As soon as Robert Meachem jogged into the endzone with no Lions within 20 yards of him, putting the Saints ahead, 37-21, in the Wild Card Round, the offseason agenda was set. The Lions needed a cornerback. Desperately.
It was nothing new. The Lions haven’t had a good secondary since I’ve been alive. But when the spotlights get fully affixed to your game and the NFL world watches Drew Brees scorch your secondary for 466 yards and three touchdowns in a 17-point victory, those outside eyeballs have a way of putting extra pressure on the inside of the organization.
Thursday, the Lions tried to make good on their unspoken promise. They tried to trade up to land Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick. They tried to trade down to be in a better position to select the top player of the next tier of corners.
But for the first time in a long time, Detroit had little control over its choice. In previous seasons, as the Lions took a player the higher ups in the organization raved about as the “best player available,” there was always a player of similar skill who filled bigger void still on the board.
Last season, the Lions “stole” Nick Fairley at pick No. 13 while cornerback Prince Amukamara came off the board just six picks later. Other times, like 2010 when they took Suh, they were picking so high up that they had an abundance of both needs to fill and options to choose from.
Thursday, Kirkpatrick came off the board at 17. He was the last cornerback drafted in the first round. The well ran dry, and Detroit had to settle for the boring pick*. Welcome to life as a playoff team.
The Lions could have reached and took Janoris Jenkins. His troubled past and his four kids with three different women would have fit nicely with the collection of Cheech and Chong aficionados currently in the locker room. Yet, it looks like the Lions did well in passing. No one else selected Antonio Cromartie Jr. in the first round.
Now, we have a do-or-die situation in the second round. Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell found the biggest drops-offs per position by round. Historically, defensive backs selected in the second round retain 80% of the production from their first-round counterparts, the second highest of any position. But production drops another 39% as you head from the second to third round. Fourth rounders only retain 56% of production from second rounders.
Basically, if the Lions want to get any sort of upgrade at cornerback next season, they need to select one with their next pick. Fortunately, there are plenty still available, including Mr. Jenkins, Georgia’s Brandon Boykin, who started falling after he fractured his leg at the Senior Bowl, and Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley.
If Martin Mayhew knows what’s good for him, he best be snagging one of them. If he doesn’t, I swear to you: I’m going on a one-man mission to take down the conspiracy the front office has against good secondary play. I will not stop until Mayhew has to hold an awkward press conference where he admits his actions at the beginning but gets increasingly mad about the things the media made up about him.
This is going to be 10 times bigger than anything the Saints ever did. Roger Goodall will be so upset he’ll cry. Unless, of course, he’s involved in this too.
Don’t make me do it Lions. Help yourselves while helping me. Do what’s good for you. Just take a freaking cornerback this one time.
*(I could give you an opinion on whether this was a good pick or not, but I covered a Big Ten football team last year that played against Iowa and still had no idea who this jolly fellow was when he was announced.)