Detroit Lions draft Alabama CB Tyrion Arnold: How he fits in, grade selection and scouting information

The Detroit Lions selected Alabama cornerback Tyrion Arnold with the 24th pick in the first round Thursday of the 2024 NFL Draft. The Lions traded picks 29 and 73 to the Dallas Cowboys for the 24th overall pick and the 2025 seventh overall pick.

Unlike teammate and secondary partner Kool-Aid McKinstry, who earned a starting role as a freshman and spent more than two years as a prominent member of Nick Saban's defense, Arnold took a gradual path in his three-year college career before cementing himself as a member of the defensive staff. First round talent. After redshirting as a freshman and being benched after a 2022 loss to Tennessee — a moment he publicly cited this spring as a turning point in his career — Arnold shined in his lone year as a starter in every game, tied for the lead in the SEC. In passes defended (17) and interceptions (5).

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The collapse of the “monster”.

Arnold ranked No. 10 on Dane Brugler's Big 300 list. Here's what Brugler had to say about him in his annual NFL Draft guide:

“Arnold offers the perfect blend of athleticism and competitive makeup, with the ball skills necessary to play at every level of the field. He is versatile and has a knack for operating inside or outside. He could be the No. 1 cornerback on an NFL team, and offers a skill set similar to that of The Chicago Bears' Jaylon Johnson has it.

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Intel training

What two anonymous coaches said about Arnold in Bruce Feldman's mock draft:

“He's continued to improve. He's good at everything. I think he can play anywhere in the secondary and shine.”

“Kool-Aid (McKinstry) was the guy the media talked about the most, but in my opinion, Arnold is more talented.”

Why he is a first round pick

Arnold has received rave reviews for his media performance at the NFL Scouting Combine which reflects the competitiveness and confidence he displays between the lines. These traits meshed with his roaming instincts seamlessly during a very productive 2023, helping him emerge as a punishing presence for crimes McKinstry wanted to avoid at all costs.

Nick Baumgardner ranks the selection

Local fans in Detroit were concerned that the Lions might be eliminated in the first round. But when the corners started to fall, Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell couldn't help but answer the phone. Detroit moved up five spots, from 29th to 24th, filling a big need. Obviously, Arnold and Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell were the top two corners in this draft. Top 15 prospects on my board.

For Detroit, Arnold fills a clear need and is a perfect fit for Detroit's culture. He's a confident corner who plays with swag, loves to work, loves to train hard, and loves to win. Arnold will also be able to reunite with Brian Branch at a new high school in Detroit. Another great value choice. Grade: A.

How it fits

Arnold, quite simply, fits like a glove. He was arguably the top linebacker in the 2024 draft. He was Nick Saban's favorite at Alabama this class. He is known for his football IQ, communication ability, competitiveness, and desire to be great. At Alabama last year, he recorded 17 passes defended and was the only FBS player with at least five interceptions and 12 pass breakups. He is versatile, having played both inside and outside in his collegiate career. The Lions had a long-term need at the position, with Carlton Davis III on a one-year deal and adding Amik Robertson to compete for the starting job. They don't do that anymore. Arnold, if struck, gives them the man they were looking for. General manager Brad Holmes said he started making calls to teams in his teens to trade for Arnold, and seemed amazed that he could make Arnold at No. 24. He was the No. 1 cornerback on Holmes' plate.

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Beginner effect

Arnold's main goal should be to grow as a starter. This offseason, the Lions reworked their running back room to add Davis and Robertson, while re-signing Emmanuel Moseley. In the process, they allowed themselves the opportunity to let Arnold develop over time if he wasn't ready to start right away. This is what happens when you try to eliminate needs in free agency. The Lions have a roster that will be difficult for a rookie to crack the starting lineup, and that's by design. However, a player of Arnold's caliber can challenge.

Depth chart effect

Although the Lions could allow Arnold to develop, he is talented enough to start immediately in a secondary that has gotten better every year. Remember when Detroit drafted Brian Branch? The initial belief was that C.J. Gardner-Johnson would start at nickel, and Branch would stay for a year. This did not happen. Branch was so good, so early on, the Lions moved Gardner Johnson to safety. At this point, it's safe to consider Davis a starter, considering his experience in the corner man and the capital the Lions traded to acquire him. But beyond that, the CB2 role should be up for grabs. Robertson was brought in to compete for the starting gig and the Lions were happy to add him to the mix. But Arnold is the future here. It's a question of when, not if, he starts for this franchise. Training camp should be fun.

They could also choose…

Few players were a better fit for the Lions than Arnold, especially after they traded up to get him. Holmes always talks about choosing players they like, not positions they need. Arnold always felt like he was their man. However, there are a few other prospects that would have made sense: DB Cooper DeJean, DT Johnny Newton, edge Darius Robinson, fellow Bama cornerback McKinstry and Oregon C Jackson Powers-Johnson felt like a fit in that range.

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Quick evaluation

The Lions needed a long-term cornerback and they got one in Arnold, arguably the top cornerback in the draft. It gives them another potential young building block to add to their emerging roster. He's feisty, has a short memory, is confident in his game, defends the run well and has all the tools to be a potential CB1. The Lions had to part with the No. 73 pick in the third round to acquire Arnold's services, but considering their roster doesn't have a lot of needs, getting a guy they believe in is a fair price.

(Photo: Butch Dell/USA Today)

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