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Lions have options with talented & deep cornerback draft class

INDIANAPOLIS – One of the areas where the Lions could stand to add some talent and depth is at the cornerback position.

Detroit returns veteran Cam Sutton on the outside and Brian Branch returns to man the nickel spot after a stellar rookie season, but all the cornerbacks who played significant snaps opposite Sutton on the outside this season are free agents. We'll see what they decide to do with players like Emmanuel Moseley and Kindle Vildor in free agency, but it's an area where Detroit needs more talent and depth.

Free agency comes first, but the NFL Draft in April will provide another avenue for the Lions to get better at cornerback with this being a pretty deep class of cornerbacks with a variety of skillsets. Seven cornerbacks landed in NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's second edition of his Top 50 players.

The Lions have options selecting 29th in the first round and with four picks total in the Top 100. Late in the first round and into Day 2 could be a spot where value and talent are going to align on GM Brad Holmes' board at the cornerback position.

Players like Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (Missouri), Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo), Nate Wiggins (Clemson) and Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama) could be cornerbacks still on the board later in the first round with the draft expected to be dominated early by offensive players.

Rakestraw seems to be a good fit for what new Lions pass game coordinator and defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend talked about this week in terms of the physicality and tackling he wants from that position. Rakestraw is a rangy corner who plays with physicality and toughness. He knows it, too.

"My physicality and my tackling," Rakestraw said Thursday at the Combine when asked what sets him apart from the other corners in the league. "It's you vs. me and who is better? It's who wants it more."

Wiggins has terrific length at 6-foot-2 with smooth skills and speed. He said he ran a 4.27-second 40 in training. But does he fit Detroit from a toughness standpoint?

"I set myself apart (from the other corners here) because I'm a lockdown corner," Wiggins said Thursday. "I'm very fast and I'm a technician. I think I'm the best corner in the draft because I can lock down one side of the field completely and take the receiver out of the game."

Mitchell is Toledo's all-time leader in pass breakups (46) and is a two-time All-American who dominated at the Senior Bowl. Detroit might have to move up slightly to get him if he has a terrific Combine.

View photos of Detroit Lions players at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"Just my grit and the chip I have on my shoulder and my compete (level)," Mitchell said of his best attributes. "I'm strong, I'm fast, but those three things separate me from everybody else in this class."

The final six games of the season, including the playoffs, the Lions allowed on average 411 passing yards per game and some big individual receiving performances. They finished the season ranked 27th against the pass (247.4) and allowed 28 passing touchdowns, sixth most in the league.

I expect Holmes to add veteran corner help in free agency, but he could also opt to build up the position in the first two days of the NFL Draft for the first time since taking Ifeatu Melifonwu late in the third round in 2021. If Holmes wants to improve the talent and depth at cornerback in the first two days of the draft, this is a good class to do it.

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