Justin Gilbert is a 6-foot, 200-pounder from Oklahoma State. (Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)
The Lions need another outside wide receiver and a consistent cornerback, and debate over which they should take with the 10th overall pick in this year's NFL draft will continue until May.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. explained Thursday why he thinks the Lions should grab a cornerback.
"I just think when you're in this division and you've got to beat an Aaron Rodgers and the Bears with (Jay) Cutler, you've got to look at cornerback as a need, and is there a player worthy," Kiper said on a conference call. "If there is a player worthy, it's going to be Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State or Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State."
The Lions' pass defense ranked 23rd in 2013 while the Packers and Bears both had top-six passing attacks, so improving the back end, whether through the draft or free agency, is a necessity this offseason.
In his Mock Draft 2.0 released Thursday, Kiper has the Lions taking Gilbert, who had seven interceptions in 2013. He has Dennard (four interceptions in 2013) falling to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 24 and said the combine and pro days will likely determine who is the first cornerback taken.
"Performance was very similar," he said of the two cornerbacks. "Gilbert was outstanding in coverage this year, so was Dennard. Whoever has the better workout probably goes first, and that would be a possibility for the Lions."
Kiper also said the Lions should grab a cornerback with their first-round pick because of the depth of talent at receiver in this draft. In fact, there are so many good receivers that Kiper thinks there will be more undrafted free agents at the position that make rosters than in the past five years.
"I think that's why you're going to find a lot of diamonds in the rough in this draft that teams can capitalize on and bring into the fold and have very productive rookie years," he said.
Kiper also listed cornerback, wide receiver, safety, tight end and outside linebacker as the Lions' most pressing needs this offseason.
Meanwhile, fellow ESPN analyst Todd McShay released his Mock Draft 2.0, as well, and has the Lions going the wide receiver route with the 6-foot-5 Mike Evans from Texas A&M.
"Both the tape and the advanced metrics make the case that (Evans) is the most proven down-the-field pass-catcher in the 2014 class," McShay wrote. "The Lions need a difference-maker opposite Calvin Johnson, and Johnson's leadership and experience could be just what Evans needs to avoid early-career pitfalls."
Many consider Evans the second-best receiver in the draft behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins, but Kiper said he doesn't think Watkins will be there when the Lions pick.
"I just don't see Watkins getting past five and to get down to 10 would be a real stretch," he said. "It could happen, but hey, I just don't see it."
Even if Watkins is gone, the Lions will have plenty of options if they decide they want a wide receiver in Round 1. Kiper has nine receivers being selected in the first round of his mock draft, and McShay has seven.