Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Continuing the series, today we look at potential cornerbacks for the Lions in every round of the draft.
1st round, #5 overall: Dee Milliner, Alabama—This is unlikely for myriad reasons I’ve documented before, but if the Lions decide they want a corner in the first round, Dee Milliner is the only choice. But just five interceptions (with 29 PDs) in two seasons is not nearly the kind of production needed to justify this high of a pick. Milliner is a very good player but not a top five talent. Now if the Lions can trade the pick and move back a few spots…
2nd round, #36 overall: Jamar Taylor, Boise State—For my money Taylor is the best pre-throw coverage corner in this entire draft, though he has not faced many NFL-caliber receivers or quarterbacks. His confidence and stickiness in press coverage are perfect fits for Detroit. Taylor impressed during Senior Bowl week, proving his ability to play bigger than his size. I have him rated well above this range and some teams might as well, so the Lions should consider themselves fortunate if he is available at 36. If Taylor is gone and the Lions are hellbent on a 2nd round corner, the only other option that could still be available is Johnthan Banks, who has outstanding length but showed inconsistency and doesn’t always plays fast or strong. This is a little higher than I’m comfortable taking DJ Hayden.
3rd round, #67 overall: Darius Slay, Mississippi State—Slay lacks the notoriety of his bookend mate Banks, but he might wind up being the better NFL player. He is not a finished product but has outstanding physical tools. Think of him as a rich man’s Jonte Green; unpolished but brimming with speed, fluidity, confidence, and potential. Slay also has thrived on special teams; he was arguably the best gunner in the SEC. That means he can contribute to the team while he gets up to speed as a reserve corner. I know he has piqued the interest of one Lions talent evaluator, and he fits the profile of the kind of corner the Lions seem attracted to these days. Other options: Jordan Poyer (likely gone), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (also likely gone), or BW Webb, the nifty William & Mary corner the Lions staff got to coach during Senior Bowl week.
4th round, #132 overall: Sanders Commings, Georgia—If the Lions want to get bigger in the secondary, Commings is the right man for the job. At 6’2” and nearly 220 pounds, Commings is a behemoth of a corner who thrives in tight man coverage closer to the line. The long speed and short area quickness are deficient, which showed at the Senior Bowl. That means the Lions would have to have a reliable over-the-top safety. Having someone with Commings size to jam at the line and set the edge in run support is certainly appealing. There is also potential for Commings to move to safety if his athleticism at corner proves too deficient, though he’s not the most instinctive guy in coverage. Also worthy of consideration here: Will Davis from Utah State, David Amerson from NC State, and Dwayne Gratz from UConn.
5th round, #139 overall: Josh Johnson, Purdue—“JJ” would provide excellent insurance for Bill Bentley, another smallish but aggressive inside/nickel corner. Like Commings, he lacks top-end speed and isn’t the quickest guy either, which paired with his lack of size makes him somewhat of a tweener corner. He has loads of experience in the B1G and took over the Notre Dame all by himself while shadowing Tyler Eifert all over the field. Johnson is what some like to call a “gamer”, and that sort of style and proficiency is certainly appealing in this realm of the draft. I know the Lions talked to Johnson during Shrine Game week, where Martin Mayhew was one of the few GMs present for more than a morning. This tends to be a range where teams like to speculate on small-school athletes, so here are two names to consider: Demetrius McCray from Appalachian State and Josh Aubrey from Stephen F Austin, neither of whom I’m familiar enough with yet to provide intelligent analysis other than Aubrey is really freaking fast.
6th round, #173 overall: Kayvon Webster, South Florida—Like the aforementioned Josh Johnson, Webster was impressive at Shrine Game week, save one disastrously mistimed jump the day after Rahim Moore did the exact same in the Denver/Baltimore playoff game. Webster is a cat-quick corner who isn’t afraid to throw his body around. He needs some technical polish in staying low and balanced and not reacting to every little twitch from the receiver. In his favor is that he has proven to be an excellent special teams player and he is adept at stripping the football, a skill he showed in Shrine Game practices as well. Webster is a strong draft sleeper amongst the draftnik community. Some others here: Aaron Hester, UCLA; Johnny Adams, Michigan State; AJ Bouye, Central Florida; Brandon McGee, Miami FL.
7th round, #213 overall: Marc Anthony, California—Anthony falls squarely into the “better football player than athlete” box, an instinctive, smart cover man with good length (6’0”, 196). He put up excellent short-area quickness numbers at the Combine but he really lacks long speed (best 40 time is 4.58, ran three others in the mid 4.6s) and is not as strong or physical as expected for a player of his size. Anthony fared well in Senior Bowl drills, particularly in man coverage when the ball was in the air, but game tape reveals a player who guesses too much and misses a disturbing amount of tackles because he never uses his arms to wrap. If he can get more disciplined, he can stick as a 4th corner who can match up with bigger, slower receivers.
7th round #247 overall: Vernon Kearney, Lane—Admittedly I need to see more of Kearney, but in the glimpses I’ve seen he has shown excellent length, great closing burst, and an inherent stickiness in man coverage. But he comes from a low-level program and is desperately lacking bulk at 6’2” and just 179 pounds. Give him a redshirt year on the practice squad to gain at least 10 pounds and get acclimated to the speed of the NFL game and the stud of the Raycom Classic week has a chance to develop into a useful piece.