Former NFL GMs suggest two cornerbacks for Lions with No. 2 draft pick

Detroit News

Allen Park — Trends breed expectation and with the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, teams typically spend the asset on a quarterback, offensive tackle or defensive lineman.

But if you’ve listened closely to Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes, they’ve made it clear they won’t be prisoners to traditional thinking. And while it’s been easy to pencil the team an edge rusher in mock draft projections — whether that’s Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux or Georgia’s Travon Walker — maybe we really should be taking Detroit’s brass at its word and anticipating an outside-the-box selection next Thursday.

“I said from Day 1: Any game changer at any position, and there are multiple positions where we do see that potential game-changers could be there in the future,” Holmes said Thursday. “Time will tell, of course, how well do they develop. We feel very confident in the coaching staff we have to develop those players. But, yeah, it could be any position.”

With lingering uncertainties about Thibodeaux’s character fit and Walker’s college production, outside analysts are starting to also consider alternatives for the Lions, including a pair of cornerbacks.

In conference calls this week, both NFL Network analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah and SiriusXM host and former NFL general manager Mark Dominik discussed the possibility of Detroit taking LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.

Niyo: No rush? Lions need to find a ‘game-changer’ off the edge

“I would not rule out Stingley as maybe the wildcard pick, even having taken (Jeff) Okudah recently,” Jeremiah said. “Everybody knows about the injuries there, but to me, if you’re just chasing upside and you want to say, if we look back in three years who could be the best player in this draft and you want to take a swing, maybe you trade down a little bit if you can find a partner. If not, to me, Stingley is intriguing as we come down the home stretch here. If you’re thinking about a home-run type pick, I wouldn’t rule that one out.”

Jeremiah hedges a bit with this answer, correlating the possible selection of Stingley to trading down, but Dominic said he wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger at No. 2.

“There’s so much talent in that young man and it’s so good, and so when you watch the early tape you’re blown away, and to me he tested out still that same way,” Dominik said. “…I think that would make a lot of sense to me if Aidan’s off the board, that they would go with a Stingley because I think he is that elite. I mean, he’s big but fast and athletic with ball skills. I don’t dislike Jeff Okudah, but they’re different dudes, completely.”

Two years ago, the six-foot, 190-pound Stingly looked destined to crack the top-five when eligible for the draft after intercepting six passes as a freshman. He hasn’t intercepted a pass since, but he only saw 30 passes his direction as a sophomore compared to 94 the year prior, then was limited to three games last season after suffering a Lisfranc injury.

Lions GM Brad Holmes: Trade talk has cooled with No. 2 pick

All signs point to that injury being healed after a stellar showing at his Pro Day earlier this month, including a blazing 4.37-second, 40-yard dash and a 38.5-inch vertical.

And it’s not just Stingley being mentioned to the Lions. ESPN analysts Mel Kiper and Mike Tannenbaum, another former GM, have linked Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner to Detroit in recent mock drafts.

“Yes, I know the Lions used the No. 3 overall pick on cornerback Jeff Okudah just two years ago, but I also know he has ended up on injured reserve in both of his pro seasons and has been limited to 10 total games,” Tannenbaum wrote. “The Lions gave up the NFL’s third-best opponent QBR (53.4) last year and still need a corner. Gardner didn’t surrender more than 13 yards in a game or a single TD all season in 2021.”

Going back to Holmes, he was asked about how much college production mattered in the evaluation. The question, presumably related to Walker’s disappointing sack total, brought forth an answer not about edge rushers, but defensive backs.

“You can’t ignore the production, especially when you talk about it a lot with defensive backs,” Holmes said. “Ball production, sometimes it’s hard to come by, so guys touching the football a lot, you can’t ignore that.”

As noted, Stingley’s six interceptions, even if they came two years ago, are impressive. As for Gardner, he snagged nine interceptions across three seasons for the Bearcats while locking down opposing receivers, as Tannenbaum noted.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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