Lions strengthen their pass defense by drafting two cornerbacks

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The NFL draft enabled the Detroit Lions to turn a potential weakness into a strength by selecting cornerbacks with their first two picks.

The Lions traded up five spots in Thursday’s first round to select Terrion Arnold from Alabama and followed it up by taking Ennis Rakestraw from Missouri with their second-round pick Friday.

Detroit, which made it to the NFC championship game last season, finished 27th against the pass overall and allowed the second-most passing yards per game in the playoffs.

The Lions' additions in the draft — along with trading for Carlton Davis, re-signing Emmanuel Moseley and Khalil Dorsey and signing free agent Amik Robertson — are expected to lead to intense battles in training camp.

“Yeah, it’s a bloodbath in there now,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said of his team's cornerback room. “It is, and that’s what makes everything better. It makes the room better, it makes the defense better, it makes the team better. Competition just brings the best out of everybody.”


Holmes believes Detroit’s roster is improved, but it’s up to the six drafted players to prove him right.

“It’s a good feeling to be in the spot where we feel good about the depth we have, to feel good about the future we have,” Holmes said Saturday. “But those guys got to compete and win spots. But I know that we’re a better football team.

“Now to take that step like what you were talking about, it’s going to be really up to them. Now we’re going to do our part and make sure that they’re surrounded with the resources to be set up for success with their development. But those guys got to compete.”


For the first time in team history, the Lions drafted a player from a Canadian college. They chose offensive tackle Giovanni Manu from the University of British Columbia in the fourth round.

The Lions traded their 2025 third-round pick Saturday to the New York Jets to select the 6-foot-7, 352-pound Manu, who did not begin playing football until he was in the 10th grade and was raised on the south Pacific island of Tonga before moving to British Columbia at the age 11.

Detroit is hoping Manu develops into a player similar to his now-teammate, tackle Penei Sewell. Manu remembers Sewell saying that any Polynesian kids who want to make it to the NFL can do so if they put their minds to it.

“I was in my second year of college when he said that and I remember that it really motivated me,’’ Manu said. “I told myself if one of my Polynesian brothers can make it, there’s no reason I can’t do it either. He’s a true inspiration to Samoa and the whole Polynesian community. It (will be) great to play with a guy to soak up as much information and technique from him.’’


Detroit traded up a second time on the third day of the draft to take Sione Vaki of Utah in the fourth round.

The Lions swapped picks with Philadelphia to choose Vaki, who was 2023 first-team All-Pac 12 Conference and a finalist for Polynesian College Football Player of the Year and the Paul Hornung Award, which honors the most versatile player. Vaki rushed 42 times for 317 yards and two touchdowns while also playing last season as a safety and on special teams.

“I’m here to be a resource,” Vaki said. “My biggest thing is being available. So wherever the organization needs me, I’m going to be. If they need me passing out waters to the vets, that’s what I’ll do.”

Holmes said Vaki's pro day was one of the best he saw this year.

“He’s a football player that plays football how we like it,” Holmes said. “And there’s nothing about him that he doesn’t have the ability to play safety because he can do that, too.”

The trade with the Eagles also yielded a sixth-round pick, which the Lions used to select guard Christian Mahogany of Boston College.

In their final trade Saturday with Houston, the Lions moved up in the sixth round to choose LSU defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo.