Patrick Robinson, who played for Florida State, is a physical cornerback who might still be on the board for the Lions to draft in Day 2. (Getty Images)
This is one in a series covering the top prospects at each position in the NFL draft.
The Lions offseason roster includes nine cornerbacks.
But only fourth-year pro Chris Houston, acquired from Atlanta in a trade last month, is a proven starter. None of the others has more than a half-dozen starts.
That's one reason the team -- last in the league in pass defense again last season -- is still shopping in free agency.
It's also a reason why the Lions, in search of long-term answers rather than temporary fill-ins, are expected to target secondary help in this year's draft. They haven't selected a cornerback in the first three rounds since 2005, and the last time Detroit took one the first two rounds was 1998 (Terry Fair).
In today's pass-happy NFL, there's strength in numbers in the defensive backfield. And the numbers weren't strong for the Lions, as injuries added to insult. Detroit allowed a league-high 35 touchdown passes in 2009, with nine interceptions (30th) -- none by a cornerback on the roster.
"Defensive backs get hurt at a higher rate than just about any other position on the field," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said, adding, "It's not a matter of if somebody gets hurt and has to miss a game, it's a matter of when. You have to be prepared."
And while they're better prepared in terms of depth, the top-end talent's still lacking.
Three or four cornerbacks are projected first-round picks this year, led by Florida's Joe Haden and Boise State's Kyle Wilson. Alabama's Kareem Jackson and Rutgers' Devin McCourty also could be gone by the time the Lions pick at the top of the second round.
Overall, it's not a group blessed with blazing speed. But the Lions, who have targeted speed in recent acquisitions with Houston and Jonathan Wade, would like to add a physical corner.
There should be other options for the Lions on Day 2, including Florida State's Patrick Robinson, who visited Allen Park two weeks ago, as well as Virginia's Chris Cook, South Florida's Jerome Murphy and Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee. Alabama's Javier Arenas, a special teams ace and nickel back, is another to watch, while Indiana (Pa.) standout Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is an interesting small-school prospect.
Michigan's Donovan Warren, whose decision to leave school early has been criticized by some scouts, appears to be a Day 3 selection at this point.
Top five cornerbacks
|Joe Haden||Florida||Eased concerns about speed after combine|
|Kyle Wilson||Boise State||Instant contributor with great reaction, skills|
|Kareem Jackson||Alabama||Three-year starter a hands-on cover corner|
|Devin McCourty||Rutgers||Special teams demon also blocked six punts|
|Patrick Robinson||Florida State||Inconsistent, but has all the physical tools|
Value picks (Day 2 or 3): Kevin Thomas, USC; Dominique Franks, Oklahoma; Walter McFadden, Auburn