Lions: Prince Amukamara or Jimmy Smith?

April, 22, 2011
4/22/11
11:15
AM ET
In my continuing efforts to muddy the water around the Detroit Lions' No. 13 overall pick, I throw out the following scenario. Let's say the Lions agree that cornerback is their biggest need and that no surprise players -- i.e. Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers or USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith -- drop into their lap.

So with the Lions on the clock, the top two cornerbacks available are Nebraska's Prince Amukamara and Colorado's Jimmy Smith. We've discussed Amukamara as the obvious choice in that situation, mostly because of the character concerns that reportedly have caused teams to dig deep into Smith's background. But with the draft less than a week away, how sure are we that the Lions rank Amukamara higher than Smith?

We know the Lions brought Smith to their practice facility last month for a visit, and on Thursday, general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters "we've done a lot of work on Jimmy." Given the period of misinformation we're in, everything else Mayhew said about the subject has to be considered accordingly.

With that said, I'm inclined to believe Smith is very much in play for the Lions. Would they take him over Amukamara? I don't know. But here's the way Mayhew described his position based on his talk with Smith and a conversation with Smith's former position coach, Ashley Ambrose.

"We keep our options open," Mayhew said. "I had a great talk with Jimmy. I felt like after meeting him I felt much better about him as a player. I spoke with his position coach, Ashley Ambrose, who is now coaching at Cal. [He] had nothing but great things to say about him. We've done a lot of work on Jimmy and I feel better about him than I did before I met him."

Mayhew acknowledged that some college coaches might gloss over negatives in their players but said: "I've called coaches and I've gotten the warning signs. ... They may not kill a player, but they'll say enough about a player that you'll know there's a cause for concern. I did not get that with Jimmy Smith, or with Ashley Ambrose talking about Jimmy Smith."

Mayhew's relative optimism coincides with what Kevin Weidl recently wrote on his Scouts Inc. draft blog . Here's a snippet:
Scouts I've talked to recently have also said that the more they dig, the more comfortable they are getting with Smith's off-field character and any potential risk involved in drafting him. And let's be clear that the character issues are the only thing holding him back at this point.

There is no questioning Smith's overall physical talent. He has an impressive frame (6-foot-2, 211 pounds) and shows great athleticism, balance and fluidity for his size. He also has good instincts and an ability to turn and run with receivers downfield, displaying good closing burst/recovery speed to make up ground when the ball is in the air.

I'm guessing Amukamara is a safer pick, but I wouldn't call Mayhew risk-averse. Consider the Amukamara-Smith question another twist for us to chew on over the next few days.

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