The position won’t get the attention linebacker or pass-rusher will when it comes to need for Detroit, but cornerback is a spot where the Lions have some definite questions.
Darius Slay, one of the best corners in the game, is locked up with the Lions for a long time. Other than that? There are some issues. Nevin Lawson, D.J. Hayden and Johnson Bademosi are all in the final years of their contracts. Quandre Diggs is in a competition to keep his job.
Alex Carter hasn’t played much entering his third season and Adairius Barnes bounced between the 53-man roster and the practice squad last season. So while the Lions could have their starters in place for 2017 in Slay, Lawson and either Hayden or Diggs, things are extremely open for the future in Detroit.
This makes cornerback a position to pay attention to for the Lions throughout this week’s draft.
What the Lions have: Darius Slay (starter), Nevin Lawson (starter), D.J. Hayden (slot), Johnson Bademosi, Quandre Diggs, Alex Carter, Adairius Barnes, Rolan Milligan
Chances the Lions draft a player at this position: 75 percent
Need level (out of five): 4
Players to watch in the draft:
Kevin King, Washington: The No. 3 cornerback and No. 22 player overall was Mel Kiper’s Grade A first-round pick for the Lions. He has ideal height for Teryl Austin’s defense at 6-foot-3 and ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, meaning he has the speed and the size to match up with most receivers. Tackling might be an issue, but he’s a guy who has the prototype body for today’s NFL corner.
Adoree' Jackson, USC: The No. 5 corner and No. 31 overall player has exceptional speed (4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine) and had 11 pass breakups and five interceptions last year. His height is similar to Lawson, so the Lions wouldn’t be losing much there. He would also solve any Detroit returner questions as he’s one of the best returners in the draft (four punt-return and four kick-return touchdowns). Worst-case scenario for Jackson is he’s a high-level slot cornerback.
Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado: The No. 9 corner and No. 48 overall player has good height (6 feet) and is a good cover corner. He’d match up well opposite Darius Slay and would give the Lions two corners who can handle man coverage against taller receivers well. He can also drop into the slot if need be, giving Detroit position flexibility.
Sidney Jones, Washington: He’d be a first-round pick if not for his torn Achilles at Washington’s pro day. It’ll drop him down a bit, but if he’s somehow still around at No. 53, Jones could be a good value pick for the Lions. They could stash him for his rookie year, with Lawson starting outside and either Hayden or Diggs in the slot, and then have him ready to compete with or replace Lawson in 2018. He’s good as a press-man cornerback and had 21 pass breakups and nine career interceptions.
Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson: If the Lions want to wait until Day 3 for a corner, they could end up with Tankersley, who has good size at 6-foot-1 and speed as a 4.4-second 40-yard dash runner. He has special-teams experience from his first two years with the Tigers before starting 30 games his junior and senior year. He’s a good scheme fit for Detroit, too, as a larger press-man corner.
Corn Elder, Miami (Fla.): He’s another potential Day 3 cornerback after posting a 4.55-second 40-yard dash. He is 5-foot-10 but plays larger than that. More than likely he’ll end up being a slot corner in the NFL. If the Lions decide they want to draft-and-develop one for the future, Elder could be the right type of player.