It is no secret that the Detroit Lions need a corner. Rashean Mathis is ageing and the Lions need someone for him to groom as his replacement. He did wonderfully with Darius Slay, but Slay ended up replacing the injured Chris Houston instead. Now, Detroit is once again looking to draft Mathis’ replacement and one prospect that caught my eye is Mississippi State corner Justin Cox.
If you are a Mississippi State fan, the first thing you are probably thinking is that I made a typo. Justin Cox played free safety in college. Most scouts believe he is better suited to play corner in the NFL due to his build and speed. While his measurables are comparable to former Lions safety Louis Delmas, Delmas’ body broke down on him. Cox is also comparable to former San Francisco 49ers corner Chris Culliver which is why I feel like he would be a good corner prospect for Detroit to look at.
Cox will likely go in the mid to later rounds. CBSsports.com is projecting him in rounds 4-5 but I suspect he could go a little bit later if teams view him more as a free safety than as a corner. If more teams view him as a corner, then he could go early in the fourth round.
Justin Cox is 6’1 191lbs. He has great size for a corner and fits the mold of bigger corners that Martin Mayhew likes. He drafted Darius Slay, who is of a similar build, to replace Mathis once before. So it is likely he will target another corner that is at least 6 foot tall.
Below are the combine numbers for Justin Cox.
|40 Yard Dash
||3 Cone Drill
||20 Yard Shuttle
As you can see above, Cox has a decent vertical and decent speed. Both of which are more necessary for a corner than a safety. Usually, safeties are slower than corners because they are already playing deep in the defensive backfield and do not need the top end speed to stay with their man. Cox’s speed would be wasted playing free safety.
Some of his strengths are that he is lean and athletic. He has good acceleration and flexibility as well as hand eye coordination. His weaknesses, albeit mainly related to him being a safety, are that he tackles at the knees hoping to trip up the ball carrier. That is typical of corners in the NFL but frowned upon for safeties.
Overall, he would fit the Lions as a mid round prospect if they can regain some of the picks they traded to Baltimore. They have some needs on both the offensive and defensive lines that could be filled early on and a 4th round corner seems ideal after that. While Mayhew always chooses best player available regardless of need, I cannot help but expect him to take a look at need here and factor that in when choosing in rounds 1 and 2. If he fills the holes on the offensive line and defensive line, he will then have the freedom to draft a corner and a running back in any order, and Cox should be on the board.