The Detroit Lions took a chance on a late-riser in last year’s draft. With cornerback a pressing need, could they do the same with Lonnie Johnson Jr.?
Last season, the biggest need for the Detroit Lions was believed to be running back. Yet, the Lions used their first-round selection on an offensive lineman, Arkansas center Frank Ragnow. Detroit would end up addressing that running back need by trading up in the second round for Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson.
Whether or not Ragnow was the right choice at the 20th overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft is yet to be determined. What was more interesting was the fact Ragnow wasn’t even on the first-round radar for most draft analysts, as he was seen more as a Day Two selection. But his stock rose rapidly as the draft neared, with the Cincinnati Bengals rumored to be very interested in the former Razorback with the 21st overall pick.
What are the chances of another late-riser catching the eye of the Lions, who own the eighth overall selection in this April’s draft? One position Detroit is expected to address is cornerback, as they continue to look for a someone to play opposite two-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay. And it would make sense you’d have to use your first round selection in order to find that instant starter.
There have been several names pitched as possible candidates for the Lions at the cornerback position in the top ten. LSU’s Greedy Williams being the most prevalent. But is there possibly a late-riser Detroit might be willing to reach for as they did with Ragnow?
Here’s some insight that NFL.com Analyst Bucky Brooks shared recently on the league’s official website about a cornerback prospect that’s shooting up draft boards like Ragnow did last year.
"“Kentucky’s Lonnie Johnson Jr. is emerging as the hottest prospect at the position during the pre-draft season. According to an AFC defensive backs coach, Johnson will be the ‘best cover corner in the league’ in a few years and everyone should jump on the bandwagon right now. Wow!”"
Brooks named Johnson his fifth best cornerback prospect in a recent position ranking on NFL.com. The former NFL cornerback himself believes the Kentucky product actually garners Day One consideration.
Measuring in at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, Johnson has the frame to use his length as a distinct advantage in coverage. And this is a prospect shooting up the boards mainly due to his traits and potential.
In his two seasons with the Wildcats, Johnson only recorded a total of 64 tackles, nine pass defends and a single interception. That lack of production is certainly a concern. But numbers can be deceiving, especially if opposing offenses are purposely throwing away from a defender out of fear.
Walter Football predicts Lonnie Johnson Jr. is a second-to-fourth round prospect. But draft stock is like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Last season, the Detroit Lions weren’t afraid to draft a player they loved in the Top 20 despite many having him listed as a Day Two prospect. Might they do it again in 2019?