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Lions could end DB draft drought soon

4/24/2014

The Detroit Lions finished their voluntary veteran minicamp on Thursday afternoon with Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert watching from the sidelines. Gilbert, whom the Lions could select with the 10th overall pick next month, has been at the team facility in Allen Park, Mich., this week on a pre-draft visit, which comes at a time when the Lions might consider breaking their long-running habit of not taking a defensive back in the first round of the draft.

As ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando pointed out in his column this morning,Insider

the Lions haven't taken a defensive back in the first round since they selected Terry Fair in 1998. That's the second-longest streak in the NFL, behind the Chicago Bears, and the current state of the Lions' secondary could nudge them toward ending it two weeks from Thursday.

Rashean Mathis was re-signed on a one-year deal, but he turns 34 in August. Chris Houston missed the Lions' minicamp with an injury presumed to be related to the toe problem he had at the end of last season, though coach Jim Caldwell wouldn't specify what was ailing Houston this week.

Many mock drafts, including the latest ones from ESPN NFL Draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, have the Lions taking Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 10th overall pick. Gilbert could be an option there, too, though McShay said on Thursday he liked Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard more than Gilbert, and thought the Oklahoma State corner might be a better candidate to go in the middle of the first round. In the end, though, the Lions face the same consideration the other teams in the NFC North must deal with: the fact they play in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler. The Minnesota Vikings also figure to address their quarterback situation in the draft, and might at least be able to develop a consistent passing game with Matt Cassel throwing to receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson this season.

The Lions allowed the 10th-most passing yards in the league last season, and were right in the middle of the NFL with 15 interceptions. If Houston gets healthy and Mathis can have another year like he had last season, the Lions might be able to survive a little longer without taking a defensive back high in the draft, but their minicamp this week was another reminder that the time to spend a high pick on the secondary could be coming.