According to CBS Sports writer Jeff Reynolds, the Lions will not defy logic and will address the position that fills their greatest need; defensive back. With some of the difficulties the Detroit defense had at keeping points off the board at times last season, this has seemed like a foregone conclusion to many draft experts. But does Schwartz and the draft team have a particular target in mind? According to Reynolds, yes they do.
“Two options they’ve studied closely, Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama and South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore, are the kind of big, physical corners coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham prefer in a press-bump scheme. Both players are ready to start, whereas the next tier of prospects, including Trumaine Johnson Montana, might have a steeper learning curve.”
Seems to make sense to me. Kirkpatrick and Gilmore could both probably be a starter the moment they set foot on the practice field at organized team activities in a couple months.
Thought by many to be a top ten talent, Kirkpatrick saw his draft stock slip a little bit when he was arrested for possession of marijuana. The charges were later dropped, but it did raise red flags for teams with an early pick. So scooping him up at number 23 would simply be a coup for the Lions in value. He’s tall, athletic and physical and could be exactly what the Lions need to toughen up a secondary that was viewed as “soft” in 2011. If he makes it past the Bengals (twice), then it’s difficult to imagine Detroit passing on the talented corner.
The more likely scenario, Stephen Gilmore, would be a pretty significant boost as well. While his measurables aren’t as eye-popping as Kirkpatrick’s, his ceiling is just as high. He has top speed that is needed to make up space should he get beat on a deep route and his ball skills and ability to make big plays have him as possibly the best corner on the board when Detroit hits the clock.
Another guy to keep an eye on is Janoris Jenkins out of North Alabama. He’s had major character issues in the past, but seems to have turned his life around since being booted from Florida after being arrested numerous times on drug charges. If both Gilmore and Kirkpatrick are off the board and Detroit is adamant about adding a talented corner early, they may take the gamble. Jenkins has huge potential and might have the most elite cover skills of any at his position in this draft. He doesn’t allow separation and has incredible make up speed. Really, the only negatives on him is off the field. Something Detroit may not be willing to take the risk on after multiple members of their current roster have had run-ins with authorities this offseason.
The last guy to possibly consider is if Alabama safety Mark Barron slips. I think they’re more interested in a corner, but if the other options are exhausted, it may be too high of a value for Detroit to pass on. Barron is the undisputed best safety in this draft and getting him at this spot would be outright thievery. He has all the makings of a “ball hawk” at the next level and his instincts project him as quite the playmaker. He’s also excellent in run support and is a superb tackler. It’s doubtful he slides this far in the draft, but crazier things have happened.
In the end, if Detroit is all in on a secondary player, they should have some good options at number 23 overall this year. They have to do something to keep the Lions offense from feeling like it has to put up 35 plus per game to have a chance. That all starts by solidifying the secondary. Barron, Gilmore, Jenkins or Kirkpatrick would all be a sound start.