Saturday, February 25, 2012

Five to Watch: Cornerbacks

This is the fourth part of a five part series leading up to the 2012 combine. Keep an eye out this week for each article examining prospects the Detroit Lions may be interested in drafting come April.

Mock drafts abound in our post-Super Bowl slump as we eagerly await the 2012 draft. The combine is this coming weekend and promises to shake up everyone's boards.

Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins have most likely solidified themselves as the top three prospects at Cornerback and will probably be off the board by the time the Lions first pick rolls around at number 23.

Chris Houston and Aaron Berry will be in the backfield for the Lions in 2012, but beyond that nothing is certain. Eric Wright is a free agent and is likely to move on from the Lions in favor of a bigger paycheck. The Lions are supposedly shopping corner Alphonso Smith right now. Brandon McDonald is a free agent. That leaves Don Carey who played almost exclusively on special teams and Ross Weaver who was signed to a reserve/futures contract in January.

The Lions are going to need to draft a corner and The National Football Post has these players graded very similarly:

Brandon Boykin, Georgia (5' 10", 183)

Boykin could man the slot from day one allowing Berry to continue to slide outside in nickel packages. He also has the added bonus of returning kicks, which could allow the Lions to move on from Stefan Logan.

Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma (5' 11", 191)

Fleming lacks a physicality that the Lions seem to desire out of their players, but is a decent cover corner. He wouldn't be an ideal slot corner which is what the Lions need, but could provide quality depth should the Lions bring back Wright.

Chase Minifield, Virginia (6' 0", 185)

Minifield is a solid corner prospect who needs time to develop. He has the cover skills to be a starter down the line, but the Lions will need to look elsewhere for immediate help.

Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt (5' 11", 188)

Hayward doesn't really fit the Lions' scheme as he projects more of a cover two type corner. He would provide quality depth with high upside with great ball hawking skills if they could land him in the third round. With some improvements on his tackling Hayward could potentially be a solid slot corner.

Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina (6' 0", 190)

Norman would fit great in the Lions scheme and could possibly be a starter from day one. The downside here is off-field concerns which could cause teams to pass altogether. This could work in the Lions' favor, however, as they may be able to grab Norman in a later round.

Watch for one or more of these players to separate themselves, for better or worse, from the pack. If all five players prove themselves worthy of the grade bestowed upon them by National Football Post the Lions could get great value out of selecting a Cornerback with their second or third round pick.

Coverage of Defensive Backs workouts begins at 9:00am on Tuesday, February 28 on the NFL Network and NFL.com.

Are there any other Cornerbacks in the draft that we should be keeping an eye on? Leave a comment and let everyone know who you're looking forward to seeing this weekend.

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