With Sam Bradford Staying a Sooner, Is It Matthew Stafford or Bust for Lions?

Scott RiegerAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2009

The Detroit Lions, who still have yet to hire a head coach, are sitting at the top of the draft board with the No. 1 pick.

While there are many different views as to what direction the Lions should go in with the pick, the four most likely courses of action appeared to be:

1. Select Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford

2. Select Georgia QB Matthew Stafford

3. Select Alabama OT Andre Smith

4. Trade Down

A report that came out today in the Tulsa (Okla.) World and has been published by ESPN and Detroit Free Press sources, said that indications were that Bradford was going to announce that he'll return to Oklahoma next season.

Bradford is expected to officially announce his decision at 5:30 p.m. EST today in a press conference.

If true, that would seem to narrow down the choices for the Lions and could possibly increase their ability to trade the pick.

The interesting part of the report to me was comments from Bradford's father, Kent Bradford, who said "Sam's decision will be based on what is in his best 'long-term' interests."

I can't help but think that Bradford thinks his "long-term" career would benefit by passing up multi-million dollars and returning to Norman, rather than face the possibility of being charged with reviving a franchise rooted in failure and turmoil.  While the thought makes me giggle a little, can we blame him?

Popular belief was that the Lions were either going to go for a franchise QB at No. 1 or try hard to trade the selection to another team in need of a QB.  With one of the two top prospects out of the discussion, a team might be more eager to jump up and grab Stafford.

The reality, in my opinion, is that Bradford is the better QB, but there are mixed feelings on that topic as well.  Experts tout Stafford's measurables and NFL arm while others point to Bradford's production, completion percentage, and QB rating.

Some would say that the Lions couldn't go wrong by selecting a top QB with the first pick and point to the successes of Peyton and Eli Manning to illustrate their point.

Sadly, the Lions have been down this road before many times, most recently with Joey Harrington.  It is my belief that while the quarterback is one of the most important positions on the field, they are significantly better and more effective when the supporting cast around them is solid.  The Lions aren't and haven't been in some time.

They boast two legitimate playmakers in Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith, and have a good young RT in last years first round pick, Gosder Cherilus.  The rest of the line is average or below average and is in need of a serious boost.

That is why I am in favor of selecting a bookend LT like Andre Smith with the first selection, solidifying the other OL positions and selecting players to boost our lackluster defense with the remaining selections. 

That would go a long way towards helping the current quarterbacks on our roster, who do have some good ability, to be more effective and play better.

Furthermore, a defense that can get off of the field better will give said offense more opportunities.  Also, with Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford likely coming out next year, the opportunity to select a franchise QB will be there then as well. 

We don't have to rush into selecting Stafford this year, and let him get crushed next season because the line is still horrible, possibly getting injured or ruining his confidence and career like the long list of bust QB's before him.

So, is it Stafford or bust now?  I don't think so.  In fact, I think that it will be a bust if we do take him.


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