Talking draft in December
In case you missed it, the Lions all but locked up the No. 1 pick in the draft over the weekend. Kansas City won at Oakland, giving the Chiefs two victories this year. That means the Lions at 0-12 would have to win two of their final four games to slide out of the No. 1 spot. (Cincinnati at 1-10-1 currently has pick No. 2.) Not gonna happen.
It's pointless to start breaking down the draft in December, especially since no one knows who'll be making picks for the Lions, but I've received a few emails on the subject so I want to highlight a few names/scenarios the Lions will be faced with come April.
In all likelihood, they'll have to choose between a potential franchise quarterback, either Oklahoma's Sam Bradford or Georgia's Matt Stafford; the top offensive tackle available (likely Alabama's Andre Smith); or defensive help (USC linebacker Rey Maualuga or Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody). Bradford, Stafford, Smith and Cody are all underclassmen, but with labor uncertainty and their status as probable top-10 picks I would expect all to forgo their final seasons of eligibility.
If the current regime is in place, I think the Lions go defense first and try to win with Daunte Culpepper at quarterback. If not, it comes down to whether the new decision-makers view Bradford or Stafford as a franchise-caliber, Matt Ryan-type quarterback. If the answer on either is yes, you can bet that's your No. 1 pick.
I've heard all the arguments against taking a quarterback No. 1 the Lions have too many other holes to fill; the hit-and-miss nature of taking a quarterback No. 1; the cost associated with signing that pick and while they're all grounded in truth, the fact is top-flight signal callers don't come around every day and they're the single biggest predictor of NFL success. The last five Super Bowl winners have employed four of the game's best quarterbacks in Eli and Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
The Lions' draft needs could change in the coming months if, say, Scott Pioli takes over as general manager, hires Josh McDaniels as head coach and signs Matt Cassel as a free agent. But if Stafford or Bradford grades out as a future Pro Bowler, he'll be worth the gamble at No. 1 especially when you consider how well Ryan and Baltimore's Joe Flacco have played as rookies this year (both are 8-4).