While sifting through mock drafts since the end of the season, it's become evident that the general consensus for cornerback rankings is Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara and then Brandon Harris. Quite a few mocks have had the Lions picking Harris, but only because Peterson and Amukamara were selected in the top ten.
It's pretty well established that Peterson will be picked pretty early on in the 2011 NFL Draft, and most expect Amukamara to go shortly after. My best-case scenario for the Lions has been for Amukamara to drop to the 13th pick, allowing Detroit to fill a need at cornerback with him. I may have to reevaluate that stance after reading what Wes Bunting of National Football Post had to say about him, though.
Amukamara is a talented defensive back. He’s got a good feel for the game, possesses natural balance and body control when asked to redirect and closes well on the football on passes in front of him without much wasted motion. He exhibits good coordination when asked to adjust to the throw, displays solid ball skills on all areas of the field and will tackle inside the box and in space. He looks comfortable in zone/off coverages as well and isn’t afraid to even play in the slot. Pretty much you have a versatile defensive back who can play all over the field, in just about any scheme and be a productive defensive back, which is exactly what I project him as at the next level.
However, that doesn’t mean he warrants a top-ten pick. Because if I am using a top-ten pick on a prospect, especially at the cornerback position, he better have some elite athletic qualities to his game and have the kind of ability to mature into a potential shutdown guy on the outside in the NFL. And in all honesty I can’t say I see any real exceptionally dynamic qualities to Amukamara’s game. He can be technically sound, but he isn’t overly physical off the line of scrimmage when asked to re-route in press. And the biggest concern is that he really has only average straight-line speed. He struggles to make up for a false step and too often will allow receivers to get behind him vertically down the field, failing to quickly get back up to speed and close out of his transition.
Bunting not only doesn't think Amukamara is worth a top ten pick, but he has the Lions selecting Harris in his mock draft and passing on Amukamara. In fact, Bunting doesn't have Amukamara being selected until the 17th overall pick and thinks he projects better as a safety in the NFL.
Obviously I'm no scout and haven't spent hours poring over tape, but Bunting does raise some good points. Even so, I'm not ready to write off Amukamara based on one person's assessment, and the Lions do have a need at safety along with cornerback. That said, we saw something similar happen with Amari Spievey last offseason. The Lions selected him as a cornerback and he ended up getting moved to safety during training camp. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to draft Amukamara and have to move him to safety since there is a starting spot open next to Louis Delmas, but if the Lions are going to spend the 13th pick on a cornerback, it should be someone they know will be able to come in and start at that position.