Lions draft preview: Cornerback would provide critical depth

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Trae Waynes

This is the third in a series of Lions position previews for the NFL draft. Today: Cornerbacks.

Between injuries, poor draft picks and free-agent signings that didn't work out, the Lions have had limited success fielding top-end cornerbacks for much of the past decade.

But last year, Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis provided what the team's rush-focused defense needed and gave the Lions a glimpse of what it's like to have two trustworthy and reliable cover men.

However, injuries ravaged the depth at the position, and with Mathis turning 35 before the season begins, the Lions could use a cornerback in the draft to pair with Slay for the future.

Behind Slay and Mathis, the Lions have some experience and a couple players coming off injuries, but the top three options are best suited to play in the slot.

Josh Wilson, 30, signed a one year deal earlier this month and will join the Lions for his ninth NFL season. At 5-foot-9, he's done his best work recently at nickel, and he'll compete with Bill Bentley and 2014 fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson for inside duties. The 5-foot-10 Bentley tore his ACL in Week 1 in 2014, and the 5-foot-9 Lawson suffered a season ending foot injury in Week 2.

Besides them, Crezdon Butler, who's 6-foot-1, was an under-the-radar signing in January, but he brings five years of experience and played 11 games, starting three, for the Buccaneers last year.

Though cornerback might not be as pressing a need as defensive tackle or offensive line, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has said teams can never have enough cornerbacks. And many analysts think some of the top cornerbacks will be selected in the 20s; general manager Martin Mayhew might think one is the best option at No. 23.

Plus, if the Lions do bring in a rookie cornerback, he'll have a chance to learn from Mathis.

"Whoever we bring in, whether it's a young guy or a draft pick, I will try do everything I can to allow him to know what it takes to play in this league," Mathis said.

Go through the gallery above or go here for Josh Katzenstein's top 10 cornerbacks the Lions could consider in the draft.