2012 NFL Draft: Cornerbacks the Detroit Lions Should Target in April's Draft

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystFebruary 24, 2012

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 21:  Chase Minnifield #13 of the Virginia Cavaliers runs with the ball during the game against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Just in case you missed the Detroit Lions' final two games from last season, it became pretty clear that the Lions could use some help in the secondary, after quarterbacks Matt Flynn of the Green Bay Packers and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints shredded the Detroit defense to the tune of nearly 950 passing yards.

The Lions' rather precarious salary cap situation may prevent them from making a big splash in free agency, but here's a look at a trio of cornerbacks who could provide a boost for the defensive backfield in Motor City and would mesh well in defensive coordinator Gunther Cunninham's 4-3 scheme, which calls for quite a bit of man coverage and corners who aren't afraid of getting dirty.

Chase Minnifield, Virginia

Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield is a chip off the proverbial block, as his father Frank was a four-time Pro Bowl defensive back with the Cleveland Browns in the 1980s.

The 6'0", 187-pound first team All-ACC performer didn't light up stat sheets last year, recording 50 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three interceptions, but that had as much to do with opposing teams avoiding him as anything, and his relatively high tackle numbers underscore his willingness to chip in with run support.

Minnifield doesn't possess great speed but more than makes up for it with excellent instincts and a nose for the football. Should the Virginia standout still be on the board in the second round, the Lions would be well-served to seriously consider pulling the trigger.


Dwight Bentley, Louisiana-Lafayette

At just over 5'9" and 178 pounds, Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley certainly isn't the biggest cornerback available in the 2012 NFL Draft, nor does he possess elite athleticism or speed.

However, the somewhat diminutive Ragin' Cajuns standout is a physical coverage player with solid technique, and Bentley is more than capable of defending bigger receivers.

Bentley, who was one of the stars of last month's Senior Bowl and attended the same high school as fellow 2012 draft prospect Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama, isn't worried about the prospects of taking his skills to football's biggest stage, telling Alfie Crow:

Not to take anything away from those guys, they're very good players but if I'm worried about those guys I'm not going to be out here doing what I have to do.

Should Bentley be available in the fourth round of April's draft, the Detroit Lions may want to seriously consider using a pick on the small-school star with big-time skills.


Omar Bolden, Arizona State

After a 2010 season that saw Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden rack up 52 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble en route to being named a consensus All Pac-10 performer, the 5'10", 195-pounder appeared headed towards potentially being a first-round pick in this year's draft. Then a knee injury suffered in spring practice wiped out his entire 2011 campaign.

Bolden knows that he heads to the NFL Scouting Combine with a lot to prove to scouts regarding his durability after two serious knee injuries in college, but as he recently told the Arizona Republic, he feels he's ready to answer those questions.

At times, I've been elite. I feel like sometimes people have forgotten that. I'm just going there to remind everybody that I'm still that guy.

Bolden's knees are certainly cause for some concern, but when healthy he's an exceptionally gifted athlete who excels in both coverage and run support, making him a more than viable later-round flier for the Lions in the hopes that Bolden has put his health woes behind him.