Houston could be key to Lions’ first-round draft pick

Lions cornerback Chris Houston is coming off a rough season and reportedly has a toe injury now.

Benny Sieu/Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not the Detroit Lions decide to take a cornerback in two weeks with the No. 10 pick overall in the NFL Draft could come down to their faith in Chris Houston.

Houston, who was re-signed to a five-year deal when he became an unrestricted free agent a year ago, is coming off a rough season. He’s also reportedly hampered now by a toe injury and didn’t attend the team’s three-day, voluntary minicamp that concluded Thursday.

New coach Jim Caldwell admitted he’s not sure what to expect from Houston, 29, who’s entering his eighth year in the league.

Will he return to the form that to that long-term contract? Or will he continue to regress?

"I’m not certain," Caldwell said. "You’re never 100-percent certain about anything. I can’t be certain if I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning. Tomorrow’s not promised.

"He’s a young man, and typically they heal pretty quickly, unlike old guys like me. We anticipate he’ll come along. We’ll have to wait and see."

The Lions decided to bring back Rashean Mathis, who’s entering his 12th year. They also have four young cornerbacks — Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green — who have been drafted in the last two years.

But Houston’s supposed to be the No. 1 cornerback. If he’s not likely to live up to that role anymore, the Lions might be forced to seriously consider using their first-round pick on Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard or Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.

Gilbert, incidentally, made a visit to the Lions’ headquarters Thursday and watched the team’s practice.

"Talented guy and a fine gentleman," Caldwell said.

EXTRA POINTS

— Quarterback Matthew Stafford made a trip to London a couple months ago to promote the NFL in advance of the Lions’ game there this season.

"It was a blast," Stafford said. "People out there love the game. Their love of the game is so simple. It’s not ‘Hey, in Week 4 last year, why didn’t you get me more fantasy points?’

"It was ‘How fun is it to play with Calvin (Johnson)?’ or ‘How cool is it to play against this guy?’ It’s more generic questions."

The trip came during the Super Bowl, in which Seattle defeated Denver.

"I picked the Broncos, so they think I’m an idiot," Stafford said.

— Caldwell, on the news that the Lions will open the regular season against the New York Giants: "It’s great to have an opportunity to start off at home on a Monday night. There’s always been great electricity and excitement in Ford Field. It will even be more so on that first night. I think our guys are looking forward to being on that grand stage on that evening."

— Running back Mikel Leshoure missed the last couple days of the minicamp.

"He did have a personal issue," Caldwell said. "We knew where he was going, what was happening."