Detroit Lions 2021 roster needs / NFL Draft strategy (Part 4 - Cornerbacks)
In part 4 of this series, we take a look at the cornerback depth in this NFL draft.
This series is focused on what prospects are available at each pick position for Detroit.
The Lions have added to the cornerback room since this series began, with Corn Elder coming in a nickel CB and 2019's 2nd best CB per PFF, Quinton Dunbar coming in on the outside. Dunbar will be challenging Okudah and Oruwariye for snaps on the outside.
That said, Dunbar and Elder are here on one-year deals. They shouldn't be changing Detroit's draft strategy. Ideally, they need another CB for outside depth with ST upside, and more importantly an upgrade at slot corner.
Let's have a look at who will be available at each Detroit pick:
7, 41, 72, 101, 112, 153.
Honestly, no one is in play here. Surtain is good enough to be picked here, but there are better players available at the pick.
HOWEVER, should Detroit trade down - say to Denver at 9, then:
Patrick Surtain II, Alabama. 6'1, 203. In my mind, a fair comparison is Jeff Okudah. He's a boundary cornerback who is excellent in press man and is able to use his length and size to disrupt quick throws but the major question is his top speed which could mean he's threatened over the top. Excellent football IQ one of his better traits.
This is another pick that feels like it could be in no man's land, with players landing above or below this spot:
Caleb Farley, Virginia. 6'2 197. Before his back surgery, he was the consensus pick immediately behind Surtain, likely going in the top 12. Now, where he lands is anyone's game and will depend greatly on what the medics say. I think he could drop out of the first round where teams can take value on a gamble that his injury issues are behind him. He's pretty new to the position, as a QB converted WR converted CB, but he's athletically gifted, excellent in man coverage but needs to improve in tackling and zone coverage.
Eric Stokes, Georgia. 6'1, 185. Stokes wow-ed at his pro-day, running a 4.25 40-yard dash. His technique needs some work, he can be a little handsy - He's an outside-only corner who's more suited to zone schemes.
Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State. 5'10, 184. A man coverage defender, although he's undersized he's competitive enough to play on the boundary. He has played in the slot too. Doesn't get his head around well enough which is an issue when he gets beaten over the top.
Aaron Robinson, UCF. 5'11.5, 190. A slot corner, he's good at almost everything but outstanding at little. Needs to improve on his instincts and ball skills but can start in the NFL and contribute well.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse. 6'2, 212. A projected NFL outside starting cornerback in a zone scheme, Ifeatu has a lot of room to grow but has one of the higher ceilings of all those listed above him. Physical, fast, quick feet and good length, he needs to improve his anticipation and coverage spacing.
Ambry Thomas, Michigan. 6'0, 189. A 2020 opt-out, Thomas projects as a starting nickel cornerback. He's slightly undersized but is very competitive. He is let down sometimes by his football IQ where he bites hard on misdirection and challenges in press coverage.
Paulson Adebo, Stanford. 6'1, 190. An outside-only cornerback, he has the potential to be an NFL starter. He's also quite versatile and could fit in any scheme which provides a lot more value than some of the players above him in this list. He needs to improve his tackling.
Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon. 5'11, 197. Graham Jr. is an outside-only corner who ideally plays zone. He has average athleticism which really restricts his value, but otherwise, he has good technique and excellent timing and ball skills.
DJ Daniel, Georgia. 5'11.5, 183. A little undersized, he also has average athleticism. He does ok consistently without doing particularly well. Has special teams upside.
Rodarius Williams, Oklahoma State. 6'0, 193. A very aggressive corner, he also defended too often the over-the-top routes to the detriment of the underneath routes. Slow reactions.
Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina. 6'3, 205. A versatile player who can play outside, in the slot or at safety. He's athletic and physical. His play dropped off in 2020, but that was mainly due to injury. He can play a meaningful role on an NFL team if he stays healthy.
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