Lions have multifaceted draft strategy

The Detroit Lions are about as in the dark about the No. 1 overall pick as anyone else. But don't think for a moment that Lions' GM Matt Millen and Co. don't have a layered strategy for the No. 2 choice in Saturday's draft. What we've heard, Detroit's needs, and more inside.

The mock drafts have been crunched, the experts have been exhausted, and the smokescreens remain thick. There is absolutely no consensus on who will land in Oakland at No. 1 overall during Saturday's NFL draft.

The Raiders might not even know.

But heading into this weekend's festivities, the Detroit Lions aren't going to worry about No. 1. In fact, they might just be done worrying about No. 2 overall. learned earlier this week that while the team continues to filter through an assortment of proposals (most hinging on whom the Raiders select first), Lions' GM Matt Millen and the team's scouting department are content with whatever talent will be available at No. 2, and have apparently (enter smokescreen warning here) settled on one name: Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz, while privately lobbying for at least one quarterback at some point in the draft (he prefers Stanford QB Trent Edwards above all else), has been a proponent of Johnson and what his value could bring to Detroit.

If the Raiders take LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell with the opening pick, a scenario that seems to be the most likely, the Lions -- or so we're told -- would continue to listen to offers but have been sold on the size, speed and athleticism of what some consider the best receiver to enter the draft in the last decade. Furthermore, the draft deal required by Detroit is astonishing.

According to one source, while the Lions wouldn't necessarily refuse to deal with a late first-round team, they would require the following: at least a top-15 pick, a second-round pick, a small package of mid-to-late round picks and -- depending on how early the first-round compensation is -- perhaps another first or second-round pick in 2008.

While the price might seem steep initially, at least two ball clubs -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 4) and Atlanta Falcons (No. 8) -- are stepping up to the plate with corresponding offers. Atlanta is said to be the most eager and capable of trade partners. But if a deal doesn't materialize, the Lions won't have a problem pairing Johnson with current receivers Roy Williams and Mike Furrey.

If the Raiders nab Johnson, however, all bets are off, or -- at the least -- certainly not as dramatic. If that scenario plays out, the Lions we are told would be content selecting Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas No. 2 overall, allowing the highly-acclaimed Russell to slide to Cleveland at No. 3.

It might not be a popular choice, but the team is aware of the rarity of franchise tackles, and Thomas would fortify at least one side of the line for the next decade.

Certainly, Millen and Co. would prefer a trade before plucking just one collegiate-proven talent. The organization is aware that more than one player is necessary to help steer the team in the right direction, and head coach Rod Marinelli covets Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis among other defensive players that aren't No. 2 pick material, along with a host of talent that they could land with additional picks.

(The Lions have met with Miami linebacker Jon Beason, Pitt corner Darrelle Revis, and Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams to name a few.)

While the draft still remains a crapshoot, the Lions brass have at least put together a sound strategy to keep their options manageable. Whether or not it pays dividends remains to be seen.

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