The Detroit Lions enjoyed relatively good health and thus good depth at the cornerback position this past season.
Veteran Darius Slay had a stellar season, and was named to his first Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro after leading the NFL in both interceptions (8) and passes defended (23).
Teez Tabor, last year’s second-round draft pick, earned a bigger role toward the end of the year, and will be in the mix for a starting role opposite Slay or in the nickel in 2018.
The Lions will have to decide what they want to do with veteran free agents Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden. Do they sign one back, both or neither?
Is Jamal Agnew ready to step into a bigger role on defense?
These are all questions that will ultimately impact the Lions drafting a cornerback and how early or late they do so. Like pass rushers, teams can never have too many cornerbacks, so expect Lions general manager Bob Quinn to always be on the lookout to add talent and depth at the position.
Quinn will get an up close look at some of the best talent entering the draft at the position at the NFL Scouting Combine next week.
Here are some of the top cornerbacks to look out for:
School: Ohio State
View photos of the prospects participating in the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.
Ht/Wt: 5-10, 191
Best trait: Playmaker. In 2016, when the Buckeyes had future first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, they thought so much of Ward that they still found ways to get him on the field for 30 snaps a game. As a starter in 2017, Ward ranked in the Top 10 in college football with 15 pass breakups. He’s always around ball.
Concern: He doesn’t have ideal size, and that could limit him some against the league’s bigger receivers. It could push him inside at the NFL level.
Skinny: He has blazing speed and is a terrific athlete, which helps make up for his lack of size. Opposing passers completed 32 percent of their passes throwing Ward’s way the last two seasons, per NFL.com statistics. He’s athletic, technically sound, and has a nose for the football.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 192
Best trait: Size and production. Jackson has prototypical size and length, and led the nation with eight interceptions and 26 passes defended in 2017.
Concern: Lack of experience. The former receiver turned cornerback has just 14 career starts.
Skinny: He made a play on a quarter of the passes thrown his way. He has a terrific nose for the ball, and made play after play against great competition (see Ohio State and Wisconsin games) last season.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 203
Best trait: Size. He not only has length, but at over 200 pounds, he plays big, too. Analysts rave about his press covrage skills. He had 11, 10 and 11 pass breakups, respectively, over the last three years as a starter in the SEC.
Concern: There are questions about his long speed. While he’s great at using his hands in press coverage, he’ll have to adapt quickly to the NFL’s rules of no contact after five yards. Penalties could be an early problem for him.
Skinny: He’s at his best in press-man coverage, and should be able to use his size and strength to his advantage in that role.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 190
Best trait: Speed. Oliver combines ideal length with elite speed. He was a high school state champion in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles, and was on the track team at Colorado for a bit. He defended 14 passes for the Buffaloes last season.
Concern: There are some technique and footwork issues analysts would like to see Oliver clean up. He sometimes relies too much on his speed and athleticism, instead of speed, athleticism and good technique.
Skinny: Oliver checks off all the boxes in terms of size, length and speed NFL people want to see at the cornerback position. He’ll get coached up.
School: Central Florida
Ht/Wt: 5-11, 191
Best trait: Versatility. Not only is Hughes a very good cornerback, but he’s also an elite kickoff and punt return man. As expected with any good return man, Hughes has terrific ball skills.
Concern: He played just two years in major college football, and is a bit raw in terms of his technique and footwork.
Skinny: He likely gets on the field early due to his return skills, but he's a bit of a work in progress at cornerback. He’s got all the skills, but needs more experience.