The NFL Draft is getting closer by the day, as all things are, to be fair, and the NFL Draft Combine is right around the corner. As such, I think it is time to start looking at some of the players available to the Lions by position. This first article will tackle both cornerbacks and safeties. The Lions definitely could use help at cornerback, and having a safety wouldn’t be bad either, though they may want to go with Amari Spievey as the starter and then sign a veteran as his backup just in case he can’t handle it. So, without further ado, here’s a brief overview of the secondary players available in the 2011 NFL Draft.
There are two great cornerback prospects in Patrick Peterson from LSU and Prince Amukamara from Nebraska. Either would be a great grab for the Lions. Neither will be there at 13, I can pretty much guarantee that. However, the Lions are at a point in their building process that trading up in the first round to land an elite prospect isn’t a bad move. Before, they had so many holes to fill, they needed all the picks they could get. That’s not the case any longer. If they traded up to eighth, I think there is a good chance they could get Amukamara. He may be just as good as Peterson at cornerback, but Peterson is also an excellent return man, which gives him added value.
If the Lions don’t want to go that route, the only potential cornerback worth taking at 13 is Colorado’s Jimmy Smith. Since he’s a big cornerback at 6’2”, he’s been getting comparisons to Antonio Cromartie, and if he could be as good as Cromartie he’d make a fine pick in the first round. He’s currently the 10th rated player on ESPN Scout’s Inc.’s board, and with so many teams ahead of the Lions needing quarterbacks, a couple of players who are ranked lower (such as Cam Newton) could go before him. The only issue? I don’t see Smith getting past the Houston Texans. Cornerback is far and away their top need, so I find it very unlikely they don’t take Smith if he’s there, which I expect him to be. Now, trading up to eight to take Amukamara I could get behind, but trading up to 10 to get Smith? Probably best to just let him go.
Fortunately, there are some intriguing options in the second round for cornerbacks as well. The name that interests me the most is Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling, and it’s not just because “Ras-I” is an unusual first name. He was considered a first round talent heading into the season, but he missed a lot of this season with injuries. If he’s fully healthy, the Lions could be getting a steal in the middle of the second round. There’s also a chance Texas’ Aaron Williams falls to them in the second, but I doubt it. Aside from Dowling, Utah’s Brandon Burton is probably the only other cornerback worth considering in the second round.
In the third round, Williams’ Texas teammate Curtis Brown is an option, but North Carolina’s Kendric Burney intrigues me a bit more. He missed time this season, like most of his teammates, due to an investigation involving agents and what have you. He’s a bit undersized, and I doubt he could start for the Lions, but he would make a good third cornerback I think. That would certainly help Detroit, and would be worth a third round pick.
As for safety, I think the Lions may need to wait until the third round if they want to address that position. Oklahoma’s Quinton Carter and Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel are options, but my preferred choice is West Virginia’s Robert Sands. Why? Well, because he’s almost 6’5” and he’s a good player as well. He’s considered really good at defending the pass, and he’s above average against the run as well. He would be a fine pairing with Louis Delmas. I know the Lions are trying to move Spievey over to safety, so I could understand them not wanting to go this route, but it’s definitely a possibility that intrigues me.
As for safeties that could be taken later in the draft, Iowa’s Tyler Sash and Nebraska’s Eric Hagg would be worth a shot after a certain point.
Overall, I think if the Lions don’t get Jimmy Smith in the first round, there are definitely a couple options available to them in the second round I’d be happy with, but if they can’t get one of them there they aren’t going to be able to really address the position properly. They might have to draft a couple of cornerbacks late and then go for quantity over quality at that point. As for safety, it’s not a good draft for that, but they could get somebody late. However, admittedly picking up a veteran to backup Spievey is probably the better option.