ALLEN PARK - In the last two years, the Detroit Lions have selected a cornerback within the first three rounds of the annual National Football League draft.
Later this month, expect it to become a trend.
Detroit has expressed an interest in several draft prospects dating back to the Indianapolis Combine in February, but the team has spent a significant amount of its time with defensive backs.
The Lions have either already met with, or have scheduled visits with Texas safety Michael Huff, Clemson cornerback Tye Hill, University of Miami cornerback Kelly Jennings and Nebraska safety Daniel Bullocks.
Many scouts believe Huff will make the transition from safety to cornerback at the professional level. Like Huff, Hill and Jennings are also both first round prospects, and recognized as the No. 1 and 2 top draft prospects at their position by Scout.com.
After losing reserve cornerback Andre Goodman to free-agency, combined with the injury-riddled history of veteran corner Fernando Bryant and the skepticism regarding free-safety Terrence Holt, the Lions are clearly looking to shore up the defensive backfield with its first round pick.
It's about time.
The franchise has not selected a defensive player in the first round since plucking since departed linebacker Chris Claiborne with the ninth overall pick in 1999.
With the defense-first mentality of head coach Rod Marinelli, however, that six-year streak will likely be snapped. Under defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, the team will stress a "cover two" defense, which commands that each safety be responsible for one half of the deep secondary. The cornerbacks, meanwhile, cannot rely on the scheme as much as the scheme relies upon their capabilities -- and that includes assignments and tackling ability.
Detroit has already been rumored to be flirting with the notion of selecting Huff with the ninth overall pick, who is a solid tackler, playmaker and is incredibly versatile. Bullocks, meanwhile, is considered second round worthy by the team. He will visit with Detroit on Thursday.
Both Hill and Jennings are considered prototypical NFL cornerbacks, with Hill's size (5-9.5) being the only drawback.
The Lions currently have second and third year players Stanley Wilson and Keith Smith as reserves under Pro Bowl cornerback Dre Bly and Bryant, with newcomer Idrees Bashir and Jon McGraw behind Holt and Kenoy Kennedy at the safety position.
Below is the complete scouting report on each player:
School: Texas Pos: S
Compared to: Ed Reed, Ravens
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 204 40: 4.36 Year: 5Sr
Bio: Broke into the starting lineup as a freshman. Two-time All-Conference selection who won the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back last year. Senior totals included 109/1/14 after junior numbers of 73/2/14.
Pos: Versatile defender effective at several spots in the secondary. Smart cover man who jams opponents at the line of scrimmage, loses nothing transitioning off the snap and runs anywhere on the field with wideouts. Stays with receivers laterally and does an outstanding job diagnosing the action. Displays a decisive move to the throw and takes good angles to the action. Plays with a nasty attitude as well as a good degree of intelligence.
Neg: Slowed by blocks and does a bit of grab-tackling.
Analysis: Considered a hard-working, self-motivated prospect by scouts, Huff has outstanding skill in coverage and run defense. An early first-round pick with the ability to impact a team at any number of spots in the defensive secondary.
School: Miami-Fl Pos: CB
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 180 40: 4.47 Year: 5Sr
Bio: Three-year starter awarded All-Conference honors as a senior after posting 31/3/13. Junior totals were 25/2/5.
Pos: Natural cover corner with starting abilities in the NFL. Quickly transitions off the line, runs with opponents downfield and stays with receivers out from breaks. Instinctive, quickly locates the pass and has good ball skills. Fluid in all his motions, quick-footed on the field and willing to mix it up.
Neg: Possesses a slim build, gets out-positioned or loses out in battles.
Analysis: A consistent player, Jennings took his game to another level as a senior and now sits as a possible first-round selection. Has the skills to be used in either zone or backed
School: Nebraska Pos: S
Ht: 6-0.5 Wt: 212 40: 4.41 Year: 5Sr
Bio: All-Conference selection the past three years. Senior totals included 83/1/10 after 58/5/9 as a junior.
Pos: Hard-working, take-charge leader flying up draft boards. Effectively quarterbacks the secondary, sees the action and has a burst of closing speed to the play. Explodes up the field in run defense and sacrifices his body to make the tackle. Active in zone coverage and displays a good sense of timing.
Neg: Struggles in man-to-man situations and does not display a decisive move to the ball. Not a technique tackler. Takes a lot of missteps and over-pursues the action.
Analysis: A consistent player at Nebraska, Bullocks turned in an outstanding performances at the Senior Bowl and the combine.
School: Clemson Pos: CB
Ht: 5-9.5 Wt: 185 40: 4.38 Year: 5Sr
Bio: Former running back who switched to cornerback as a sophomore and has started ever since. All-Conference selection as a senior after totaling 43/3/4. Junior numbers included 52/21.
Pos: Terrific shutdown cornerback coming off an outstanding senior season. Quick-footed in reverse, fluid flipping his hips and loses nothing transitioning with opponents. Easily stays downfield with receivers, reading their eyes then getting his head back around to locate the ball. Quick planting to the throw and adjusts in midair to make the interception. Physical and supports the run.
Neg: Marginal size and loses out in battles. Has average hands.
Analysis: A track sprinter who translates his speed onto the football field, Hill has been on a straight shot up draft boards the past six months. Performed well last season then had an outstanding Senior Bowl. First-round selection who should quickly break into a starting role at the next level.