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Detroit Lions hunting for DB help a year after drafting Jeff Okudah

Free Press sports reporter Dave Birkett takes a position-by-position look at the top prospects and biggest Detroit Lions needs in the 2021 NFL draft. This is the sixth in an eight-part series.

Defensive back

The Lions are going young in the secondary in 2021, with their top two cornerbacks and both starting safeties still on their rookie contracts. It is a promising group, led by last year’s No. 3 overall pick, Jeff Okudah, but one that needs another dose of rookie talent.

Okudah had a disappointing first season in Detroit, when he played hurt most of the year. He has been re-energized by the coaching change, Lions president Rod Wood said, and the Lions brought in a good defensive teaching staff in coordinator Aaron Glenn and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant that should help get the most out of his talent. Amani Oruwariye projects as the Lions’ No. 2 cornerback this fall, with veteran free agent additions Quinton Dunbar and slot man Corn Elder playing backup roles.

Panthers running back Mike Davis runs past Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.

Tracy Walker should benefit from a move back to free safety, as he played out of position last year but was the Lions’ best defensive back in 2019. Will Harris is penciled into the other starting safety spot, though he has had an inconsistent start to his career. The Lions have both short- and long-term needs at safety and lack proven playmakers at cornerback, so it would not be a surprise to see them address either position early in the draft.


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