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2019 Position Breakdown: Cornerbacks

The good: Darius Slay earned his third consecutive selection to the Pro Bowl in his seventh season in the league in 2019. Slay typically travels with the opponent's top receiver, and he's consistently been Detroit's top cover man going on a half decade now. Opposing passers completed 58.3 percent of their passes thrown at Slay with an 86.9 passer rating. Slay defended 13 passes and recorded at least two interceptions for a sixth straight season.

Rookie Amani Oruwariye showed some good things in some late-season playing time. The fifth-round pick out of Penn State has good size and ball skills, and recorded two interceptions on the season. He has a ways to go before he's a consistently reliable option on the outside, but he showed flashes this past season that Lions coaches and front office staff can feel good about.

The bad: As a collective defense, Detroit finished last in the NFL against the pass, giving up on average 284.4 passing yards per contest. Detroit's lack of a consistent pass rush certainly factors in here, but outside of Slay, there was a real lack of playmaking ability from the cornerback position.

Detroit gave up the second most 20-plus-yard passes this season with 72. The average given up by the 12 playoff teams was 48. Opposing passers had a 116.7 passer rating on passes thrown 20-plus yards in the air. Overall, passers finished with a 99.6 passer rating facing the Lions.

Justin Coleman, Detroit's big free-agent acquisition at corner last offseason, had a terrific start to the season, went through a lull in the middle of the year, and ended strong again. He allowed eight touchdowns in his coverage area this season. The Lions will be looking for more consistency from their nickel cornerback in his second season in Detroit in 2020.

Rashaan Melvin started most of the season opposite Slay on the outside and he also had an a very up-and-down year.

Key stat: Detroit's seven interceptions on the season were tied for the fewest in the NFL with Dallas and Arizona. Lions cornerbacks accounted for just five interceptions all season.

Free agents: Melvin is an unrestricted free agent and Mike Ford is an exclusive rights free agent.

Ford has played in 22 games over the last two seasons on both special teams and defense. He gives the Lions some experienced depth at the position. He'll be back in Detroit in 2020 if the team wants him.

Does the team think Oruwariye is up for a bigger role? Are they eyeing upgrading the position via free agency or the draft? Those are both decisions that will affect whether or not Melvin is pursued in free agency.

The draft: At No. 3, the Lions could be in a position to draft the best cornerback in this year's class, Ohio State's Jeff Okudah. The Lions haven't selected a cornerback in the first round since Terry Fair in 1998.

Other players expected to hear their names called in the first two days of the draft are: Paulson Adebo (Stanford), CJ Henderson (Florida), Kristian Fulton (LSU), Bryce Hall (Virginia), Trevon Diggs (Alabama) and Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame).

MVP: Slay continues to be Detroit's most valuable cornerback and one of the top two defenders alongside Trey Flowers.

Slay's ability to travel with the opponent's top receiver and take on that responsibility week-in and week-out is invaluable to a defense. Only twice this season did Slay give up 100 receiving yards in a game in his coverage.

Most improved: From where Oruwariye started the year – as a healthy scratch – to playing meaningful minutes at the end of the season, is a tribute to how hard the young cornerback worked throughout the course of the season.

Oruwariye earned a way onto the field on Sundays with the way he was progressing and making plays in practice. It will be interesting to see how big of a leap Oruwariye can make between his first and second seasons, when we typically see a big jump in player development. He has the length (6-2, 205) and skillset teams like. Can he continue on an upward trend into the offseason and training camp?

Quotable: "Just check my resume, it says a lot, and I'm going to keep building it because I cherish the name on the back," Slay said after the season of entering the final year of his contract in 2020. "My kids watch it, they look up to me, and that's how I look at it. I'm going to dominate wherever I be."

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