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How Nevin Lawson Fits with Detroit Lions

Utah State defensive back Nevin Lawson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Brandon AlisogluCorrespondent IMay 10, 2014

The Detroit Lions opened the third day of the NFL draft in head-scratching fashion. 

As presumed, general manager Martin Mayhew let the draft fall as it may. With a limited number of arrows in his quiver, he simply didn't have the juice to move up and grab one of the cornerbacks that came off the board earlier in the round.

At No. 133, Mayhew grabbed Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson.

The pick is odd is because of Lawson's limited size. He stands just 5'9" and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, like every other defensive coordinator in the league, is on record saying he prefers big cornerbacks.

Teryl Austin thinks you need to find bigger cornerbacks as an ideal. Almost all of his starting corners have been 6-foot or taller. #Lions

— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) February 7, 2014

So how will Lawson fit in with the Lions? Let's break it down.

 

Immediate Impact

Detroit won't be relying on Lawson too much in the beginning. It's signed a slew of veterans in the past month or two, and there won't be a need for Lawson in the regular defense.

Like many defensive rookies before him, Lawson will be expected to make his bones on special teams. His 4.48 speed in the 40-yard dash will be put to good use as he stalks return men and tracks punts inside the 20.

 

Long-Term Potential

Lawson' lack of height is somewhat offset by his speed and 31.5" arms. Even if he isn't able to match up physically with the league's large receivers, his arm length and speed will at least help even the playing field since he can get himself in solid position and use that length to challenge the catch.

More than likely, Lawson projects as an inside cornerback.

While I tried to put a rosy spin on his stature, he would be better suited to covering slot receivers and in zone coverage. As his 28 percent burn percentage attests, he can't be left on an island with Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall or Cordarrelle Patterson. 

That brings us to the other reason that this pick was startling. The Lions look like they are developing that type of guy already in Bill Bentley. While it's true that you can never have enough cornerbacks, I don't completely understand the need to grab a guy who doesn't seem to project to a place of need.

Of course, this is the draft where nobody really knows anything for sure. Maybe his closing speed will make up for his 33" vertical and height. Maybe his above-average instincts and work ethic will be the key to becoming a lockdown cornerback in the NFL.

But it's unlikely. This is a solid pick because it provides some depth at a position of need; just don't expect Lawson to be the answer to the secondary problems that have plagued the Lions for years.

 

Brandon Alisoglu is a Detroit Lions featured columnist who has written about the Lions on multiple sites. He also co-hosts a Lions-centric podcast,Lions Central Radio. Yell at him on Twitter about how wrong he is@BrandonAlisoglu.

Combine results are courtesy of NFL.com.

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