Lions likely to stay put, but still undecided about selection

GM Martin Mayhew said on Thursday that it’s likely the Lions will stay put at No. 2 instead of trading down, but also insisted that the team is undecided about which player they’ll draft.

Detroit could go in a couple directions in round one, although the most likely scenario has them selecting either Ndamukong Suh or Russell Okung. The Lions have needs on both sides of the line, although they might be more inclined to take Okung seeing as how they want to protect their biggest investment in quarterback Matthew Stafford.

That said, I’m of the mindset that the Lions would be crazy to pass on Suh. That’s not to take anything away from Okung, who is a terrific prospect with a high upside. But in my opinion, Suh is the best prospect in this month’s draft and could be a potential difference-maker from day 1.

Teams selecting in the top 5 are always worried about matching the contract with the appropriate position. In other words, they’re more inclined to take a quarterback at No. 3 instead of a defensive tackle because they can justify handing a signal caller a huge contract as opposed to an interior defensive lineman.

But that line of thinking has always been befuddling to me. Teams shouldn’t draft players based on a contract, they should draft players based on fit and need. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz built one of the better defenses in the NFL while in Tennessee, one that was centered around defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Assuming the Rams take Sam Bradford at No. 1, Schwartz now has a similar opportunity in Detroit if the Lions take Suh. While paying a left tackle No. 2 money may be more justifiable, the Lions need to select the best player and forget about the dynamics of a contract.

And the best player is Suh.


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2009 NFL Preview: #32 Detroit Lions

Check out all of our 2009 NFL team previews.

Offseason Additions: Julian Peterson (LB); Larry Foote (LB); Phillip Buchanon (CB); Grady Jackson (DT); Bryant Johnson (WR).

Offseason Losses: Leigh Bodden (CB); Shaun McDonald (WR); Mike Fuerry (WR); Shaun Cody (DT); Paris Lenon (LB); George Foster (OT); Dan Orlovsky (QB).

Player to Watch: Louis Delmas, S.
Delmas, the Lions’ second round pick this year, immediately started turning heads in OTAs and continued to impress coaches with his aggressiveness and tenacity throughout training camp (although he did miss time due to a swollen knee). The former Western Michigan product is already drawing comparisons to the Colts’ Bob Sanders, which is quite a compliment considering how accomplished Sanders is. Delmas isn’t afraid of contact and flies to the football. While he needs to develop his pass coverage skills, he might lead the Lions in tackles this season.

Team Strength: There isn’t one positional unit on this team that can be deemed a strength, although wide receiver Calvin Johnson is so good that he can probably carry the moniker on his own. Johnson is a phenomenal athlete and gives the Lions’ offense a dynamic playmaker at receiver. Opposing teams try to blanket him in coverage and he still finds ways to get open and come away with the ball. As long as he stays healthy (he missed two weeks of training camp with a sprained thumb), CJ is in store for another monster season, no matter whom the Lions wind up starting at quarterback.

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Lions land Cunningham for defensive coordinator

The Lions took a major step in their rebuilding process on Wednesday, hiring former Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham for the same role.

The Detroit Lions have hired Gunther Cunningham to be their new defensive coordinator and coach Jim Schwartz is expected to make an announcement shortly.

Cunningham, who also will hold the title of assistant head coach, was believed to be Schwartz’s No. 1 target.

Cunningham coached linebackers in Tennessee for three years while Schwartz was the defensive coordinator there. Schwartz’s search will now turn toward an offensive coordinator and special teams coach.

This was a solid hire and the Lions commitment to defense is a necessary step in trying to resurrect the franchise.

Word to the wise though, Gunther: leave your former defensive players in Kansas City. The Lions want to upgrade their defense, not make it worse.

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