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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Final argument: The Jimmy Smith question

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Circling back one final time on draft issues we've discussed over the past few months:

The Detroit Lions could draft a cornerback with their No. 13 overall pick, filling their top need with an elite-level player. Or they could make a power move, adding to their team strength by selecting a pass-rushing defensive end. Or, they could feel comfortable drafting an offensive tackle who could well open the 2011 season as a reserve.

Of all the possibilities, however, you appear to be buzzing most intensely about cornerback. You're wondering, as we first discussed last week, if the Lions would leapfrog the consensus and conventional choice (Nebraska's Prince Amukamara) and select the talented but previously troubled Jimmy Smith of Colorado.

Longtime draft observer Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel compiled what I thought was a fair look at Smith, highlighting his freakish size -- 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds -- and illustrating the history that no doubt has scared some teams off.
McGinn: "Teams are well aware that Smith flunked three drug tests at Colorado, and he told at least one club that one of the three was for misusing codeine. Smith also told teams of his two alcohol-related violations, the pair of abortions that were paid for by parents of women he impregnated and an arrest for third-degree assault in a restaurant."

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters last week that the Lions had done "a lot of work on Jimmy" and indicated he has gotten strong references from former coaches and other contacts. Indeed, one personnel executive noted to McGinn that most of Smith's troubles ended three years ago.

The recent surge in support for Smith has left many of you hoping the Lions find a way to draft him instead of Amukamara. Blake of Charlotte, Mich. wrote "I think with Smith's ability to jam at the line along with the Lions' front four would be ideal." Paul of Grand Ledge, Mich., wrote: "I've heard many people believe Smith is more talented than Amukamara and he's only ranked higher because of Smith's character concerns. I read Mayhew believes he's matured enough to put his troubles behind him, and I think with Detroit's terrible secondary for the past decade or so that they should take the chance and draft him over a DL or OL anyways."

Mayhew isn't necessarily a risk-averse general manager, but he's spent most of his first two years in the job on the conservative side of the spectrum. But as a former NFL cornerback himself, he surely recognizes Smith's rare talent. Assuming both Amukamara and Smith are available at No. 13, Mayhew could face a career-defining decision.

Earlier: Cornerback is most important for the Lions, right? What should the Lions do if Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers slips to No. 13? I drafted Amukamara for the Lions in our blogger mock draft. The Lions wouldn't be interested in Alabama running back Mark Ingram, would they?