Draft Analysis: Need #4 - Corner

The Lions helped themselves immensely in the defensive secondary when they acquired free agent corner Dre' Bly, but what about the other side? In the second of a five-part draft series, Lions' insider Mike Fowler reviews the need for a cornerback -- including in-depth analysis on possible prospects -- as the annual NFL draft draws near.

(ALLEN PARK)- Matt Millen instantly improved the quality of play in the Detroit Lions defensive secondary when he added unrestricted free agent Dre' Bly to the roster.

Bly will give the Lions a true shutdown corner and the ability to take away one side of the field with his play. Undersized, but speedy and athletic, Bly will start at the left corner previously occupied by the retired Todd Lyght.

Still, that leaves Detroit with a vacancy at the right corner position. Chris Cash, a rookie 6th round draft pick, occupied the position and had a good year in run support, recording 92 tackles, third on the team. But Cash was frequently victimized on pass plays and while he has potential to grow from his rookie season, he still needs work in the coverage aspect of his game.

Andre Goodman, a rookie 3rd round pick from South Carolina came on towards the end of the season and appeared to supplant Cash on the depth chart. Neither, though, provide the kind of tight coverage Detroit would like to have against opposing wide outs.

Fortunately for Detroit, cornerback is a position with loads of talented players available in this month's college draft (April 26-27).

Most scouts rate Terence Newman, the 5' 10" corner from Kansas State as the #1 prospect, but I don't agree. Newman, for sure, is a prime-time talent, but there are many players who vie for top spot.

Last year, most experts rated Texas corner Quentin Jammer as the top player at the position, but Miami corner Phillip Buchanon -- drafted by the Oakland Raiders -- appeared to have the best year of any rookie prior to getting hurt five games into the season. Buchanon had worked his way into an Oakland Raider rotation that included Charles Woodson and Eric Allen.

This year there are several talented guys who could immediately step into Detroit's defensive backfield and provide immediately including Newman.

Playing in the Big 12, Newman matched up against some of the nation's top receivers including Texas' Roy Williams. The Jim Thorpe award winner (Nation's top collegiate defensive back) has sprinter's speed (10.49 100 meters) and is extremely quick (4.3) in the critical 40-yard sprint that corners so often have to make in coverage.
COMPARISON: Charles Woodson, Oakland

Another top prospect is Rashean Mathis of Florida's Bethune-Cookman University. The Buck Buchanan winner (Nation's top Division I-AA) is a converted free safety, and scouts rave about his size (6' 1" 200lbs) and cover ability. Still, without any experience playing the corner position except the Senior Bowl, some feel he is too raw to be a first rounder and project him in the second round
COMPARISON: Troy Vincent, Philadelphia

TOP 5 CB's for Detroit
1. Dennis Weathersby, Oregon State
2. Andre Woolfolk, Oklahoma
3. Terence Newman, Kansas State
4. Marcus Trufant, Washington State
5. Rashean Mathis, Bethune Cookman

1. Lynaris Elpheage, Tulane
2. Eugene Wilson, Illinois
3. Sammy Davis, Texas A&M
4. Rod Babers, Texas
5. DeJuan Gross, Nebraska
6. Kevin Garrett, SMU
7. Ricky Manning, UCLA

Marcus Trufant of Washington State made a huge move following his junior season. A virtual unknown prior to his senior year, Trufant shot up the charts to the point where he's considered a top 10 pick. The 5' 11, 190-lbs senior has good size and ran a 4.3 40 at the NFL combines. Some scouts are concerned about his "make up" speed after getting beaten initially. The good thing is he doesn't get beaten very often
COMPARISON: Nate Clemens, Buffalo

Andre Woolfolk of Oklahoma came into this year as the consensus #1 corner in the nation, however, some scouts, like ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. don't even list him as a first round pick. The problem is Woolfolk wanted to be Charles Woodson, flip flopping between offense and defense. That hurt his stock more than helped it. Still, in the games that I saw, Woolfolk locked down on some of the same top receivers that Newman did. I noticed very little difference on the field between Woolfolk and Newman.
COMPARISON: Bobby Taylor, Philadelphia

My favorite player among all the top corners is Dennis Weathersby of Oregon State. You don't find many shutdown corners who are over six feet tall(6' 1", 226-lbs) and can run (4.3) with guys like USC's Mike Williams, but that is exactly what Weathersby did. In the times he matched up with Williams, one of the Pac-10 and the nation's top wide outs, Weathersby held his own, blanketing the young star. The scouts are all over the place on the senior, with some saying he's a sure top-15 pick, compared to others who rate him as a second rounder.
COMPARISON: Chris McAllister, Baltimore

The sleeper in all of this is Tulane's Lynaris Elpheage. Elpheage defended an astounding 31 passes including eight interceptions. An electric return man, the first team Conference USA and second team All-America selection ranked fifth in punt returns with a 16.5 average and 25.2 average on kickoff returns makes him an extremely dangerous two-way threat. The junior scored four touchdowns this year, one each by punt return, kickoff return, interception and on a rushing play. Raw, but talented, someone will take a flier on this kid.
COMPARISON: Dre' Bly, Detroit

PICK: This one depends on how badly Detroit wants a running back. If Detroit opts for Willis McGahee in the second round, then we're looking at a third round selection which eliminates all these guys, but if Detroit somehow gets a second round selection, Weathersby would be a steal in the early second round. Elpheage would be a catch in round three or four.

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