Tuesday, the defensive backs took center stage at the NFL Combine and being the Detroit Lions have holes at cornerback and safety and had secondary coach Tony Oden on the field running drills, the team was all eyes. That's especially true as it related to Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert, the top two prospects.
Casually, plenty have linked the Lions with both early in the mock draft season, but prior to Tuesday's on field workouts, important questions remained. Would Dennard have the necessary speed to secure a top fifteen spot? Could Gilbert look as fluid in on-field drills as he has on tape for the better part of a year?
Questions both answered. Dennard got things off to a roaring start running a 4.51 40 yard dash, which was a solid number. Gilbert was at 4.37, which was the fasted time among defensive backs. In the on-field drills, Dennard looked a touch stiff while Gilbert flew through, but that made sense considering Dennard is more of a press corner while Gilbert covers ground.
Simply, it's hard to find very many flaws in either player's game, and both fit the identity Detroit craves on the back end. Dennard is tough and hard nosed, while Gilbert has size and top speed, both elements general manager Martin Mayhew has made a priority during past drafts. Whether either become the Lions' pick will likely become a matter of close personal preference between Mayhew, Jim Caldwell, Teryl Austin and company.
As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweeted Tuesday, despite the fact that Dennard's 40 yard dash was a bit slower than Gilbert's, he didn't necessarily view that as a deal breaker when comparing the two prospects. "Still think it's taster's choice," Birkett said, all but reinforcing beliefs that it's become a pick 'em scenario between Dennard and Gilbert.
In situations like that, a team cannot lose. Drafting Dennard would provide the Lions with perhaps the most solid physical corner they've seen, and make competition with NFC North wide receivers in Chicago and Green Bay interesting. If Gilbert was the choice, Detroit would gain a speedster with size and man to man abilities in the open field as well as a possible second option at returner. Either has the skills and the mind to be a success at the next level.
With the combine over, the debate will rage. Do the Lions take a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round? At the corner position, it appears the team might not be able to lose regardless of what direction they go, considering both Dennard and Gilbert should be available when Detroit selects this May.
For a franchise that's long had problems catching a break with adding talent to the secondary, this could be a long-awaited stroke of luck.Darqueze Dennard, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jim Caldwell, Justin Gilbert, Martin Mayhew, NFL, Teryl Austin, Tony Oden
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