Darius Slay Needs A Sidekick And The NFL Draft Is A Great Place To Find One

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The NFL Draft Is Deep At Cornerback In 2017, Detroit Could Take One To Bolster Secondary Alongside Slay

Welcome to this year’s draft overview series. In this series, I take a look at five possible options at each position that Detroit could end up taking in this years NFL draft. Last week, I looked at the linebackers, next up is the cornerback position.

Detroit’s passing defense ranked 19th in the NFL last season; while it wasn’t horrible, it needs some improvements next season. Darius Slay had a great 2016 season, but behind him he couldn’t find anyone else to help contribute as well. Slay did deal with a few minor injuries that forced him to miss four games last season. Nevin Lawson was supposed to have a good year, moving up to the number two cornerback spot but he didn’t live up to expectations.

Quandre Diggs was also given a promotion to the number three cornerback spot and he was struggling with that as well before missing the final five games due to a pectoral injury. Johnson Bademosi had to step up and while at times he held his own, he struggled for the majority of his playing time. Detroit only made one move during free agency to deal with the lack of depth and talent at the position and signed DJ Hayden to a one-year deal.

Detroit has a prime opportunity to add a good cornerback to play alongside Darius Slay as this years NFL draft class has plenty of options that Detroit could take, whether they go early or late in the draft. Here are five players Detroit should take a look at if they want to help their secondary become stronger.

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1. Gareon Conley (Ohio State)

At Ohio State, Conley had some nice numbers in his three year playing time. He ended with 91 tackles, 15 pass deflections, six interceptions and one tackle for loss.

Conley is good at playing the inside position, which isn’t exactly what Detroit needs, but he does have experience playing on the outside. Has good man coverage and knows where to go on zone coverage plays. If he gets beat he tries holding and reaching out to stop the defender, which can draw penalties. Route combos can screw him up as he loses his man and allows an easy completion. Needs to work on tackling. Conley can cover well enough and with his size he can knock down passes without getting in the way of the receiver and drawing a pass interference penalty.

Conley is a solid first round pick for Detroit if they wish to address the secondary early.

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2. Quincy Wilson (Florida)

While at Florida for three years, Wilson was able to finish with 81 tackles, 14 pass deflections, six interceptions (returning one for a touchdown), four and a half tackles for loss, one sack and forced fumble.

Wilson has good size for NFL play. Can be physical and willing to take players on head on. Has good coverage skills. Needs to get stronger if he wants to excel at man and zone coverage in the NFL. Gives players too much space at times and lets them get open easily. He doesn’t fall for play-action plays and sticks with his man. Knows when to jump off coverage and help stop the run.

Wilson is another first round option for Detroit that can help Slay in the secondary as well.

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3. Kevin King (Washington)

King is the first player listed here who has four years of playing experience, ending with 164 tackles, 22 pass deflections, nine and a half tackles for loss, six interceptions and two forced fumbles and recoveries.

He’s tall, which gives him a good ability to match up with taller receivers. Physical type of player who risks his body to get the tackle. Can play the slot, safety or the outside, which is something Detroit could use. Needs to improve with tackling, uses his arms too much, and goes too low which gives the ball carrier an easy escape. Worries too much about his man rather than the ball when it is in the air. Good field awareness on where the ball is. Gets close and personal with receivers to give them no separation.

King has been projected to be a late first round choice since teammate Sidney Jones tore his Achilles, but his best value for Detroit is in the second round of the NFL Draft and he can be a starter his rookie year.

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4. Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado)

When it comes to production, Awuzie knows best here. At Colorado he racked up 265 tackles, 25 for loss, 25 pass deflections, nine sacks, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and interceptions.

Very physical player and lays out some big hits. If blitzing, he can get around the linemen easily. Can play outside or in the slot. Good at zone coverage and knows where he needs to go. Takes time to recover if he gets beaten. Likes to use his hands, which could cost his team in the NFL. Needs to work on his tackling. Good man coverage skills. Can read routes well, plays the ball well in the air, and can get a good kind of physical with receivers to make catches tough for them.

Awuzie has the mentality to play in the NFL and in the second or third round, would be a great addition to the Lions.

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5. Channing Stribling (Michigan)

Looking at more of a depth look here, Stribling can do just that. At Michigan Stribling ended with only 69 tackles, 15 pass deflections, six interceptions (returning one for a touchdown), three and a half tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble.

Has good NFL size and uses it well. Does well in coverage as he sticks to the receiver. Forces receivers to the sideline and makes it tough for the quarterback to make throws. Needs to get bigger arms and chest. Slow to change his route. Can use his hands too much and draw penalties. Has skills in reading receivers routes. Has a good jumping ability to get the ball and disrupt play. Does well with tackling.

Now if Detroit wants to look at a cornerback later in the NFL draft, Stribling is a good option in the fifth round if Detroit puts faith into DJ Hayden to help out Slay.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and share your thoughts on 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 myfantasysportstalk.com and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.