Lions have a long term plan at cornerback after the 2024 NFL Draft

Catching Lions fans by surprise, the Detroit Lions selected Missouri cornerback Ennis Rakestraw with the 61st overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. This caught fans off guard because on the opening night of the draft, the Lions moved up and selected Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold with the 24th overall pick.

Now some may look at Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell and say they’re trying to be the “smartest guys in the room” by doubling down at the cornerback position. Before you think that, just look at what the Philadelphia Eagles did with their first two picks of the year. They did the exact same thing so let’s just hit the brakes.

Fortunately, there’s a general consensus to trust Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell when it comes to the way they attack the draft process They operate with conviction and they trust their process. For the 2024 NFL Draft, not only did the Lions draft good football players but they showed that they’re preparing for the future.

It’s not a move that we’ve seen very often as Lions fans but a long term plan at the cornerback position is a smart move by Detroit. For starters, they only have Carlton Davis and Emmanuel Moseley under contract for this upcoming season. Additionally, they only signed Amik Robertson to a two-year contract.

Despite having those veteran defensive backs, there’s longevity concerns with Davis and Moseley. Both players have dealt with multiple injuries over the last two seasons. Most importantly, it was clear that the Lions had issues in the secondary last season.

The Lions allowed the 6th most passing yards per game (247.4 passing yards) and the 6th most passing touchdowns (28 passing touchdowns) in the NFL last season. Getting a plan in place to improve their secondary was a priority this off-season and it’s clear the Lions front office felt the same way.

Adding Rakestraw and Arnold gives the Lions their future number one and number two cornerbacks. They are the exact type of players that the Lions value. Tough and hard nosed football players that get after it every chance they get. For both players, I described them both as willing run defenders that embrace contact on the perimeter.

According to PFF run defense scores, the top-2 scores belong to Arnold (90.6) and Rakestraw (89.0). Those are the exact players that will be valued in Detroit under this regime. Here’s my overall projections on both players from my 2024 NFL Draft Guide:

Terrion Arnold — “Arnold enters the NFL with the projection of being a number one cornerback. Defenses searching for a corner that excels in man coverage will love the talent possessed by Arnold. He plays physical and loves contact and competition from the opposition. His aggressiveness will get him trouble as it appears to cause his technique to get wild or it’ll take him out of position. But his fluidity, effort and ability to press and lockdown receivers is encouraging for his development in the NFL.”

Ennis Rakestraw — “Rakestraw is a highly competitive cornerback that is tough and physical. His length helps him jam and redirect defenders while battling at the catch point. Productive in both man and zone coverage, he appears best suited as a press-man corner in the NFL. His aggressiveness in the run game is a plus on the perimeter but his physicality can become troublesome downfield in coverage. If Rakestraw can stay healthy, he can be a number two cornerback in a defense looking for another man defender.”

With Terrion Arnold, he needs to clean up some of his lower body technique as he tends to leave his feet too early and his lower half doesn’t always follow or flow evenly with the rest of his body.

As for Rakestraw, he will get flagged due to his physical nature but the biggest key for him is staying healthy. The ACL injury in 2021 and groin injury in 2023 will be worth monitoring. Oddly enough, I compared Rakestraw to current Lions cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.

No matter the pro comparisons and some of the slight knocks to both players games, I’m very excited for their development in Detroit. To me, the Lions got great value with Rakestraw and in all honesty, the same could be said about Arnold. After all, the Crimson Tide defender was my top ranked corner and my 14th ranked player in the draft.

Getting better on defense was clearly a big part of the Lions agenda this off-season. Fortunately, they developed a plan and stuck to it. On paper, it makes sense and appears to be a great plan. We’ll see how it transitions to success on the field but right now, the future looks bright in the Lions secondary.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire