(ALLEN PARK)- He probably won't ever admit it, but one of the biggest mistakes Matt Millen has made in his tenure as Lions' president was getting rid of Johnnie Morton. Morton was the heart and soul of a rebuilding Lions team in their first year under Marty Mornhinweg.
Morton had the respect of his teammates because of his intensive training regimine, which has kept him on the field for 120 starts of his 140 games in his nine-year NFL career. He defended the sad-sack Lions from national ridicule on the "Tonight Show featuring Jay Leno." Pundits will point to the fact that Morton had a miserable year with the Kansas City Chiefs, but none of that changes the fact that he had a 77 catch, 1,154 yard season with the Lions his final year in Honolulu Blue in 2001.
The attempt to replace him with Bill Schroeder, a player who was virtually run out of Green Bay because of his alleged "alligator arm" syndrome was a complete flop. Schroeder's production (36 catches, 595 yards, 5 TDs) was about half that of Morton's the previous season. Now, after the devastating hip injury to 2002 free agent prize Az-Zahir Hakim and the retirment of Hall-of-Famer Herman Moore, Detroit receiving corps is in shambles.
Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers is Detroit's No. 1 target. If rumors are true that both Cincinnati and Houston have cooled on Rogers due to reports of a "masking agent" in his drug testing sample are true, you'd almost have to wonder if Matt Millen was the one who came up with the story. Millen has made no secret of his love for Rogers and Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci is almost as effusive in his praise for the receiver and why not? Rogers caught 68 balls for 1,351 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 19.9 yards per catch. If teammate Jeff Smoker hadn't gone south on the season, being suspended for unspecified reasons, Rogers might have won the Heisman trophy.
His game against Notre Dame was a personal highlight reel. His two touchdown catches, including a spectacular one handed leaping grab high over the goal post on the back line of the end zone WHILE somehow getting a foot down inside the line, is a catch those who saw it won't soon forget.
Top WR Prospects for Lions
1. Kelly Washington, Tennessee
2. Taylor Jacobs, Florida
3. Tallman Gardner, Florida State
4. Bryant Johnson, Penn State
5. Doug Gabriel, Central Florida
"In my 42 years of coaching, Charles is arguably the best receiver I've ever been
associated with," former Spartan interim head coach Morris Watts said. "His rare
combination of size and speed is what separates him from the rest.
COMPARISON: Randy Moss, Minnesota (minus the attitude)
Andre Johnson of Miami, 6' 2", 237-lbs is quickly rising up some scouts charts to
the point where a few even have him rated ahead of Rogers. Of course, that's nonsense but
it illustrates the talent of this big play man of the Hurricanes. Johnson grabbed 44 balls
for 881 yards and 12 Tds with a 20.0 average not too shabby. He is best remembered for his
torching of Nebraska defensive back Keyou Craver in the Rose Bowl.
COMPARISON: David Boston, San Diego
If somehow Rogers is off the board, Detroit would entertain thoughts of Johnson, but would like go defense.
PICK: Expect Rogers to wear Honolulu Blue and Silver next year. He will become the No.
1 receiver Joey Harrington desperately needs to be able to rely upon. That, combined with
a 100% comeback of Az-Zahir Hakim will give Detroit a pair of talented, speedy wideouts
allowing them to use Bill Schroeder in his best role -- spot duty.
PERFECT LIONS DRAFT DAY
1. Charles Rogers, WR, Michigan State
2. Willis McGahee, RB, Miami
3. Ken Hamlin, S, Arkansas
4. Lynaris Elpheage, CB, Tulane
5. Victor Hobson, LB, Michigan