ALLEN PARK - Funny things happen on draft day. Like how two players can be evenly ranked, but one begins to fall from where he was expected to be selected for no apparent reason.
Sometimes it can be nothing more than the position that a player mans that determines whether he is a top-5 pick or a top-15 pick. Linebackers are in that group that are prone to drop.
For instance in 1999, University of Southern California linebacker Chris Claiborne was expected to be a top-5 pick, but the presence of three highly rated quarterbacks (Tim Couch, Kentucky; Donovan McNabb, Syracuse; and Akili Smith, Oregon) caused Claiborne to fall to the 9th pick where he was selected by the Detroit Lions.
In fact, since 2001, no linebacker has been selected in the top-10 of the NFL draft. Since 2000 when Lavar Arrington was picked second overall along with Brian Urlacher, (9th,) you have to go back to 1994, when Trev Alberts (Nebraska) was picked 2nd overall by the Colts and Jamir Miller (UCLA) was picked 10th overall by the Cardinals, to find a year when two linebackers went in the first round.
So Detroit may find a special present falls into their lap next Saturday when they're on the clock on draft day. A.J. Hawk, a linebacker of extrodinary ability from Ohio State, could be waiting. Fans in these parts know all about Hawk. His Big 10 battles and success against both the University of Michigan and Michigan State are legendary.
Hawk finished this season with 121 tackles, including 69 solo, along with 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks (three passes defensed, two forced fumbles). While he was helped by productive running mate Bobby Carpenter, another linebacker draft prospect, there was no question who the leader of the pack was when the Buckeyes defense lined up.
Hawk draws the inevitable comparisons to another former Buckeye and Detroit Lion Chris Spielman. Spielman and Hawk bring the same kind of relentless pursuit and football awareness that helped them be in the right place at the right time.
"The best thing about being [at Ohio State], the older guys would come back and let us know how they did things, and how to handle yourself on and off the field," Hawk said. He listed Spielman, Mike Vrabel and Andy Katzenmoyer as guys who have come back and helped him to progress.
Detroit has some talented players in their linebacking corps, but they're all injured. Boss Bailey is coming off foot surgery, Teddy Lehman is still in street clothes and veteran Earl Holmes is not expected to return to the team. James Davis has not given the team the production they had hoped for and the team was so thin at linebacker due to injury last season that they were forced to play special teamers Donte Curry and Wali Rainer as starters. They even signed street free-agents Nate Wayne and LaVar Woods; both saw considerable playing time.
Hawk would immediately be a fan favorite and fill a position in need of a solid starter who can cover in space, run with a tight end and pressure the quarterback occasionally. At this point, it is believed that Hawk has surpassed Texas safety Michael Huff atop the Lions draft board and if available, will be the pick next Saturday for the Lions.
Break out those old Spielman jersey's and change the back to 'Hawk'.