John Crist: Coming off the first 0-16 campaign in league history, it's safe to say the Lions have a lot of needs on both sides of the ball. But with Jon Kitna being traded to Dallas and Dan Orlovsky signing with Houston in free agency, can we assume Matthew Stafford of Georgia will be the No. 1 pick?
Nate Caminata: The Lions have several picks to spend on a quarterback in the draft and haven't ruled out the acquisition of a free agent at the position to provide some depth at quarterback. But while they still have second-round pick Drew Stanton in the stable, common sense would suggest that the team spends its golden ticket on a top-flight quarterback to help launch their rebuilding.
Interestingly, it might not be Stafford. Detroit sat down with USC's Mark Sanchez twice at the combine. And while smokescreens are prevalent this time of year, word is that they were incredibly impressed with the Trojan's raw talent.
Sanchez spent a bunch of time with Detroit at the combine. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
JC: Many experts believed Detroit reached for Gosder Cherilus at No. 17 overall in last April's draft, as there was a run on tackles in the middle of Round 1. We know the offensive line leaves a lot to be desired in the Motor City, but does Cherilus look like an anchor for years to come on the right side?
NC: Cherilus helped Matt Ryan become the No. 1 pick by keeping him alive at Boston College, and most experts also thought Mike Williams would transform the National Football League. Fact is, Cherilus did a solid job his rookie year and has the entire organization excited about his future as a dominant yet versatile lineman.
The left tackle position is at a more precarious state than its counterpart. Whereas Cherilus quietly established himself as one of the team's bright spots in 2008, incumbent veteran Jeff Backus left much to be desired. If the Lions use the No. 1- or No. 20-overall pick on a tackle it will be to address that concern, giving the team a youthful but powerful presence on each side of the offensive line.
JC: Crazy as it sounds, the Lions could be in the market for another receiver after trading Roy Williams to Dallas at last year's deadline and Mike Furrey currently unsigned. Bryant Johnson was added in free agency, but could we see a receiver with one of the team's two choices in the first round?
NC: Not a chance.
There are greater needs across the roster than at a position that flaunts one of the game's most elite receivers in Calvin Johnson and a potential No. 2 in Bryant Johnson. Sure, the Lions wouldn't mind a possession receiver, but they could get one cheap in free agency – Joe Jurevicius comes to mind – or spend a mid- to late-round selection on someone they can develop.
JC: Detroit appears to have been fairly active in free agency thus far, although they haven't really brought in any big names just yet: Johnson, Maurice Morris, Daniel Loper, Grady Jackson, Phillip Buchanon. Which of the aforementioned could have the biggest impact for this team right away?
NC: The Lions had no plans of making a big free-agent splash. Rather, they plan on rebuilding the team through the draft, which has been the only surefire way to field a competitive football team. They seem to be sticking to that blueprint.
However, you have to be impressed with the signing of Buchanon and the acquisition of Anthony Henry. Each cornerback started 16 games with two very competitive teams in 2008 and will assume the same roles with Detroit, which lacked starting quality in its defensive secondary a year ago. The Lions have methodically plugged most of its holes without breaking the bank and flown under the radar in the process. Expect more swift, effective moves from a front office team that is no longer anchored in the mud by Matt Millen's "gut instinct" decision-making.
Buchanon had two interceptions last year in Tampa Bay. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
JC: New head coach Jim Schwartz developed a great reputation in Tennessee working under Jeff Fisher, but he'll have his hands full with the Lions to say the least. What was the public reaction when he got the job, and how's he been going about his business thus far?
NC: Schwartz was the coach that was unanimous among fans and media alike. This differs significantly from the false pride that accompanied Millen's hand-picked, diamond-in-the-rough head coaches such as Marty Mornhinweg and Rod Marinelli. There is also an underlying public and media sentiment that Schwartz will need time. Everyone is now fully aware of the damage done to the organization – as evident in an 0-16 season – by Millen's reign and that the rebuilding could take at least three full seasons before real results are available.
Still, Schwartz has said all the right things and made all the right moves – so far. Scoring a winner with the No. 1 pick will go a long way toward his reputation in Detroit and reeling back in a fairweather fan base that has swelled considerably over the last decade.
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