Lions Seem Destined To Draft Defense

Lions' GM Matt Millen has been even more secretive than usual regarding his thoughts on the 2006 draft, however, so nothing should come as a surprise on draft day.

ALLEN PARK -- For five consecutive years, the Lions have used their first-round pick to draft offensive players; look for that to change on Saturday.

Unless president Matt Millen can find a way to finagle his way up from the No. 9 pick to get offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia, it appears likely the Lions will take a player to fortify coach Rod Marinelli's defense.

The team has clear needs at virtually every area of the defense. They need an edge pass rusher, either an end or an outside linebacker; they need at least one cornerback after losing Andre Goodman and R.W. McQuarters through free agency; and they will have to consider taking a defensive tackle, preparing for the possible retirement of veteran Dan Wilkinson.

Unfortunately for the Lions, it's unlikely they will get close enough to the top of the draft to take Ferguson and it's likely the defensive players they would seem to covet most -- linebacker A.J. Hawk of Ohio State and defensive back Michael Huff of Texas -- will be gone before they make their first selection.

Millen has been even more secretive than usual regarding his thoughts on the 2006 draft, however, so nothing should come as a surprise on draft day. He has made first-day trades in each of the last two years, resulting in the acquisition of running back Kevin Jones late in the first round of the 2004 draft and landing defensive tackle Shaun Cody early in the second round of 2005.

One thing that appears certain is that the Lions will not draft a wide receiver, a running back or a tight end and it seems unlikely they will be in the market to take a quarterback in the first round.

Millen drafted quarterback Joey Harrington with the No. 3 pick in the 2002 draft and, after four frustrating seasons, is in the process of trying to trade him.

Jon Kitna and Josh McCown have been signed to compete for the starting job. Although neither might be considered the long-term answer at the quarterback position, Millen isn't likely to expend a No. 1 pick on a quarterback of the future.

In addition to Harrington, the offensive players the Lions have taken with their first round pick (or picks) are tackle Jeff Backus (18th overall in 2001), wide receiver Charles Rogers (second overall in 2003), wide receiver Roy Williams (seventh overall in 2004) and wide receiver Mike Williams (10th overall in 2005).

Rogers and Mike Williams have been disappointments but the Lions are hoping offensive coordinator Mike Martz will be able to salvage their careers.

The running back position appears solid with Jones backed up by Shawn Bryson. And the addition of Dan Campbell via free agency makes them solid at tight end, where Marcus Pollard and Casey FitzSimmons provide good receiving threats.

The offensive area in which the Lions have the most serious need is the line. They need a starting left guard and they could upgrade at right tackle, although they feel last year's first-time starter, Kelly Butler, can develop.

The defense, by comparison, has plenty of holes to fill. During the team's voluntary minicamp early in April, defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson had only five able-bodied linebackers on the field and three of them -- LeVar Woods, Paris Lenon and Nate Wayne -- were free agents signed off the street late in the 2005 season.

The shortage will be eased if Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman are healthy for the 2006 season but Hawk, Chad Greenway of Iowa, Bobby Carpenter of Ohio State and middle linebacker Abdul Hodge of Iowa all would hold some appeal to the Lions.


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