LIONS INSIDER

Will the Detroit Lions draft a corner in the first round for the first time since 1998?

Posted Jan 27, 2013

The fans have made their perspective known: they want a shut-down corner in this year's draft. Good news for those fans: Jim Schwartz, Martin Mayhew and Charlie Sanders have all expressed a need for secondary help this offseason.

The Detroit Lions have made no secret about being on the lookout for defensive playmakers.

"We need guys that can impact the game," Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said after the season. "We've got a lot of guys that are good guys, they line up right, they know what their job is, but they don't impact the game.

"We need interceptors, we need guys that sack the quarterback, we need guys that cause fumbles, guys that make plays on third down. Those are the kind of guys that can change the game for us."

During their 10-win season in 2011, the Lions defense had 34 takeaways (21 interception, 13 fumbles) and scored seven times on defense. This year, they had just 17 takeaways (11 interceptions, six fumbles) and didn't score once on defense.

In 2011, the Lions turned their turnovers on defense into 139 points. With 17 fewer turnovers in 2012, they scored just 34 points off turnovers. That's a difference of 105 points.

The Lions need impact edge rushers and playmakers at cornerback.

The latter is of particular importance to Charlie Sanders, who is the Detroit Lions' assistant director of pro personnel. He said it's about time the Lions find their shut down cornerback.

"You got to go cornerback," Sanders said in a Detroitlions.com video with Mike O'Hara when asked what position he'd like to bolster the most if he could.

"We keep talking about a shut down corner. They are hard to find but you have to have that shut down corner."

Alabama's Dee Milliner is this year's top cornerback prospect and is certainly in play with the fifth-overall pick for the Lions in April's NFL Draft. He rates out above average in instincts (exceptional), cover skills, ball skills and run support by Scouts.com and they've given him a grade of 94 out of 100, which they categorize as a "rare" prospect.

Milliner has the size (6-1, 197) Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham covets in his cornerbacks and was well coached playing under Nick Saban at Alabama.

He's not as highly rated as Patrick Peterson (Cardinals) or Morris Claiborne (Cowboys) were as the top cornerback prospects coming out the last two seasons, but he's pretty good in his own right.

Chris Houston

The Lions haven't drafted a cornerback in the first round since Terry Fair in 1998.

"Going into the season we knew our secondary was going to be a challenge, from the very beginning of training camp, that was a question and I think that showed over the course of the season," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz admitted Thursday in a Sirius NFL Radio interview with Pat Kirwan."Like I said, our turnovers were down, particularly our interceptions were down significantly."

Chris Houston, the Lions' top cornerback the last three seasons, is an unrestricted free agent and will be a commodity in free agency.

Jacob Lacey, Drayton Florence and Pat Lee will also be free agents for the Lions.

The team drafted cornerbacks Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green last April, but all still remain unproven. Bentley missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, Greenwood missed all of 2012 with an abdominal injury and Green was mainly a backup.

Mayhew, Schwartz and now Sanders have all made comments this offseason about the need to get better in the secondary.

They realize it's a problem, but will the players be available via free agency or the draft to help fix it?