Detroit Lions 2016 Draft Overview: Cornerback

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In the Draft Overview series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting which round they would be taken in if Detroit were to take them. The position I am looking at today is:


Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs are the returning starters at cornerback for 2016. Alex Carter was out all of last season, and many think he could play cornerback or safety, but this will essentially be his rookie year and we will see what he can do for the team. Crezdon Butler returns as well, coming from the practice squad to a hero against the Packers last season. The Lions have signed Johnson Bademosi, who will be used for special teams more than cornerback, and Darrin Walls for help at the position. Detroit could still use some depth at the position, and this draft class has some good options at cornerback. While this position is something that could use some help, Detroit needs to address the offensive and defensive lines first, so the earliest Detroit should look at cornerback is in the third round. Let’s look at who Detroit could take in next weeks draft.

Draft Overview: Cornerback Options


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1. Sean Davis – Maryland

He can wrap up and finish a play well. When the receiver is trying to make a low catch, he isn’t afraid to use his body to knock the ball loose. He is 6 foot 1 which is good height against some of the taller wide receivers in the NFL. His coverage on tight ends is impressive and he can take them out of the play. His feet could be quicker though. He had four pass interference, a personal foul and a late hit this year, so he will need to stop playing dumb and also get better at coverage so he doesn’t draw so many PI calls. He has the strength to force fumbles and make receivers drop the ball. He is also like Alex Carter where he can play both the cornerback and safety positions. Davis finished with 319 tackles, 10 for loss, two and a half sacks, five interceptions, 14 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and seven forced fumbles.

Davis would be a good third round pick and can help Detroit in the secondary. While he won’t be covering the top two receivers on the opposing teams, he could still do a good job against either the third receiver or tight ends. Davis has the height which could make a difference in training camp battles with Diggs, Carter, Walls and Lawson.

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2. Harlan Miller – Southeastern Louisiana

Another cornerback coming in at six feet tall, Miller uses that size to knock down passes high and low. He is quick and can jump routes easily to disrupt play or pull down the interception. His man coverage skills are impressive. Miller can wrap up and tackle well also. When he is on the line for a blitz, he gets blocked easily. He can’t break free and doesn’t have an impact on the play. Play-action plays pull him off of his assignment and allow the receiver to get open. He doesn’t get the correct angle on plays and misses chances for tackles and his field awareness isn’t the best. Miller has good arm length and that helps with pass deflections. He can change his direction quickly and try to have an impact on the play. Can also return punts if needed. Miller had a good career at Southeastern Louisiana, ending with 122 tackles, nine for loss, 33 pass deflections, and 11 interceptions (one returned for a touchdown).

Miller is a fourth round pick. He has the coverage skills to knock a pass away or snag it out of the air, but falling for play-action is something he has to learn to get better at. He could be like Davis and compete for that number three spot.

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3. D.J. White – Georgia Tech

Man coverage is White’s best ability. He can get close with the receiver and not get flagged. His zone coverage isn’t bad either, containing the area he has to watch. He can keep up on quick routes and forces throws to be compressed. When his back is to the ball, he doesn’t turn his head around quick enough to distort the play. He could get stronger as a tackler since a decent number of his tackle attempts are broken. Instead of attacking the receiver on screens and really short routes, he tends to try and play contain and lets them gain a few yards before stopping the receiver. While some cornerbacks have to run through the receivers to make the catch a challenge, White doesn’t have to do that to make the play hard for the receiver. He has a good vertical so jump balls are a chance for him to get an interception. White had 154 tackles, three and a half for loss, seven interceptions, 21 pass deflections and four forced fumbles in his career at Georgia Tech.

White is a fifth round option for Detroit. His man coverage skills could compete for playing time. Needs to be more aggressive and stronger. Could be a good option for Detroit late in the draft.

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4. Zack Sanchez – Oklahoma

Sanchez has an eye for the ball. He watches the quarterback’s eyes and reacts to those tells which helps Sanchez get involved with the play. He is fast and uses that speed to keep up with fast receivers. He can make the tough interceptions with his hands and excellent athleticism. If he is on the line, trying to stop the run, he tends to be ineffective. His tackling skills are inconsistent, and while he can keep up with fast receivers, the physical types will be a challenge at the next level. Smart routes and pump fakes can pull him off of coverage. His zone coverage skills are great as he has a good feel for the area he has to cover and can move from one guy to another to make it difficult for the quarterback to choose a target. His man coverage isn’t bad either with his ability to read some routes, and his good footwork he can make a play. Sanchez ended with 134 tackles, five for loss, half a sack, 15 interceptions (one for a touchdown), and 28 pass deflections.

Sanchez is another fifth round pick. His speed does help on deep vertical route plays and his zone coverage skill is impressive, he does get tricked with pump fakes and smart routes. Matching him against a physical receiver could be a disadvantage for him.

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5. Tavon Young – Temple

For a little guy at 5 foot 9, Young can be a playmaker. He has some good hands and seems to continually get his hands in on receivers either knocking the ball away or snagging it for an interception. Even though he is small, he doesn’t play like it, he can play physically too. While he does have good hands, they can get him into trouble. He likes to hold on to receivers’ jerseys if he feels beaten, getting called for five pass interference calls last year. Route recognition isn’t the best. Can’t change direction quickly. He does turn his head around quickly though to see where the ball is headed. He will get aggressive at making sure a ball is impossible to catch for receivers. While at Temple, Young had 127 tackles, eight for loss, two and a half sacks, seven interceptions, 21 pass deflections, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.

Young in the sixth round pick. The pass interference calls are a big factor for him being this low. Also his height is something that will be a factor in the NFL. Young would be a depth body on the roster, or maybe even falling into the practice squad.

There you have it, another installment of the draft overview series. Next I will be looking at safety. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts in the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.