Detroit Lions: Drafting cornerbacks as instant starters is tricky business
The Detroit Lions are in the market for a starting cornerback this offseason. But here’s why they may want to find one in free agency over the draft.
The Detroit Lions need to help solidify their secondary. And to do so they need to find an adequate starter at cornerback to play alongside two-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay. Back in 2017, Detroit thought they had found such a player in second round selection Teez Tabor. But so far, he’s been a bust.
Drafting a rookie to come in and start for your team is always a tricky business. First-year cornerbacks are notorious for needing extra time to develop and to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
For example, let’s take a look at the 2018 draft class. There were a total of 10 cornerbacks taken in the first three rounds. Let’s review their rookie campaigns …
Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns -12 starts, 53 tackles, 11 pds, 3 ints
Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers – 11 starts, 66 tackles, 11 pds, 1 int
Mike Hughes, Minnesota Vikings – 2 starts, 22 tackles, 3 pds, 1 int
Josh Jackson, Green Bay Packers – 10 starts, 49 tackles, 10 pds
M.J. Stewart, Tampa Bay – 5 starts, 33 tackles, 3 pds
Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers – 16 starts, 74 tackles, 9 pds, 4 ints
Duke Dawson, New England – Never played
Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay – 12 starts, 40 tackles, 4 pds
Rashaan Gaulden, Carolina Panthers – 0 starts, 17 tackles, 1 pd
Isaac Yiadom, Denver Broncos – 1 start, 20 tackles, 3 pds, 1 int
Out of this group, only one started all 16 games in his rookie season, that being Jackson of Carolina who was the 55th overall selection. Ward was named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year, but he was also the fourth overall pick.
One particular player of note is Dawson, the Patriots’ second-round selection. A hamstring injury forced him to start the season on Injured Reserve. And despite returning to the active roster in mid-November, Pats’ head coach Bill Belichick never let the rookie take the field.
With Lions’ head coach Matt Patricia coming from the Belichick coaching tree, that could give us some insight on how Detroit might approach their issues at the cornerback position this offseason.
I think what we can gather from last year’s crop of rookie cornerbacks is that if you are looking for an instant starter, you’ll likely have to find them in the first round. Detroit owns the eighth overall selection.
Sure, you could luck into someone like Donte Jackson on Day Two, but after the Teez Tabor debacle, are the Lions really willing to take that chance again?
The best bet for the Detroit Lions is likely to find a veteran via free agency they can trust with the starting role opposite Darius Slay. And if they do draft a rookie corner or two in April, give them additional time to develop. If you happen to find a diamond in the rough in the process, even better.