The Detroit Lions, for the first time in years, are in a strong position for the upcoming offseason. They may not be drafting in the top five, but they have a strong defensive line and offense, and with a good draft could eliminate most of the major holes in their lineup.
One of the biggest issues for the Lions is their secondary. They need a good cornerback, but more importantly they should be searching for a press coverage expert. This is because as it stands, all the Lions' starting corners play off coverage. This allows receivers to catch short passes, which has become the best way to avoid the pressure that the Lions defensive line is putting on the quarterback.
This trend would be stopped by a good press coverage cornerback. He would disrupt the route of the receiver and take away the short passes.
With this in mind, I will go through the cornerbacks who will be available to the Lions in the second and third rounds.
Jimmy Smith: Colorado
6'2", 211 lbs
4.46 40 dash, 36" vertical jump, 4.06 20 shuttle, 24 reps
Smith was a first-round pick before the combine. However, despite performing well there, he is now perceived to have a character issue. True or not, this could well force him out of the first round and into the early second. He is possibly the best press corner in the draft and would be a top priority for the Lions if they were able to draft him.
He is fast, strong and has a big wingspan. He can tackle well, but does not have terribly good footwork or fluid hips. This does make him a developmental project. He will not be a high-risk pick though, and should be able to contribute as a starter in his first season.
Curtis Marsh: Utah State
6'1", 197 lbs
4.46 40 dash, 37.5" vertical jump, 4.07 20 shuttle, 12 reps
Marsh has only recently converted to cornerback after being a running back. He has taken that physical attitude into his new position, and is one of the best press corners in the draft. He does not have fluid enough hips to be an elite corner, but if used primarily in press this would not be found out too much. His speed, leaping ability and tackling ability make him a valuable player, but his lack of experience and polish will send him to the bottom of the second round at least.
Aaron Williams: Texas
6'0", 204 lbs
4.55 40 dash, 37.5" vertical jump, 4.07 20 shuttle, 18 reps
Williams is a physical player who may become one of the top corners in this draft. He has good size and is at his best playing press coverage. While he was slow at the combine, expect him to improve that number at his pro day. Regardless, he showed good agility in posting a top 20-yard shuttle time. He is fluid and strong, but lacks great footwork and bites on play action and double moves far too much. He will not be a serious first season contributor, but could mature into a top 15 corner.
Brandon Burton: Utah
6'0", 190 lbs
4.53 40 dash, 32" vertical jump, 4.07 20 shuttle, 18 reps
Burton is a long guy who can play press coverage with the best of them. He's probably more of a third-round pick because he was not super athletic at the combine, but the game tape shows he could be a good corner in time. He has one of the strongest upper bodies of any cornerback in the draft and uses this to effectively press receivers at the line. While he is by no means a finished product, and is unlikely to start other than as a dimeback in 2011, he has the potential to be a number two corner in a few years time.
Out of these players, obviously the best is Smith. He is fast, strong, has by far the best technique and is the most NFL-ready. However, he may not even drop out of the first round if a team bites on him, and even in the second round the Lions would have to trade up to about 7th or 8th to draft him.
Aaron Williams would be available at 13th in the second round and has the ability, size and potential to be great. He will not be able to start in his first season other than as a nickel or dimeback though, and the Lions will want better than that with their second-round pick.
Curtis Marsh could well be available with the Lions third-round pick and this would be a great value selection. Marsh will not start in his first year, but has great potential and could be a disruptive press corner in a few seasons.
Brandon Burton is maybe a late third-/early fourth-round pick, and I think that the Lions will be looking to get him as their second cornerback of the draft. He would be a great developmental guy who could develop into a starter, or at least a nickelback.