Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Lions

By Michael Rothstein

There are two areas of major need for the Detroit Lions entering the 2014 draft -- wide receiver and cornerback -- and the team will have to take care of remedying one of those issues in the first round this May.

Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. has the Lions Insider taking Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the No. 10 pick in his first mock draft of the year, potentially solving at least one of Detroit’s issues.

Receiver Sammy Watkins from Clemson would be the obvious choice for Detroit, but the chances of him still lingering at the No. 10 pick -- especially when he might be the most talented player in the draft, period -- is unlikely. So after Watkins, the Lions need to weigh draft depth and who might be available to them in the second round as much as the first.

And that’s where taking a cornerback would be the potential smart choice here, especially if there is no corner in free agency that they are able to land. That could be difficult considering the Lions are in a tough salary cap spot right now.

So Kiper has the Lions taking Gilbert in the hopes that he’ll be a good cornerback to pair with last year’s second-round selection, Darius Slay, in the future.

“Has put together a great season after a subpar 2012,” Kiper wrote in his initial analysis of Gilbert. “Has short-area quickness to adjust to routes and the open-field speed to run with (or past) any receiver. Has the size to jam at the line and can then flip his hips and run; he rarely allows much separation. Good ball skills and hands, evident both in coverage and the return game. Squarely back into the mid-first-round mix.”

Gilbert had 42 tackles and seven interceptions last season. He’s also a 6-foot corner and weighs 200 pounds, which is decent size on the outside.

He would be brought in to try to improve a defense -- likely with a new defensive coordinator -- that was 23rd against the pass last season (246.88 yards per game) and 19th in yards per pass attempt (6.91).

Should Detroit draft Gilbert, the question is: What happens to the rest of the Lions cornerbacks? Chris Houston signed a five-year deal before last season, but had a very inconsistent 2013 and ended up being the Lions’ second cornerback instead of the No. 1 corner they had hoped.

Detroit’s top corner last season, Rashean Mathis, is an unrestricted free agent and made 47 tackles last season. He is 33 years old, but told ESPN.com he intends to try to play for one or two more seasons after he showed he was healthy this year.

The Lions also have a plethora of other young cornerbacks besides Slay: nickel Bill Bentley and reserves Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood. All have shown potential but none have shown they could be a consistent starter.

So if the Lions do select a cornerback in the first round, it could mean one or two of the cornerbacks from last season could be playing somewhere else in 2014.