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When a team drafts a cornerback in the first 40 picks of the draft, they expect him to be a shutdown corner.
Does that mean he will be? Impossible to say.
Cornerbacks, in particular, are notoriously difficult to project even after a year of experience, much less days after being drafted.
Still, this is a big investment in the corner position, bigger than any the Lions have made since taking Terry Fair 20th overall in 1998 (h/t ESPN).
When a team makes a big investment, they expect a big return.
In the short term, it is highly likely that Slay doesn't see much time on the field. The Lions have potentially starting-caliber cornerbacks left over from the 2012 draft in Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood.
Experience is one of the most important attributes for a corner, and so a player with a year of experience will have a huge advantage over a rookie.
In addition, Slay is dealing with a meniscus tear that, while minor, may become a factor down the road. It is likely that the Lions will want to bring Slay along slowly, making sure he builds up strength in his knee before throwing him into the fire.
There is a possibility that the Lions try him and his sub-4.4 speed as a return man.
However, Slay's long-term potential at cornerback is huge. He has elite-caliber measurables and SEC experience. Eventually, the Lions would like Slay to become the top corner on the roster, bumping incumbent Chris Houston to a true No. 2 corner role.
Currently, the Lions run a scheme in which there is no No. 1 cornerback.
They have a corner that covers the left side of the field (Houston, the LCB) and the right side (the un-injured flavor of the day at RCB). They don't follow receivers around, they just cover whoever lines up in that position.
Ultimately, the Lions would like for Slay to become a true No. 1 corner, so that he can cover the likes of Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings, and Jordy Nelson man-to-man, shadowing them around the field.
That's Darrelle Revis' role, and while Slay may not become the same island Revis is, the Lions will eventually want him to fill a similar role.