The signing of wide receiver Kevin Johnson adds even more flexibility to the team's draft plans for Saturday's 2005 NFL draft, but the team likely won't need it. All signs point to the Lions picking for value and that being the case, the three names that bring value at the 10th pick are Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson, University of Southern California wide receiver Mike Williams and Georgia defensive end David Pollack.
Why this group of players? It seems unlikely Detroit would draft a cornerback at this stage in the team's development. Despite Lions president Matt Millen's statement that you can "never have too many" good corners. That's like saying you can never have to many good offensive linemen or linebacker or any other position.
With Dre' Bly and Fernando Bryant as the starters, last year's third round pick Keith Smith returning and nearly ready to unseat Bryant along with former starters Chris Cash and Andre Goodman as backups, Detroit has skill and depth in reserve.
That brings us to defensive end, where LSU's Marcus Spears, Virginia's Chris Canty, Wisconsin's Erasmus James and Pollack reside, but Pollack has really distinguished himself over his career and endeared himself to coaches everywhere with his tremendous desire and determination to be the best player he can be.
Pollack was named the Southeastern Conferences's Defensive Player of the Year and is a three time All American. His initial burst and quickness off the ball remind many of former Syracuse and current Indianapolis Colts' star Dwight Freeney. Pollack timed out a 3.9 in the shuttle drill, a measure of lateral quickeness. That time was better than many corner and safety prospects.
At 6-foot-2, 261-pounds, he is slightly undersized and drew some raised eyebrows for his arm length, which are shorter than average. That didn't stop him from recording 12 1/2 sacks and 53 tackles including 17 1/2 for loss and three forced fumbles.
He is the kind of disruptive player that would team well with James Hall to give the Lions a collapse the pocket pass rush that they haven't had in years.
With the health of former second round pick Boss Bailey still an issue, Detroit may elect to nab one of the speediest and most productive linebackers in college football, outside linebacker Derrick Johnson of Texas.
At 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, Johnson possess ideal size and speed to be the prototype outside linebacker. Detroit has tried several players at the position, but none have given them the kind of 100 plus tackle production that the top weak side linebackers typically produce.
The Butkus award winner logged 128 tackles, (78 solo) 19 tackles for loss, two sacks, a pick and eight forced fumbles. Johnson appears to be the kind of impact player Detroit needs, but for the choice to be worth it, he must be highly productive and beat out veteran James Davis. If not, he simply creates a logjam at a position where the Lions already have pretty good depth.
The lone offensive player who likely figures into the Lions draft board is wide receiver Mike Williams. Williams, 6-foot-5, 228 has tight end size, but flanker's hands. He would have been a top-five pick a season ago when the NFL's age limit rule was temporarily struck down. He elected to come out early but then was victimized when the rule was ultimately upheld.
Williams has shown the ability to make plays and fight off defenders successfully for the football. In just two seasons he became USC's all-time touchdown reception leader with thirty. While not blessed with sprinter's speed, Williams ran a respectable 4.56-40 yard dash time. The year he spent out of collegiate ball after being declared ineligible by the NCAA was used bulking up and improving his route running. Williams is NFL ready right now.
Williams is now rated behind Michigan's Braylon Edwards and perhaps South Carolina's Troy Williamson. After a string of injuries, Detroit might take a look at Williams if both Pollack and Johnson are off the board, a distinct possibility.
Right now, the pick seems to be a coin flip between Pollack and Johnson.
MYSTERY MEN ON TAP?: Lions president Matt Millen told me that there was one more free agent he inteded to sign prior to Saturday's NFL draft but the player wanted to wait until after the draft to see if he would still "fit" with the Lions. WTKA's Mike Fowler believe the player is former Tennessee Titans corner Andre Dyson.
The Lions worked out Oakland University power forward Courtney Scott today, perhaps hoping to catch the same lightning in a bottle that the San Diego Chargers did with undrafted free agent Antonio Gates.
Scott, 6-foot-6, 260, a relative of Atlanta Falcons running back T. J. Duckett, is a native of Lansing, MI and believes he can have NFL success.
"Yeah, we watched him. We watched him this season, Steve [Mariucci} and I," said Lions president Matt Millen. We decided to work him out, poor guy, we forgot to tell him to bring cleats," joked Millen who said Scott had a tough time on the wet grass.
"He did some good things," Millen said but did not indicate whether Detroit had enough interest to draft him. "That's an athletic kid."