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Kiper projects ’Bama’s Humphrey to Lions in mock draft

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

The Detroit Lions need defensive upgrades, that much is clear, and the ESPN draft analysts are staying true to that concept with their early offseason mock drafts.

In this go-around, Mel Kiper’s latest first-round projection has the Lions addressing the secondary, taking Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey at No. 21.

“By the time we’re done at the combine, I suspect most everyone will see Humphrey as a first-rounder,” Kiper writes. “He has length, strength, speed and bloodlines, and pretty much everyone could use another good cornerback or two in 2017. Detroit certainly qualifies; it’s a pretty weak group beyond Darius Slay, and Slay battled some injuries in 2016.”

Alabama has a knack for churning out early-round cornerbacks, but those players have had mixed results at the professional level adjusting to different techniques than those used by coach Nick Saban. Dre Kirkpatrick and Kareem Jackson have developed into solid starters, while Dee Milliner was a bust.

A track star in high school, Humphrey played just two seasons at Alabama, starting all 29 games. He broke up 13 passes and intercepted five during that stretch, also recording 81 total tackles. He is the son of former Alabama star running back Bobby Humphrey, who played five seasons in the NFL.

He possesses an ideal frame, listed at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, and his track background suggests he’ll run a blazing 40 at the combine next month.

Cornerback isn’t the Lions’ biggest roster need, but the position could certainly stand to be upgraded.

Slay has been playing near a Pro Bowl level for three years, while Lawson has developed nicely, but is still an average coverage option on the outside. If the Lions drafted a cornerback like Humphrey, the team could slide Lawson inside to cover the slot, the original plan when he was drafted in 2014 out of Utah State.

In Kiper’s first mock draft, he had the Lions taking Humphrey’s teammate, Tim Williams. The playmaking linebacker doesn’t appear in the analyst’s’ current first-round projection.

Kiper’s colleague, Todd McShay, has slotted the Lions with Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis and Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett in his first two mocks.