This year, more than ever, the 2010 NFL Draft is feeling like a real "it" event. Perhaps it is because Thursday's first-round will take place in prime time, or perhaps it is just the next point along the exponential growth chart.
Or maybe it is because the event has become the Detroit Lions personal Super Bowl, the height of expectations for Lions fandom.
Repeated failures at the top of the draft during the Matt Millen era has done little to quell the fervor of the Honolulu blue-and-silver faithful. It seems, quite the opposite has happened.
Everyone has an opinion (even a few rogue bloggers ), and most of them favor the intimidating man with an intimidating name: former Nebraska defensive tackle Ndomukong Suh.
Fans will always have an opinion. Just last year a Lions mob gathered at the logo unveiling and publicly-lobbied for linebacker Aaron Curry over Matthew Stafford. Sorry fans, the professional opinion won out, and thus far the early returns suggest they made the right call.
The difference between this year and last year is that it is beginning to look like the fans and the organization agree. From the Detroit News :
"Let me say this, the draft board has been pretty solidly set. We are going to go over some mock-draft scenarios over the next couple days and cover all of our options. There are a lot of different ways we can go, but you won't be disappointed," said Lions coach Jim Schwartz, as the crowd was chanting "Suh, Suh."
What kind of euphoria would break out if the masses get their man?
Drafting Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung makes just as much football sense as Suh, but the overall impact would not be the same.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has the opportunity to improve his football team, and re-energize the fan base in one fell swoop. Suh would instantly become one of the most popular Detroit Lions; jersey sales would be off the charts, and a few straggling season ticket renewals might come in after all.
Perhaps, most importantly, selecting Suh would show a commitment to the defensive side of the ball, the importance of which can not be understated in the shadow of two historically bad defensive seasons. The Lions already have their toys on offense; it is time to build a defensive identity .
One draft pick will not create an identity. Fortunately, the draft will not end with the No. 2 overall pick. Mayhew will need to find productive players well after the green room clears.
Second Round (34th Overall Pick)
The Lions have needs all over the defense, so they can focus on taking the best available defensive player. This year's draft is considered deep, so there should be plenty of round one talent that slips to the Lions here.
Some names to keep in mind: Defensive end Everson Griffen, linebacker Sean Witherspoon, and cornerback Patrick Robinson.
If the Lions somehow don't end up with enticing defensive options, then running back Jahvid Best could be considered, but only if they are confident he will arrive healthy.
Third Round (66th Overall Pick)
If the Lions pass on Best, they might take a look at Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster, if he is still available. The Lions would like more big play potential out of the backfield, and the spritely McCluster could provide it, much like the San Diego Chargers' Darren Sproles.
If the commitment to defense continues, then Northwestern defensive end Corey Wooton, Washington linebacker Donald Butler, and Indiana (Pa.) defensive back Akwasi Owusu-Ansah project to be potentially available players for Detroit.
Fourth Round (100th Overall Pick)
The Lions should use this pick to take the best player available at a position of need not addressed in the first three rounds. Sammie Hill was a good find in round four last year; coming up with another diamond in the rough would solidify Mayhew's growing reputation.
The Lions still need to find someone to pair with Louis Delmas at safety. Myron Rolle is an interesting candidate after he spent a year away from football to study medical anthropology at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
Rolle was a productive player at Florida State, and a fifth-round grade from ESPN makes the risk low for a potentially high reward. The Lions don't currently have a fifth-round pick (sent to Seattle for guard Rob Sims), so a draft day trade would need to come together.
Look for the Lions to make a couple moves during the draft. If the Lions find themselves with a number of good options with any of their picks, then they may look to trade down to accumulate more picks. Moving up may also be a possibility as I don't expect the Lions to keep all four seventh rounders.
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