Lions Projected to Add ‘Under the Radar’ CB as Immediate Starter

T.J. Tampa

Getty ESPN's Mel Kiper predicted the Detroit Lions to target Iowa State cornerback T.J. Tampa at No. 29 overall in the 2024 NFL draft.

The Detroit Lions are picking as late as they ever have in the 2024 NFL draft. But ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. still expects the Lions to land a starter in Iowa State cornerback T.J. Tampa during the first round.

Kiper predicted the Lions to take Tampa with the 29th overall pick in his latest mock draft on February 28.

“Here’s a corner who might be going a little under the radar. Tampa can start for a team from day one,” Kiper wrote. “He played nearly 900 coverage snaps for the Cyclones, and he saw every route. After giving up four touchdown passes as the nearest defender in coverage in 2021, he allowed only three in the next two seasons.

“He made a massive improvement in 2023. Although Tampa had only three interceptions in college, I think he could be more productive in the NFL.”

Tampa made the AP and coaches All-Big 12 first-team during the 2023 season. He was also a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the top college defensive back, and the Bednarik Award, awarded to the top defensive player in college football.

In 37 college games at Iowa State, Tampa posted 107 total tackles, 19 pass defenses, and 3 interceptions. During 2023, he had 44 total tackles, including 3 for loss, 7 pass defenses and 2 interceptions.

Why Iowa State’s T.J. Tampa Could Be a Target for Lions

NFL analysts such as Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox has proposed the Lions being aggressive and trading up in the first round to grab one of the top cornerbacks in the 2024 class.

But if the Lions grab Tampa at No. 29 overall, they will have landed one of the best  prospects at the position in the minds of some scouts.

“T.J. Tampa is one of the top cornerback prospects in the 2024 draft class,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Cory Giddings. “The long-limbed athlete has great length and size for the cornerback position and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection by the conference’s coaches in 2022.”

Ironically, Giddings compared Tampa to current Lions safety Ifeatu Melifonwu, who grew into a starter for Detroit late in 2023.

Giddings and Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings both consider Tampa a potential early second or late first-round pick.

“Tampa grades out as a top-50 prospect of the 2024 NFL Draft on my board and a fringe top-five CB candidate,” Cummings wrote. “He’s worthy of early Day 2 capital, but he could also field late Round 1 consideration with his elite physical tools and high-end physicality.”

Lions Connected to Several CB in NFL Free Agency

NFL pundits have linked the Lions to numerous cornerback options, particularly ones set to be available in free agency. It’s easy to see why.

The Lions were ranked 27th in pass defense during the 2023 season. They were also 27th in passing touchdowns allowed and 29th in net yards yielded per pass attempt.

Detroit is expected to lose a lot of depth in its secondary as well, particularly at cornerback. Veteran cornerbacks Kindle Vildor, Jerry Jacobs and Emmanuel Moseley will all be unrestricted free agents in March.

So, the Lions have been connected to L’Jarius Sneed and Kendall Fuller, both of whom are top cornerbacks who could be available in free agency. Detroit has also been a popular team mentioned in trade rumors involving veteran cornerbacks.

But with cornerback an obvious need and little depth at the position heading into free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Lions address cornerback in March and then still target a defensive back early in the 2024 NFL draft.

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