ALLEN PARK — As the first round of the NFL draft progressed, Jim Schwartz could feel his blood pressure rise.
The Lions coach wanted to draft running back Jahvid Best, but it would take a trade to do so on Thursday night. He was concerned Best wouldn’t be available today when the Lions had the second pick in the second round.
“This was a target guy we consider a blue-chip player. I think things get hectic on the sideline, Tom (Lewand) was on the phone making this trade and I wanted to grab the phone from him and start beating him with it to get him going,’’ Schwartz said.
The coach made the smart move and let Lewand, the team president, make the deal with the Vikings that moved the Lions up four spots to grab Best. Detroit gave up its second-round pick, a seventh-round pick (214th overall) and they flipped fourth-round picks.
At the end of the night, there were smiles all-around at the Lions practice facility.
Not only did they bolster the defensive line by drafting Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick, they addressed their concern at running back.
“He’s exciting, he’s lighting in a bottle. ... We needed a running back, we felt like there were three running backs in this draft we really liked. The other running backs got drafted and we felt we could move up there and get Jahvid Best and we made that move,’’ Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.
Best had told reporters earlier this week that he had not had contact with the Lions. There was good reason for that. Mayhew was asked if he was laying in the weeds.
“Yes,’’ he said laughing. “We really liked him. It’s been a process. Jim has been very, very excited about the guy. We felt the smart thing to do was not to say too much about him.’’
The move caught Best off-guard.
“I was a little surprised, it wasn’t a team that contacted me a lot through the process. I’m fortunate to get picked up and I’m going to make the best of my opportunity,’’ Best said in a conference call.
The 5-foot-10 running back, who played at California, probably slipped in the draft because of concussions suffered in consecutive games last fall. Mayhew said Best was cleared by doctors at the Combine, by a concussion specialist and by Lions’ doctors. Best said the concussion is not an issue.
Best seems himself as another weapon in the Lions’ offensive arsenal.
He said one of his strengths is his homerun ability.
“I definitely can make a big play out of any play. And then I’m a complete back -- I can run, I can block, I can catch out of the backfield,’’ Best said.
That is what made him so attractive to the Lions whose offense last year did not display much big-play ability.
“This is a player that’s a weapon for us and with so many other weapons we’ve added on offense and the quarterback we drafted last year we have the makings of some firepower,’’ Schwartz said. “He’s a guy who can go the distance. We struggled with 20-yard runs last year, he’s got a lot of them.’’
Schwartz said he was hoping for two things in this draft. One was to draft Best.
“If we didn’t get him (I was) just praying he didn’t go to Green Bay or Minnesota or Chicago and have to defend against a guy like this. We see a lot of tricked-up coverages against Calvin Johnson. A guy that can beat a linebacker one-on-one can raise hell with those kind of coverages,’’ Schwartz said.
“He’s a homerun threat .... “He’s a human highlight film. He’s got some special abilities, he’s got magic as a runner. It’s stuff you don’t coach and he can stop and start in a heartbeat and this guy is super fast.’’
No wonder Schwartz wanted him so badly.
Now he’s got him and his offense has been upgraded significantly.
Paula Pasche covers the Lions. Read her Lions Lowdown blog at TheOaklandPress.com. Follow her on Twitter @paulapasche.