Lions Have Plenty of Draft Options

Team hasn't narrowed selection down, but also isn't providing any clues.

With the NFL draft less than three weeks away, the Lions are in an unfamiliar situation: They can help themselves in a number of ways but there is no one particular position they absolutely must fill.

They could go any number of ways with their first-round pick, the No. 10 pick overall in the April 23 draft.

They could draft a tackle, probably their most pressing need after losing Stockar McDougle to Miami in free agency, although they feel they can fill the position from within.

They could draft yet another young wide receiver or another young linebacker, further bolstering two positions they have strengthened in the past three years.

They could seek a long-term solution to the tight end situation, where they have gone through three starters in the last three years and have a fourth - Marcus Pollard - lined up for the 2005 season.

Just about the only position where they don't need help is running back, where Kevin Jones - backed up by Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner - quickly established himself in his rookie season last year.

"I think we will have more choices because we have fewer and fewer holes," said Lions president Matt Millen. "That's why I keep a very open mind. I wouldn't mind moving up. I wouldn't mind moving back.

"But if the right guy's there, heck, I'm all for it. I have a pretty good idea of what we'd like to strengthen and what holes we'd like to plug. I like the position we're in right now, sitting at No. 10 and I like the people who could be available for us because I can name 15 guys who could help us right now."

Millen and coach Steve Mariucci will narrow those choices down during the next three weeks but, regardless of what happens in the nine picks ahead of them, they're not likely to lose a player they absolutely have to have.

--Neither president Matt Millen nor coach Steve Mariucci has given any substantial hints on how they play to use the Lions' first pick in the draft, but it common sense indicates that they might go after an offensive tackle.

After losing their three-year starting right tackle Stockar McDougle to the Miami Dolphins in free agency, the Lions have talked about going with Victor Rogers, a three-year veteran with virtually no playing time, or Kelly Butler, last year's sixth-round draft pick.

But they might be tempted to reconsider if Florida State tackle Alex Barron is still available when Millen gets ready to make the call on the No. 10 pick in the first round.

Barron has the prototypical size (6-feet-7, 320 pounds) and skills that NFL teams want in an offensive tackle and - with the lack of a glaring need in any other area - he might be the most appealing player on the board when the Lions draft.

The addition of a first-round tackle would complete a very solid offensive line for the Lions with Jeff Backus at left tackle, newly-signed Rick DeMulling at left guard, Dominic Raiola at center and Pro Bowler Damien Woody at right guard.

It is assumed the Lions would keep Backus at left tackle, although Millen left himself some wiggle room in discussing the possibility of juggling the offensive line.

"I like Jeff there," Millen said. "I like him there a lot. He's gotten better and he's gotten more steady every year but if we'd be in a position to draft a tackle who's that talented, I don't think you close the door on anything.

"For any of those guys up front, I think you don't close the door on any of them if you can improve the group. I still think football is in the offensive and defensive line. I think that's where it all starts. I've never deviated from that and our offensive line - if we can improve it - I think we improve it."

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