Detroit Lions and positional drop-off
The needs of the quarterback-browsing teams are likely to generate some competition for trade-up options with the Chargers and Dolphins having the easiest time talking the Detroit Lions into moving because the Lions would still get a top-five player after a deal.
However, if they cannot come to a trade that they deem fair and they must select a player, here is why they should think twice about selecting a cornerback. “Why?”, you ask. The answer lies in the combine results.
Okudah measured “6011”, draft code for 6-foot-1 and 1/8th inches tall, 205 pounds, ran an official 4.48-second forty-yard sprint, vertical jumped 41inches, broad jumped 11-3, and did 11 repetitions of 225 pounds. Those are all very good numbers except for his bench press lifts.
Okudah was also very good during the NCAA football season, too. Looking at the results of other cornerbacks and some other positions of need that the Detroit Lions have, demonstrates the relative closeness of cornerback talent at the top and more serious drop-offs at linebacker, for example, Isaiah Simmons.
Simmons, an outside linebacker-free safety hybrid, registered a 4.39 forty-yard dash, a 39-inch vertical, and an 11-0 feet broad jump at 6-foot-3 and 5/8, and 238 pounds. Simmons paced all of his peers at linebacker after an equally amazing season playing all over the field at as many as five positions. The Detroit Lions could use him in multiple positions, too, strong safety, Jack, Will, or maybe even Mike linebacker at times.
If you compare the number of cornerbacks that measured statistically close to Okudah, just looking at prospects within ten pounds and two inches, seven tied or bested him in multiple events out of over 30 competitors where a half dozen did not do run or do many tests.
A.J. Terrell, from Clemson, ran a 4.42, had 15 reps of 225 pounds, had good scores in his vertical and broad jumps (34.5-inches and10-9, respectively) but is likely to fall into round-two. Terrell is just one guy who could give the Lions a player that is everything that they could want in a cover cornerback without the Top-5 price tag.
Contrast that with how many outside linebacker types bested Simmons that were equally close to his size, only four men could tie him in any mark, his vertical jump. Willie Gay beat him in two tests but technically doesn’t fall within two inches of Simmons but since he also ran a 4.46 sprint, his results had to be mentioned. Gay had a 39.5-inch vertical jump and an 11-4 broad jump to go home and brag about, too.
A problem is that Derrick Brown, the other member of the trio of candidates usually mentioned by Lions fans prior to the combine, is that his numbers were in acceptable ranges for many tests but he did not stand out among his peers at defensive tackle. His numbers weren’t horrible, at 6-foot-4 and 5/8, 326 pounds, he ran a 5.16 sprint, pressed 225 pounds 28 times, jumped 27 inches vertically, broad jumped 9-0 feet, did the short shuttle in 4.79 seconds, and the 3-cone drill in 8.22 seconds.
Despite some dominant performances in games, quite a few prospects bested him in any number of tests but few matched his size. Seventeen men were within 20-25 pounds of Brown but only Leki Fotu from Utah was either heavier or taller (he was both) of those over 300 pounds.
The person that we would’ve loved to compare him to, Javon Kinlaw, a 6-foot-5, 324-pound defensive tackle from South Carolina, did not do any physical testing.
Many special performances were had at other positions where the Detroit Lions need help, too, perhaps just not as big in terms of perceived priority, though. Henry Ruggs, a wide receiver, ran an official 4.27-second 40-yard dash and he plays that way on the field, too. The wide receiver group is one of the strongest groups in recent draft history, so the Lions have a chance to add someone later in the draft.
Jonathon Taylor was the only running back to break the 4.40 mark in the 40-yard dash, clocking in at 4.39 seconds. While the 40-yard dash is overhyped by many people, it is an amazing feat when done well. The Wisconsin runner was in a handful of top-tier runners who distanced themselves from much of their competition.
Given that the Detroit Lions’ struggles were not solely on defense but all over the field during 2019, it’s easy to get lost in all of the information from the combine. Decoding what the results mean is daunting if you aren’t practiced at doing so. It is equally easy to fixate on just the defense and to pick one guy that you think can turn around the Detroit Lions’ fortunes.
The drop-off from the best player available to the Detroit Lions at their third pick and the next prospect is less at cornerback than probably any other position, except at wide receiver. While the Lions could take the best player at either position, it is probably the best move to select a player where the top option has distanced himself more or where there are fewer quality players to be drafted.