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2014 NFL Draft primer: Detroit Lions

Cornerback Darqueze Dennard of the Michigan State Spartans

Cornerback Darqueze Dennard of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates tackling wide receiver Michael Rector of the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of the 100th Rose Bowl Game. (Jan. 1, 2014) Photo Credit: Getty Images

The 2014 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, May 8, and every team will look to infuse youth and talent into their rosters. This is the latest in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.


2013 record: 7-9

Key offseason acquisitions: WR Golden Tate, SS James Ihedigbo, DE Darryl Tapp, head coach Jim Caldwell.

Key offseason departures: FS Louis Delmas, WR Nate Burleson.

Biggest holes: Cornerback, wide receiver, safety, offensive tackle.

The Lions addressed some big areas of need in the offseason, but was it enough to put them in the NFC North picture?

The Lions added another receiving option for Matthew Stafford in former Seahawk Golden Tate and replaced FS Louis Delmas with James Ihedigbo, who is coming off a career year in Baltimore and reunites with former Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin. But despite the upgrades, both the wide receiver corps and the secondary could still use further tweaks.

The Lions could go either way with the 10th overall pick, but more cornerbacks than wide receivers will likely be available at that point. The Lions currently have Chris Houston, who struggled at the end of 2013, and last year's second-round pick Darius Slay as their starters.

Local product Darqueze Dennard would be a good fit. The Michigan State cornerback isn't as athletic as some other cornerbacks in this class, though that's not what his game is predicated on. Instead, Dennard - whose cousin Alfonzo is a cornerback for the New England Patriots -- likes to be physical with his man. He has the ability to jam his receiver at the line while avoiding holding calls downfield with quick, fluid hips. Pairing Dennard with Slay would make for a physical cornerback duo down the line, which is important in a tough division with numerous tall receivers.

Justin Gilbert also could be an option. Gilbert's calling card is his pure athleticism - the Oklahoma State product clocked a 4.37 40 at the Combine, tops among cornerbacks, and also put up 20 reps on the bench press. He can also double as a kickoff returner with his speed and vision. Gilbert's technique is a little inconsistent at times, but a team that's in love with his physical traits may draft him and try to teach consistency.

TCU's Jason Verrett and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller can be had in the mid-to-late first round if the Lions are inclined to trade down. Verrett is undersized at 5-9, but he makes up for it with his great athleticism, strong technique and aggressive ball-hawking tendencies. If he were two inches taller, he would be a top-10 pick. Fuller is a balanced corner who is comfortable dropping back into a zone, getting physical with his receiver in man coverage, or helping out in run support. He isn't terribly strong - he managed just 12 reps on the bench press at the Combine - but he makes up for it with his awareness and quick reaction.

Although they signed Tate to a five-year, $31 million deal, the Lions could also use another receiver to complete their base three-wide set. They have reportedly been interested in trading up for dynamic Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins, though that would likely require a move into the top five. Watkins uses his speed and acceleration to create space and get yards after the catch. He'd be a good downfield complement to Calvin Johnson on the outside with Tate in the slot.

Mike Evans also may be off the board at this point as well, but he would be an interesting option if available. The 6-5 receiver out of Texas A&M is very physical and uses his great size to box out defenders. He also has great body control and is able to go up to pluck the ball out of the air with ease. Imagine Evans and "Megatron" lining up out wide with the Lions in the red zone. Good luck, cornerbacks.

Odell Beckham Jr. might be a small reach at 10, but he still might be a good option. Like Watkins, Beckham is a speedy, agile athlete who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He has a great catch radius and can snare the ball from virtually anywhere in his vicinity. He can also return kicks and punts.

Possible Day 2 and Day 3 options include Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir, Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland, Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief, Colorado WR Paul Richardson, Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis, USC FS Dion Bailey and North Carolina FS Tre Boston.

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