According to TheInsiders.com Lane Adkins, the Detroit Lions have spent significant time and focus on the running backs and wide receivers late Friday. The center of the Lions attention appeared to surround Oregon State running back Steven Jackson and Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Obviously requiring an upgrade, the Lions rushing offense finished last in the NFL last season in nearly every category, including total yardage, yards per game, and rushing touchdowns. The Lions would like to see veteran running back James Stewart return, but only at a negotiated salary. Stewart sat out last season with a leg injury, but even his previous production did not meet his current pay.
Although last year's fourth round pick Artose Pinner showed promise, the Lions aren't exactly sure what they have in the former Kentucky standout running back. And the thought of the big, physical Jackson may be too good to pass up.
The 6'3, 233lb Jackson rushed for 200+ yards three times during the 2002 season and for an OSU record of 1,656 regular season rushing yards. He also established himself as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, catching 15 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
Jackson hasn't worked out during the combine (recovering from a torn meniscus -- not serious), but will run the 40 and demonstrate at his Pro Day, which the Lions plan to attend. Jackson can carry the pile, but also has the versatility to bounce it outside and outrun defenders.
His ability to receive the ball will also weigh heavily on the Lions' minds with the sixth overall pick.
A long shot (or more of an impossibility) at sixth overall is Fitzgerald, who since finishing his sophomore season with Pittsburgh has captivated league scouts. The 6'3, 210lb Fitzgerald isn't the quickest or most flashy receiver, but uses his size to his advantage, runs smooth routes, and catches anything within arm length.
The Lions would like to upgrade a pathetic receiving unit that frustrated head coach Steve Mariucci and quarterback Joey Harrington last year due to poor route running and dropped passes. The best scenario is Detroit pairing last year's second overall pick Charles Rogers with another receiving talent, but that option may have to come via free-agency. Fitzgerald will likely be off the board to Oakland who stands at No. 2 overall.
While this could be a smoke screen to force Washington to lower its asking price for cornerback Champ Bailey, the need for a running back and the presence of Jackson may at least force Detroit to think twice.
Lions have met with the following players: (may not include all
Larry Fitzgerald -WR - Pittsburgh
Steven Jackson - RB - Oregon State
Courtney Watson - DT - Notre Dame
Max Starks - OT - Florida
Ben Troupe - TE - Florida
Keith Willis - TE - Virginia Tech
Ahmad Childress - DL - Alabama