The Detroit Lions will have options at the cornerback position come April and the NFL Draft

Posted Jan 17, 2013

This year's cornerback class is filled with sizable players, which is exactly what the Detroit Lions are looking for.

A large number of fans are clamoring for the Detroit Lions to choose a cornerback in the first round of April's NFL Draft for the first time since the team selected Terry Fair in 1998.

The most popular choice at the early stages of the draft evaluation process is Alabama's Dee Milliner, who is widely considered the best cornerback in the class.

A few early mock drafts even have that scenario playing out.

"The big need is corner and obviously Dee Milliner is the player you'd normally project there (at No. 5)," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said in a national conference call this week.

In his first mock draft of the season, Kiper has Milliner being selected in the top 5, but by the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 4, one pick ahead of the Lions.

If the Lions don't select Milliner at No. 5 – for whatever reason – how does the rest of the class look based off college performance and the game tape? Keep in mind this is before the combine and college pro days.

"That's the one position where you're always going to find depth," Kiper said of the cornerback class.

"There were a ton of underclassman that came out early at the cornerback spot, which helped the class that on paper didn't look to good. It really wasn't a great senior group. The junior influence really helped."

Xavier RhodesMilliner, Xavier Rhodes of Florida State and North Carolina State's David Amerson and are a few of the juniors that helped bolster the class.

Kiper's projected top five cornerbacks available are: Milliner, Rhodes, Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State), Will Davis (Utah State) and Logan Ryan (Rutgers). Of those, Milliner and Rhodes are the only first-round picks projected by Kiper.

"You look at a Logan Ryan (Rutgers), he could be in the second round discussion," Kiper said. "David Amerson from N.C. State had a high grade earlier in the year. Was beaten far too much for my liking and others. He's dropped into that second or third-round mix.

"Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) is going to be an interesting guy to see where he comes into the equation by late April when we have the draft. I think Xavier Rhodes is a late one from Florida State. I don't see him dropping into the second. If he did, it would be fine."

Chris Houston, the Detroit Lions' top cornerback, is a free agent this offseason. So is Jacob Lacey, who made seven starts and also played in the nickel.

The team has veteran Ron Bartell under contract next season and is also bringing along three second-year cornerbacks - Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green - who were drafted in the middle and late rounds last April.

Even so, cornerback is still a need, especially if they lose Houston.

"The elite corner is Milliner. The next guy would be Xavier Rhodes and then Logan Ryan from Rutgers," Kiper said. "All those other guys, from Trufant to Banks to Poyer to Blidi Wreh-Wilson (follow).

"There's another kid you want to definitely think about keeping an eye on is Dwayne Gratz from Connecticut, who played opposite Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Keep any eye out for him in the third or fourth-round.

"Trey Wilson from Vanderbilt could be a good fifth-round pick. There's a pretty good group of senior corners when you get into the third, fourth-round, are going to be intriguing, but the second-rounders, I think, are the guys like Trufant, McFadden, Banks and Poyer."

There isn't a can't-miss cornerback prospect this season like a Patrick Peterson or a Morris Claiborne the last two drafts.

The good thing for the Lions, though, is that a lot of the top prospects stand 6-foot or above and all weight near 190 pounds or more.

The Lions are looking to be more physical and durable in their back end and there seems to be more than a few cornerback prospects that fit the bill.