What will the Lions do? Rest of NFL wants to know

Posted: April 28, 2007

Brady Quinn wasn't shy. He said it, and he meant it. The former Notre Dame quarterback wants to be the first overall pick in today's NFL draft. It's important to him.

"I've always said I want to go No. 1 in this draft because I'm a competitor," Quinn said Thursday. "I want to be the best person in this draft."

While it is always interesting to see who will be the first player picked - in this case, presumably, by the Oakland Raiders - the real intrigue in this year's draft is at the No. 2 slot. Just what will the Detroit Lions decide? Will they keep the pick? And if so, will they use it on a quarterback, which they need, or on another position? Will the Lions trade the pick, and thus set into flux the rest of the draft board? Or will they trade the player they picked?

So many questions. For now, one answer: The Lions have the biggest chip in this game, and how they play it could totally tilt the draft, and affect those teams right behind them. Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Washington, Minnesota, Atlanta, Miami and Houston will be waiting, and watching.

"I don't know that it's a cinch what Oakland will do, but obviously with Detroit being where they are, it's certainly going to matter what they decide," said Rod Graves, the Arizona Cardinals' vice president of football operations. "The same could be said with Cleveland and whether they take a quarterback or a running back. I think anything within those first four picks could have a big bearing. Maybe I'm saying that because we pick fifth."

First things first. Raiders owner Al Davis holds the No. 1 pick in the draft for the first time ever, and reportedly is leaning toward Louisiana State quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The 77-year-old Davis needs a game-winning player, and he needs him now.

Oakland managed just 12 offensive touchdowns - six passing - last year. Its quarterbacks combined for 21 interceptions. The only quarterbacks on the roster today are Andrew Walter and Josh Booty, and only Walter has NFL game experience.

The Raiders have two good receivers - Randy Moss and Jerry Porter - yet no one of note to throw them the ball. Davis wanted former Texas quarterback Vince Young a year ago, but Tennessee got to Young first. Davis then passed on Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler, who became starters for Arizona and Denver, respectively, during the season.

Yet Davis has not used a first-round pick on a quarterback since 1991, when the Raiders selected Todd Marinovich. And Davis is fond of pointing out that the Raiders reached the Super Bowl with two journeymen quarterbacks, Jim Plunkett and Rich Gannon.

While there is speculation that the Raiders could trade Moss and could acquire quarterback Daunte Culpepper from Miami, the popular guess is that Davis will select Russell, who was 25-4 as a starter. If so, that would leave Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, widely regarded as the best pure talent in the draft, for the Lions.

Detroit president Matt Millen has selected three receivers in the first round of the last four drafts, and the Lions badly need speed on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Rod Marinelli reportedly wants Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, but Adams doesn't warrant the No. 2 spot.

So the Lions could select Johnson, and then field offers for him. Tampa Bay, Washington and Atlanta likely are interested. Or the Lions could trade down, and select Adams with a lower pick.

Asked Thursday how he feels about being a hot commodity, and also the biggest bargaining chip, in the draft, Johnson said: "There's no negatives about my situation. Whatever may happen, if I'm a bargaining chip for teams, so be it."

Teams love Johnson because he is big, strong, sure-handed and fast. The 6-foot-5, 239-pound junior has been compared to Terrell Owens and to Moss, only without the personal baggage. Johnson likely will have an immediate impact, for whichever team chooses him.

Johnson said he "can't help but hear" the speculation about where he will go, or what Detroit will do. Time after time, Johnson has said that he doesn't really care where he plays, but that he's ready to get started.

"This is a dream come true, to have an opportunity to play professional sports," Johnson said. "It's an opportunity a lot of people don't have. I'll be real excited, but I'm real anxious to get this process over. . . . I just want to get to the team, whatever team it is."

As for Quinn, he also could be Oakland's pick, or, if he falls to No. 3, could land with the team he grew up cheering for in Ohio - the Browns.

"I don't have a choice," Quinn said. "People are saying, 'Do you want to go to the Browns?' Yeah, dude, great situation for my family and I. It would be living out a childhood dream. But . . . it's not my pick, so I don't know. We'll have to wait and see if they pick me.

"If I don't end up in Cleveland, you don't want to be let down. If that's the place you're trying to say you want to go and it's out of your hands, why sit there and say that? So really, I don't have a favorite."


NFL Draft by Position: Defensive Linemen

Remember last year? Remember the name that Paul Tagliabue called first, before any other, shocking the National Football League?

Remember Mario Williams?

Yes, the Houston Texans selected a defensive lineman first in 2006, instead of taking running back Reggie Bush.

It was the 12th time since 1967 that a defensive lineman was the first overall pick. There won't be a 13th this year, but these five players will likely be first-round selections:

DE Gaines Adams, 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Clemson. A likely top-five pick, Adams was a first-team all-American and the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year. As a senior in 2006, Adams had 62 tackles and a career-high 121/2 sacks, with 171/2 tackles for losses, six deflected passes, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, one of which he took to the house.

DT Amobi Okoye, 6-2, 287 pounds, Louisville. His nickname is "Phe," as in phenom. Okoye is 19 years old. And a college graduate. And about to become the youngest player drafted in the first round since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. The Nigeria-born Okoye is also an "Eni," as in enigma. How big will he get? Where should he play? How will he fit in? His successful past predicts he will be phenomenal.

DE Adam Carriker, 6-6, 292 pounds, Nebraska. A third-team all-American, Carriker started 34 games for the Cornhuskers. Last season, he had 52 tackles, seven sacks and 16 stops behind the line of scrimmage. NFLDraftScout.com likens Carriker to New England defensive end Richard Seymour: someone who is more suited to a 3-4 defense, and can stuff the run and rush the passer up the middle.

DT Alan Branch, 6-6, 331 pounds, Michigan. If you're looking for big, Branch is it. He's a monster in the middle of the line, and helped Michigan suffocate opponents' running games. No one ran the ball on Michigan last season. Penn State finished with negative yards on the ground. A big reason was Branch, who can help an NFL team immediately.

DE Jamaal Anderson, 6-6, 229 pounds, Arkansas.

A highly acclaimed wide receiver in high school, Anderson moved to defensive end his freshman year at Arkansas. Although relatively new to the position - he played three college seasons, and did not redshirt - Anderson ranked third in the country last season with 131/2 sacks. He is a speed rusher who also finished the 2006 season with 191/2 tackles for losses and 26 quarterback pressures.

Others: End Jarvis Moss, Tennessee; tackle Justin Harrell, Tennessee; end Ray McDonald, Florida; end LaMarr Woodley, Michigan; end Anthony Spencer, Purdue.

- Ashley Fox


Contact staff writer Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com.

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