Draft Analysis: Need #3 - Defensive Line

Another season's passing brings defensive end Robert Porcher close to the end of a career while Luther Elliss' impending exit leaves Detroit in need of a makeover. In the third of a five-part series, Lions' insider Mike Fowler reviews one of the more critical needs for the ball club as Detroit prepares for the draft and looks to re-establish the silver rush.

(ALLEN PARK) - They called it the Silver Rush.

It has taken on many forms over the past 15 years, but no one did it better than Al (Bubba) Baker, Doug English, William Gay and Dave Pureifory. During those year Bubba Baker was often in the opposing team's backfield as much as their quarterback when he posted a still remarkable 23 sacks his rookie season of 1978.

The only player Detroit has had since to even remotely resemble Baker's sack prowess is Robert Porcher. While his career high 15 sack season in 1999 is a long way from Baker's 23, it gave Detroit its most serious pass rushing threat of the past decade. Heading into his 11th season, Porcher still has something left in the tank and Detroit will soon have to figure out how to replace him.

With interior linemate Luther Elliss seemingly aging faster than Porcher, the Lions are looking at replacing 1/2 of their front four in the next season or two. With youngsters Kalimba Edwards and Shaun Rogers, they appear to be set at two positions.

While Detroit is unlikely to see the likes of 23 sacks in a season, how does 22 sound? That's what Terrell Suggs brings to his next team, 22 sacks, an NCAA record, smashing the previous marks of Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney (17) who recorded the previous best for the Syracuse Orangemen.

But let's face it, unless Detroit's Matt Millen is blowing some serious smoke, the only way Detroit will end up with him is a scenario where Charles Rogers is off the board as the first pick.

Still, even if Suggs is Detroit's second choice, he would still be a good one. Some scouts dropped Suggs as a potential top-5 candidate because he performed poorly for scouts in his pro day at Arizona State, posting an incredibly slow 4.8-40 time, but Millen saw past that.

TOP DL Prospects for Lions
1. Terrell Suggs, DE Arizona State
2. Jerome McDougle, DE Miami (brother of Stockar)
3. Jimmy Kennedy, DT, Penn St.
4. Dwayne Robertson, DT, Louisville
5. Kenny Peterson, DT, Ohio State
6. Michael Haynes, DE, Penn State
7. Ty Warren, DT, Texas A&M
8. Kevin Williams, DT, Oklahoma State
9. William Joseph, DT, Miami
10. Johnathan Sullivan, DT, Georgia
11. Dwayne White, DE, Louisville
12. Greg Gathers, DE, Georgia Tech
13. Cory Redding, DE, Texas
14. Chris Kelsay, DE, Nebraska
15. Rien Long, DT, Washington

``If you were just looking for a pure speed guy, that would have raised a flag,'' Millen said, ``until he put his hand on the dirt and took a couple pass sets. Then you said, `Oh yeah, that's why we're looking at him,' because his first three steps are phenomenal.''

Suggs agreed and would love to become a Lion.

``When you put a 40-yard dash in the course of a football game, then I'll worry about it,'' he said Friday. ``When you set up a bench press at the 50-yard line, then I'll worry about it. When it's all said and done, it's all football. I can play football, everybody sees I can play football. I just ran bad.''

If Detroit elects to trade out of the pick, moving down to the mid-teens in exchange for extra picks, then some of the top interior linemen could come into play including Dwayne Robertson of Louisville or Jimmy Kennedy of Penn State. Although some say both are top-10 picks, it isn't unusual to see interior linemen slide down a few spots. That's all it would take for Detroit to end up with one of these big men on their roster if a swap with New England or New Orleans took place.

PICK: A trade down is unlikely unless Rogers is off the board as the first overall pick. If he is, would teams covet Andre Johnson of Miami enough to try to move up? If so, Detroit would consider moving down into the teens. If there's no trade and Rogers goes first, Detroit would select Suggs and happily make plans for round two.

There's a good chance Detroit could grab an interior lineman in round three because the position is unusally stocked with high quality talent.

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