Matt Millen left both the offensive and defensive lines decimated in the 10 years he was with the Lions. Granted, his first draft teased the Lion fan base in 2001 when two offensive line players were taken, left tackle Jeff Backus and center Dominic Raiola, in the first two rounds. With the second pick in round two, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers was taken.
Millen's first draft gave Lions fans hope that finally, finally, there was a GM within the Lions front office that was going to build the Lions right and start in the trenches.
Little did we know just how much of a farce that Millen was and just how much of a farce he made the Detroit Lions. His failure in subsequent drafts and free agency exposed his lack of judgment in evaluating talent. He went after players that didn't quite fit team needs.
I cannot stress enough of how critical the 2010 draft is going to be for Martin Mayhew and the Detroit Lions.
So I give you my first attempt at how the Lions should draft in 2010 and some possible free agents to go after with the caveat that things can change with trades. I hope that I just might surprise some people with my picks.
Round One - Defensive Tackle
Option A: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
Could be the "Barry Sanders" pick for the Lions defense. Opposing teams will have to account for Suh at all times as he could be a game changer for the Lions.
Option B: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
If the Rams don't draft Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame to satisfy their quarterback need, they will take Suh. McCoy won't be the monster on defense that Suh will be but he would be a huge upgrade to what the Lions have now.
Round Two - Cornerback
Option A: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
Not many wide receivers are going to run away from Dowling on deep patterns with his 4.50 speed. He's comparable to Pittsburgh Steelers corner Ike Taylor in that both have size, athleticism and competitive attitude both coaches and fans love to see. Would be a great complement to safety Louis Delmas.
Option B: Crezdon Butler, Clemson
While not as physical as Dowling is, Butler is a burner with 4.39 speed. He is considered one of the best corners in the nation with 43 tackles, four picks and five passes broken up.
Round Three - Defensive End
Option A: Corey Wootton, Northwestern
Tall (6-7), fast (4.83 40 time) and big (280 lbs), Wootton should be able to take on most tackles to get to the QB. And if he can't he can get those long arms up to bat down passes. He can disappear during stretches which is why he can be had in the third round.
Option B: Austen Lane, Murray State
I got no idea where Murray State and I don't care. Lane is 6-6 and 258 pounds and can run a 4.68 40. As with Wootton, he can get around those tackles and get the arms up to bat down passes. He had 14 sacks for Division 1-AA Murray State.
Round Four - Offensive Guard
Option A: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
This guy can bench press more than 425 lbs. At 6-4 and 324 pounds, he can open a lot of large holes in the defensive line as well as stifle any pass rush up the middle. Stick him next to Backus and maybe Backus won't look so bad.
Option A: Rodney Hudson, Florida State
He's been Florida State's top lineman for the past two years and was voted to the All-ACC First Team. If he declares, he would be an upgrade in talent to the Lions guards.
Round Five - Cornerback
Option A: Patrick Robinson, Florida State
In 2008, Robinson started only five games but picked off six passes and broke up another six. He's available in round five because of his involvement in Florida State's 2007 cheating scandal. But he's kept his nose clean since then and might be a good risk to take here. He's listed at 5-11 and 190 lbs. with 4.43 speed so he should be able to handle most slot receivers.
Option B: Kurt Coleman, Ohio State
Being from Michigan, it's really hard to say nice things about Ohio State players. But they did give us Chris Speilman, perhaps one of the best linebackers the Lions ever had.
Coleman plays safety at Ohio State but with his size and speed (5-11, 4.43), he'll be better suited to play corner in the NFL.
Round Six - Offensive Guard
Option A: Dan Doering, Iowa
Iowa always has produced talented NFL lineman and Doering should be no exception. 6-6 and 302 lbs, he'll be a great run blocker as well being decent in pass protection.
Option B: Jacques McClendon, Tennessee
This guys sounds more like a hockey player. But at a massive 6-3 and 324 lbs, I doubt that he'd be graceful on skates. In 2008, he was part of a unit that gave up only 4 sacks all year. However, like all Tennessee players in 2009, McClendon's value has dropped. Could be a steal here in round 6 though.
Round Seven - Center
Option A: Kenny Alfred, Washington State
Dominic Raiola, the Lions current center, has done yeoman service for the Lions. However, he is undersized and can be overpowered at times. Alfred is 6-2 and 302 lbs won't be pushed around as easily. Alfred can also play guard if needed so the round 6 pick could be used to address other needs.
Option B: Josh McNeil, Tennessee
Despite playing on one of the worst offenses ever produced at Tennessee, McNeil is considered one of the best centers available in the draft. At 6-4 and 289 lbs, McNeil won't be as easily overpowered as Raiola can be.
As you can see, my picks focus on the Lions biggest needs. The defensive line needs the most help and the offensive line can get by with current tackles Backus and Gosder if they can upgrade the guard positions.
Wide Receiver - Seattle Seahawk Nate Burleson will be an unrestricted free agent this year. He was Seattle's consolation prize when the Vikings snapped up offensive guard Steve Hutchinson. He has good hands and also has excellent kick return capabilities.
Could be the complement to Calvin Johnson the Lions have been looking for the past three years. Antonio Bryant from Tampa and Greg Lewis from Minnesota will also be free agents.
Backup Quarterback - Daunte Culpepper has got to go. Kyle Boller of the Rams has proved that he can play in this league. While not performing consistently for the Rams, he can be a capable backup. Charlie Batch is also available but I doubt he would want anything to do with the Lions.
Chris Redman could also be avaialble but I suspect Atlanta will keep him to back up Matt Ryan. This may be moot if the Lions decide that Drew Stanton is the backup. If so, the Lions will seek a lesser talented QB for third string.
Running Back - Chester Taylor from the Vikings would be the most intriguing. He was the man until Adrian Peterson came along. Paired with Kevin Smith and Aaron Brown, the Lions running game would become a serious upgrade. Also available are Chris Brown from the Texans and Willie Parker of the Steelers.
Granted, with my draft picks and free agent suggestions, there would be a serious need to spend some cash. I've never claimed to be wise in the ways of contracts and salary caps.
I do feel strongly that this direction, or one similar to it, will give the Lions the best chance to win.