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O'HARA'S 2017 DRAFT PREVIEW: Secondary

There isn't much doubt that Jamal Adams of LSU and Malik Hooker of Ohio State are at the top in a draft when it's safeties first, then cornerbacks, in a year of quality defensive backs.

There is also little doubt that Jabrill Peppers of Michigan has sparked the most debate of any defensive back – and perhaps any prospect – over what position he is best suited to play in the NFL, and how high he should be drafted.

View photos of Mike O'Hara's top S and CB prospects.

Peppers was one of college football's most talented athletes in his two full seasons at Michigan. He played what could be called a hybrid linebacker/safety position. He also was a part-time running back and an elite returner on kickoffs and punts.

That versatility made him a star at Michigan. But in the NFL, consistency and reliability are valued like bearer bonds.

The payoff for Peppers is that some team (the Detroit Lions, perhaps?) could get a future star in a draft year that is uncommonly deep in defensive backs with both size and speed.

Lions secondary draft priority: Medium, at safety and cornerback.

Position draft strength: Strong at the top, with depth at both spots.

Lions secondary draft breakdown: Depth chart, numbers history, stats, capsule highlights of the top 5 safeties and top 5 cornerbacks, other notable prospects and the Spotlight Player.

Numbers history: More defensive backs are drafted every year than any other position. In 2016, 52 of the 253 players drafted were defensive backs. Offensive linemen were No. 2, with 41 counting tackles (22), guards (11) and centers (8) combined.

Lions depth chart: Returning starters – CB Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson, S Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson. Returning backups: Cornerbacks -- Johnson Bademosi, Adairius Barnes, Alex Carter, Quandre Diggs, Ian Wells (IR, 2016). Safeties – Don Carey, Miles Killebrew.

Additions: Free-agent cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Top 5 safeties

1. Jamal Adams, LSU: Barring a trade that would change the order of teams, Adams is a no doubt, clear cut top five pick in this year's draft. He has everything to be a top strong safety – size (6-0, 214), speed for the position (4.45 40 at his Pro Day) and production. Adams survived the turmoil surrounding the LSU coaching staff to be a standout as a three-year player and full-time starter his last two years. For his career he had 17.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions and two sacks, and he led an offensively-challenged team whose defense gave up only 16 TDs all season.

2. Malik Hooker, Ohio State: There isn't a big book on Hooker in his brief career at Ohio State, but what's there is brilliant. He was an instant playmaker when he took over as a starter at free safety in 2016, intercepting two passes in the opening game. It was a sign of what was to come. He had seven picks for the season and 5.5 pass breakups. Hooker was a red-shirt freshman in 2014 and primarily a special-teams player in 2015. Offseason surgery on a hip labrum has kept him from working out for the scouts.

3. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan: His multiple skills were on full display in his two years as a full-time starter at Michigan. One legitimate question is why he had only one interception in his two seasons. He was credited with 10 pass breakups in 2015 but none in 2016. Also in 2016, he was second on the team with 16 tackles for loss, averaged 14.8 yards on punt returns and 26 on kickoffs. As a runner he gained 167 yards, with a 6.2-yard average and three TDs.

4. Budda Baker, Washington: Undersized at 5-10 and 195 pounds, Baker has exceptional ability on the back end and a passion for the game. He fit in on a team that had speed across the board. His Combine time of 4.46 seconds in the 40 was among the best for his position. He played on a high school football team that went 14-0 three straight years. Baker started every game for the Huskies as a freshman in 2014. As a third-year junior in 2016 he closed out his career by leading the defense with 71 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Size is an issue. Talent isn't.

5. Josh Jones, North Carolina State: Recruited out of Walled Lake Western High School, it would not be far off to call him a bigger version of Jabrill Peppers. Jones' athleticism was apparent with his Combine performance – 4.41 in the 40, 37.5 vertical jump, 11 feet in the standing broad jump and 20 reps in the bench press. His versatility enabled him to move around in the secondary, and he delivered. As a fourth-year junior in 2016 Jones had a team-high 109 tackles, four tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and three picks.

Other safeties: Justin Evans, Texas A&M; Marcus Williams, Utah; Desmond King, Iowa; Eddie Jackson, Alabama; Delano Hill, Michigan; Nathan Gerry, Nebraska; Marcus Maye, Florida.

Top 5 cornerbacks

1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State: His workouts – 4.36 time in the 40, 38-inch vertical jump – and good size for the position put Lattimore at the top of the cornerback list despite his abbreviated resume in Columbus. Lattimore was a redshirt as a freshman in 2014, and hamstring issues limited him to seven games in 2015. In 13 games in 2016 he had four interceptions and nine pass breakups.

2. Tre'Davious White, LSU: A four-year player, he skipped the draft in 2016 to return for his senior year. He was given the coveted No. 18 jersey in 2016, and his play lived up to the honor.  Opposing QBs had difficulty completing passes against him in 2016. He had 14 pass breakups, two interceptions and four tackles for loss. He has played outside and in the slot.

3. Gareon Conley, Ohio State: Being the No. 3 defensive back from Ohio State in the draft isn't a bad thing, especially if the top two – Hooker and Lattimore – are likely top 10 picks.  The completion rate against Conley in 2016 was under 40 percent. Conley started every game the last two years and finished strong, with four picks and eight pass breakups in 2016. He has a good, solid build to play cornerback, and 33-inch arms.

4. Kevin King, Washington: At 6-3, he's one of the tallest prospects at his position. A four-year player and three-year starter, he was converted from safety, where he started 12 of 14 games in 2014. He had 15 pass breakups in 2016 and eight career interceptions.

5. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama: He had the name, the game and the genes from both parents to be successful as a two-year starter for the Tide. His father, Bobby, played running back at Alabama and was a Pro Bowler in the NFL. His mother, Barbara May Humphrey, holds the Alabama-Birmingham record in the 400 meters sprint. Marlon was a high school sprinter in Alabama. For the Tide, he had five picks and 13 pass breakups in 29 starts in 2015-16 combined.

Other cornerbacks: Quincy Wilson, Florida; Jourdan Lewis, Michigan; Adoree' Jackson, USC; Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado; Fabian Moreau, UCLA; Damontae Kazee, San Diego State; Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson; Jalen Myrick, Minnesota; Teez Tabor, Florida; Desmond King, Iowa.

(Note: Sidney Jones of Washington might have been a top 5 cornerback if he hadn't injured his Achilles in a drill during his Pro Day.)

Spotlight player -- Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut: He has done everything in a big way to push himself up draft boards.

It starts with his size. He was measured at 6-4 and 224 pounds at the Combine. He stood above most of the others in his workouts – 4.40 seconds in the 40, 44 inches in the vertical jump and a standing broad jump of 11-9. Someone might have asked if he was wearing a rocket pack under his athletic shirt.

As a fifth-year senior in 2016 he had a team high 128 tackles and four interceptions. For his career he had 11 tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions.

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