Smoke screen Pt. 1: Reading between the Lions

One writer in Indianapolis summed up the smoke screen process the best, stating teams "send out trial balloons, and hope they explode in their competitor's faces." At the 2007 NFL combine, perhaps no other team is better equipped -- or has taken advantage of the opportunity -- more than the Detroit Lions. Part 1 of a 2 part series inside.

Detroit News writer Mike O'Hara summed up the smoke screen process the best on the insider message board, stating that teams "send out trial balloons, and hope they explode in their competitor's faces."

At the 2007 NFL combine, perhaps no other team is better equipped -- or has taken advantage of the opportunity -- more than the Detroit Lions.

The Lions have dined Joe Thomas, the massive offensive tackle out of Wisconsin. They have an obvious need at the tackle position, and Thomas -- a surefire top five pick -- would alleviate concerns at the position for the next decade. They have also talked extensively with CMU tackle Joe Staley, a likely early second-round pick with a solid NFL future. The Lions even told Staley at the combine he would be the team's pick in round two if Thomas isn't their guy.

Its one of Detroit's many "ifs" plaguing analysts, agents and, most importantly, other teams. Maybe even the franchise itself.

Because the Lions, holders of the No. 2 overall pick, aren't in the market for two tackles (and have expressed interest in a myriad of positions), it is anyone's guess what route they'll take. Detroit's problems are diverse, and there is not a position on the team that is isn't untouchable, even early in the draft.

However, it is likely that the team's draft board, although adjustable, has a ranking with a clear target at No. 2 overall if they maintain the pick. But the smoke screens fanned by Detroit aren't to prevent Oakland (who holds No. 1 overall pick) from snagging its man. It is to stir trade interest with the hope of securing additional picks.

Lions president Matt Millen, noted for his draft maneuvering (Cleveland fell victim a few years ago when Millen pulled in both Kevin Jones and wide receiver Roy Williams with a first-round trade), understands that the franchise needs as many opportunities in the draft as they can get -- even if it means surrendering the No. 2 overall pick and moving down. And Millen, along with head coach Rod Marinelli and a formidable staff, have acted accordingly.

Besides Thomas and Staley, the Lions have scouted the quarterback position; they were also in attendance for Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson's exemplary workout, and Marinelli plans to meet soon with Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson.

"Detroit needs a running back. I know I might be a Detroit Lion," Peterson commented during his combine press conference.

Thomas had a similar comment, as will many players that have the potential to be drafted between No. 1 and No. 5.

To decode Detroit's smoke screen (and this is by no way mathematical or guaranteed) is to breakdown the state of the team, along with the small, off-season news tidbits that have been brushed to the side by the combine and general lack of interest.

Part Two ("Breaking down the smoke screen") will be available Tuesday morning ...

Nate Caminata, publisher of the Roar Report, is an award-winning journalist
and has written for numerous publications in both print and on the internet. He has covered the Detroit Lions for 10 years.


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