Not many will disagree with Mel Kiper about the Detroit Lions’ need to draft a cornerback with their tenth overall pick in the NFL draft.
He also sees Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard as a possibility for the Lions with that pick.
“If there is a player worthy (at No.10) it’s going to be Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State or Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State, workouts will determine it,’’ Kiper said in a conference call on Thursday. “Their performance was very similar. Gilbert was outstanding in coverage and so was Dennard whoever has the better workouts probably goes first.’’
That makes the NFL Combine (Feb. 20-25) key for both of those corners.
Dennard, who is 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2013 as college football’s best defensive back.
Gilbert, who also ran track at Oklahoma State, set the Big 12 Conference record for kickoff return touchdowns with six in 2013, his senior season. He was also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Of course it’s early in the process. The draft has been pushed back this year to May 8-10.
But there’s no doubt the Lions could use a cornerback to play along with Chris Houston, Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood.
“I just felt like the cornerback with the division the way it is, with the quarterbacks in that division the way they are, with the defense struggling so much and (Matthew) Stafford under pressure to get touchdown after touchdown with his defensive back end having so much trouble, I think Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard would be possibilities there.’’
Kiper wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of the Lions drafting a wide receiver early but he sees only one worthy of a 10th pick.
“The only receiver to consider at 10, maybe Mike Evans from Texas A&M if he runs an acceptable 40,’’ Kiper said.
With so much depth at the position, it’s possible to get a starting wide receiver in later rounds.
“Who would have thought (undrafted) Kenbrell Thompkins would have done what he did in New England,’’ Kiper said. “Look at all the receivers who go late if not at all and contribute and get it done. Just because you go in the fifth, sixth or seventh round doesn’t mean you won’t have a heck of a rookie year and be a major contributor, this is not an exact science.
“I wouldn’t lock in and say look if you don’t get one here you’re not going to get one,'' Kiper continued. "You’re going to find guys who are very under-rated there’s always going to be guys in the fifth, sixth, seventh round that do better than the guys in the second, third, fourth round. It happens every year.’’