smith, Erik Coleman, Louis Delmas, Ricardo Silva, Amari Spievey, John Wendling. Out: Drew Coleman, Justin Miller, Ross Weaver, Don Carey, Sean Jones, Reshard Langford. PUP: Chris Greenwood. Analysis: DB depth issues during the second half of the 2011 season cost Detroit dearly. Keeping two QBs and adding an extra DB -- Detroit carried nine for parts of the 2011 season -- creates a safety net against health concerns. The 10 players on the projected roster have taken most of the first and second team reps in camp. Silva's special teams skill and experience in Detroit's system gives him the edge over Jones for the final roster place.
Special teams -- In: (3) Jason Hanson, Ben Graham, Don Muhlbach. Out: Derek Dimke, Ryan Donahue. Analysis: This is simply a case of experience beating youth. Dimke has kicked well in camp, but Hanson is an all-time great at the position who still has the ability to handle the job. Graham replaced an injured Donahue last season, and has outkicked the second-year player in drills so far this season.
Follow Lions reporter John Kreger on Twitter at @CBSSportsNFLDET and @JohnKreger.