Back in 2005 Detroit Lions fans were stunned when wide receiver Mike Williams, who had been out of football for a year, was drafted by general manager Matt Millen.
The Lions had needs, but wide receiver wasn’t one of them. Even if they needed a wide receiver, Williams was an unlikely choice.
Fast forward eight years. The Lions could use some help at wide receiver, but they have other crucial roles to fill first.
If general manager Martin Mayhew drafts a wide receiver with the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday, Detroit and the NFL football nation would be stunned.
“I don't think there are any shocks in our world. We have a good clue who the top guys are,’’ NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said in a recent conference call.
No wide receiver prospect is ranked top five.
Still with Titus Young gone, Ryan Broyles coming off ACL surgery and Nate Burleson returning from surgery to repair a broken leg, Mayhew has to have wide receiver on his draft wish list — perhaps in the third round or later.
Burleson said this week on NFL AM radio that he is ahead of schedule, his bone is healed and he’s been running and jumping which is surely a good sign.
He revealed his five top wide receivers on the NFL Network (he’s a multi-media/multi-tasking sort of guy): 1. DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson); 2. Keenan Allen (Cal); 3. Tavon Austin (West Virginia); 4. Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee); 5. Justin Hunter (Tennessee).
Austin, Hunter and Patterson made pre-draft visits to the Lions.
All five are projected first and second-rounders which may be too early for the Lions.
While wide receiver Tavon Austin is considered by many (if not Burleson) as the top wide receiver in the draft.
“... (Austin) fits that mold of being somebody who can come right in and play. This guy has played football forever. I saw him in high school at Dunbar here in Baltimore, he’s been unbelievable. The kid is a touchdown maker. He’s a scoreboard changer in a variety of ways. You can get him the ball in terms of the running game, you can get him the ball on reverses, wide receiver screens, get him in space, the return game. He is dynamic,’’ ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said in a recent conference call.
The Lions might have a better chance at drafting these wide receivers in rounds two through five.
— Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech) was impressive at the Senior Bowl (remember Jim Schwartz and his staff were coaching there) making difficult catches and getting separation. Combine 40 speed: 4.53.
— Ryan Swope (Texas A&M) has been compared to Wes Welker. Started slow, finished strong last season. Combine 40 speed: 4.34.
— Markus Wheaton (Oregon State) had a good 2012 season with 91 receptions, 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. Also had a good week of Senior Bowl practice. Combine 40 speed: 4.45.
— Stedman Bailey (West Virginia) was one a big-play receiver with 114 catches for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. Combine 40 speed: 4.52.
— Marquise Goodwin (Texas) could drop to fourth round or beyond. His college numbers weren’t gaudy, but he possesses blazing speed which helped him at the Senior Bowl. Combine 40 speed: 4.27.
In the late rounds — sixth or seventh — the Lions could take a chance with Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson who ran an impressive 4.43 at the Combine. Mayhew said they’ve been tracking his development since January at the Senior Bowl.
“He’s going along in the right direction as far as developing his skills to be a returner. He’s also got some ability to play running back,’’ Mayhew said. “We went back and watched him play running back those last few games (at Michigan). He’s sort of got those slash qualities as a receiver, possibly a slot receiver and a half back.”
The Lions have a pick in each round with two picks in the seventh round. The NFL draft starts at 8 p.m. Thursday with the first round. It continues at 6:30 p.m. Friday with rounds two and three, and wraps up starting at noon Saturday with rounds four through seven.