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NFL Scouting Combine: Defense

Justin Gilbert would be a fine first-round pick for the Lions.
Justin Gilbert would be a fine first-round pick for the Lions.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Yesterday, I looked at some of the notable performances at the NFL Scouting Combine by wide receivers, because it is basically the only position on offense the Lions really need help at. Today, I shall look at some of the defensive standouts. Here, the Lions have more needs. Quite a few actually. A cornerback and a safety are pretty much a given. They could also, maybe, use a linebacker, and probably a defensive end and/or defensive tackle. The last few would be depth guys, but the Lions really need a starter at cornerback and safety. In their first three picks, getting one of each, alongside a wide receiver, would be a wise way to go.

Heading into the Combine, the only cornerback the Lions could have considered at 10th overall was Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. That was only solidified by the Combine. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash at 4.37 seconds. He was third in the bench press, and he did well in the broad jump too. Gilbert has good size, and he definitely seems worthy of the 10th overall pick to me. As I stated in a previous article, rookie cornerbacks tend to struggle a bit, but this isn't just a one season thing. Maybe Gilbert is only decent this year, but if he's really good by his third season, then it is all good, as they say.

If the Lions end up not going cornerback in the first round, then getting one in the next couple rounds becomes more or less a necessity. If they want a speedier, more athletic nickel cornerback type, then TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby are strong options. Verrett ran almost as well as Gilbert, and he jumped quite well also. Plus, he played quite well in college. The only issue is that he's 5'9'', but, again, that's why he could be a nickel guy, which in this modern NFL is more important.

Meanwhile, the big, strong man-to-man press cornerback is the new hip thing than to Richard Sherman and the Seahawks. There are two names that stick out. Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Utah's Keith McGill. In addition to being 6'3'', Jean-Baptiste had the best vertical jump at 41.5 inches, and his broad jump was good as well. That'll cover a lot of ground. McGill, also 6'3'', was about as good. Either of those guys would make a fine third round pick.

There weren't any real notable safeties at the Combine. The top two guys, Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor were fine. This is not a good safety class. The Lions would probably be best served by getting one in free agency, like they did with Glover Quin.

When it comes to defensive linemen, I figured I'd just note some possible late round guys who ran fast and/or lifted well. The two fastest guys, after superfreak Jadaveon Clowney, were small school guys, so they could be a nice late round grab. Those gentlemen? Bloomsburg's Larry Webster and Shepherd's Howard Jones. Jackson Jeffcoat out of Texas ran well also. Both of those guys did well in a lot of categories, actually. If Detroit wanted to take a shot on a raw player, either would be an intriguing possibility. None of the bench press guys are worth noting, honestly. It's all first round picks and guys who aren't interesting.

I shall not make too much out of the Combine, but melding these results with my prior thoughts based on the season, right now I'm feeling like Gilbert is Detroit's best option in the first round. It's better value than a wide receiver, and he is head and shoulders above the rest in this class, whereas wide receiver is deep. So, when the Lions finally are on the clock, here's hoping we hear his name.

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