Curry might give Lions trading options
Chances are slim the Lions will do what they'd most like to with the No. 1 pick trade it. There's no once-in-a-generation talent in this year's draft pool, and no team wants to give more than $30 million guaranteed to an unproven rookie.
The best hope the Lions have of moving out of the top spot is to generate a bidding war for Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. That goes against the logic that says no linebacker is worth taking No. 1, but four of the top five teams in the draft (including the Lions) have gaping holes at that position and Curry is the closest thing to a safe pick.
The key here is for teams to think the Lions are still interested in Curry, something they did a good job selling last week. They say they'll play him at middle linebacker, and, oh, imagine the possibilities with Curry, Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims. (I'm not saying they're not interested, by the way, but with a bunched draft board, moving down a few spots, saving money and picking up additional compensation trumps getting your No. 1 player.)
St. Louis at No. 2 appears set on taking a tackle and probably won't argue with either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. But Kansas City at No. 3, Seattle at No. 4 and Cleveland at No. 5 all covet help for their bottom-seven defenses, and Curry is a practical fit. New Chiefs GM Scott Pioli drafted linebacker Jerod Mayo No. 1 last year in New England; Seattle traded Peterson to the Lions last week; and Cleveland's biggest need is pass-rushing help at outside linebacker.
Five years ago, San Diego essentially traded the No. 1 pick (the Chargers chose Eli Manning, then dealt him to the Giants) for four draft choices and still got the player it coveted in Phillip Rivers. If general manager Martin Mayhew's able to swing a deal, the Lions might have similar luck. Quarterback Matt Stafford seems destined to slide if the Lions don't draft him, but he'd be more attractive for less money at pick No. 3. If it's Mark Sanchez they covet, as ProFootballTalk.com reported Sunday, there's less uproar if he goes No. 4 than No. 1. And Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji would be an immediate contributor at defensive tackle, a position of even greater need than linebacker, is palatable as the fifth overall choice but a bit of a reach as the first.
Of course, the Lions might have to settle for something less than a San Diego-like haul in return (the Chargers got a first and third in 2004, and a first and fifth in 2005). But if they really want Raji or Sanchez or are OK with either of the tackles if there's no discernible difference between the top five or six players on their board, basically than taking less than market value shouldn't be that big of a deal.