On three occasions the Lions chose second (Joey Harrington in 2002; Charles Rogers in '03; Calvin Johnson in '07), but by the time Millen finally got it right with Johnson it was too late, the team was too far gone.
But these are the new-fangled Lions, with a revamped front office and a fresh-faced coaching staff. Instead of reflexively penciling in a wideout at No. 1, the organization is taking a more practical approach: filling a need and trying to save a few bucks while doing so.
Via Rob Rang:
Two independent sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed to NFLDraftScout.com that the Detroit Lions have entered into preliminary negotiations with the representatives for Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry for the right to be the first player selected in the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25.Draftniks agree that Curry is the safest pick in the draft, and Smith or Eugene Monroe are the top left tackles. Fewer people agree that Stafford is worth the top selection (despite obvious physical tools, personnel types question his decision making), and NFL Network's Mike Mayock rates Mark Sanchez higher.
The sources declined to go on the record discussing conversations related to Detroit's intentions with the selection.
Whatever happens, the Lions are taking the right approach: create competition among agents representing these players, drive down the cost of of what it will take to sign one of them, save a few million against the salary cap, and get a guy who'll contribute at a high level for the next decade.
It's hardly an original concept, but clubs have had success with it: the Dolphins signed Jake Long the week before the draft last year, and the Texans inked Mario Williams (over Reggie Bush) in 2006. Both are Pro Bowlers.
Put differently: it'll be very difficult for the Lions to mess this up. In theory, anyway.