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TWENTYMAN: Lions' future at CB position looks bright

Since Brad Holmes arrived as general manager in 2021, he's been searching for the future at the cornerback position.

Holmes inherited young cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye from the previous regime, but it became clear to him and this coaching staff they weren't the long-term answer. Okudah was eventually traded and Oruwariye was ultimately benched and not re-signed.

Holmes said it's something he's intended to address over the years but it just hadn't worked out his first few seasons on the job for one reason or another.

"It's something that we've always been trying to find that future at that position, and it just never really matched up. It never really lined up," he said. "We weren't in a position to get one or we just had a better player at another position ranked over that.

"It's not anything that we've been ignoring or anything, it just really hadn't been lined up. We're not going to reach for a corner just to get a corner either. But yeah, super ecstatic that we finally got some future and youth at that position."

It started a little more than a year ago with the selection of Brian Branch in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Branch earned the Lions nickel corner spot Week 1 and ended up totaling 74 tackles (50 solo), 13 passes defended and seven tackles for loss. He also ranked second among all rookies with three interceptions, one of which he returned for a 50-yard touchdown in a Week 1 win in Kansas City.

Holmes followed that selection with back-to-back cornerbacks with his first two picks in this year's draft. First, he took arguably the best cornerback in the class in Alabama's Terrion Arnold. Then Missouri's Ennis Rakestraw Jr. in Round 2, a player Holmes said they had ranked as the No. 2 cornerback on their board and a player who would have been in consideration for them at pick No. 29 had Arnold not been available to move up and get at No. 24. The Lions nervously had to wait until pick No. 61 for Rakestraw and were 'thrilled' to get him.

"We didn't go into it saying that we were going to get two corners in the first two rounds," Holmes said. "We really didn't, it was just he was the highest graded guy for us at the time. We went ahead, and you know how we roll."

Arnold and Rakestraw still have to come in, put their heads down and go to work. If Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have proven anything over the last three years, it's that nothing will be handed to anyone. They'll have to earn their right to be the future at the position.

On paper at least, the Lions look to have bright, young talent at a position that's been an Achilles heel of sorts for this organization recently. Detroit's ranked 24th, 30th and 27th against the pass the last three seasons.

"Terrion and Ennis, both of them you really felt like, 'OK, these guys fit who we're about. These guys fit our culture,'" Holmes said.

"We're not going to just draft a corner just because he plays corner. No, it's got to be the right football player. So, it just so happened that this year Terrion was the right football player. Ennis was the right football player, he just happened to play the corner position."

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