With just about five weeks left until the 2009 NFL Draft, it appears that the Detroit Lions have narrowed their choices for the top pick to three players: QB Matt Stafford, T Jason Smith, and LB Aaron Curry.
While each player can make an argument for top billing, only one really makes sense for the Lions.
Coming off an 0-16 season, which is extremely impressive in and of itself, the Lions aren't really pressed for time to turn this ship around.
Sure, new head coach Jim Schwartz gave his rah rah speech when he was hired, but we've heard the same rant from Rod Marinelli, Steve Mariucci, Marty Mornhinweg, and Bobby Ross before that.
They all promised to turn it around and none of them were able to.
If the Lions were smart, and that's a big if, they'd send that No. 1 pick to Denver for Jay Cutler. The one missing piece in the Lions' system for the past twenty years has been a franchise QB. They've tried to plug journeymen into the position and build around him (four receivers taken in the first round since 2002), but that strategy has never translated into W's in the win column. Can you imagine the Cutler to Calvin Johnson combo? Legit.
Say this move doesn't take place, and the Lions are forced to sit tight at the top pick, I think they should pass over QB Matt Stafford and select T Jason Smith.
While Stafford has gotten a lot of love from some "experts," I don't see where they're coming from. Aside from his physical talents, and they are many, he never won anything of consequence at Georgia, and he was blessed with a pretty talented supporting cast the last few years.
Physical tools are important, but intangibles separate the good from the great.
Smith on the other hand is an absolute specimen at the tackle position and incredibly athletic. He could man the LT position for the next decade and make life a whole lot easier for whoever they bring in to throw the football.
A lot of franchises in rebuilding mode, and it's safe to say that Detroit is rebuilding, usually begin with a QB or LT.
But when one looks a little deeper, it's easy to see that many struggling franchises who opted for a QB are still struggling years later: (Carr) Houston, (Couch) Cleveland, (Smith) San Francisco, (Harrington) in Detroit and so on.
Others have been able to rebuild quicker by solidifying the second most important offensive position (outside of QB) and then filling the QB need in the second round or through free agency: Jacksonville in '95 (Boselli) and Miami last year (Long).
Curry is considered by many to be the safest player in the NFL draft. But it's hard to select a LB over the other two positions because his overall impact on the game is far less.
So, as we come closer to draft, and the Lions find themselves on the clock, if they are unable to orchestrate a pre-draft deal for Cutler, I think they sit tight and grab their LT for the next decade and then focus on their QB with the top pick in the second round or through free agency.