The Detroit Lions started the 2012 draft with a significant need at cornerback and finished it with three mid-to-late round prospects to throw in the mix.
One, Chris Greenwood, has spent the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and only recently began practicing. A second, Jonte Green, has been pressed into action because of multiple injuries. The third -- and most intriguing -- just saw his season end because of a shoulder injury that might require surgery. Bill Bentley played in four games this season, starting three, after earning a spot among the Lions' top three cornerbacks in training camp.
To me, the question is whether we saw enough from Bentley's abbreviated rookie effort to project him as a potential starter in 2013. All four veteran cornerbacks on the Lions' roster -- Chris Houston, Jacob Lacey, Drayton Florence and Alphonso Smith -- are eligible for free agency after this season. That predicament suggests some offseason roster shuffling, and it would be natural for the Lions to look to a 2012 draft choice for a starting role.
What did we see from Bentley this season? For one, he wasn't often healthy. He suffered a concussion in Week 1 against the St. Louis Rams and dealt with the shoulder injury for much of his remaining three games. Bentley committed five penalties in those four games, more than all but three NFL cornerbacks over the eight-week season, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Four of those penalties were for pass interference, a not-uncommon mistake by rookies as they learn the speed of the NFL game.
Opponents targeted a receiver Bentley appeared to be covering on 20 passes, of which 17 were caught, according to PFF. He had neither an interception nor a pass defensed.
We won't use the rookie performance of a cornerback to make a final judgment on his future. But it would have been nice, both for us and the Lions, to get a longer look at Bentley to feel more comfortable about penciling him a prominent role for 2013.
For now, the Lions probably will play with Houston, Lacey and Green or Smith as their top three cornerbacks. (Veteran Don Carey will sign to provide depth.) Florence could return from a fractured arm later this month. Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's possible the Lions' starting lineup will include Houston and Lacey at cornerbacks with Erik Coleman and Ricardo Silva at safety. Starting safeties Louis Delmas (knee) and Amari Spievey (concussion) haven't practiced this week.