Lions' focus will shift after McGahee injury

The injury suffered to Miami running back Willis McGahee, who was all but penciled into the Lions starting roster next season, will force the Detroit Lions to explore other options in April's NFL draft. The Lions were looking to upgrade the speed in their offensive backfield.

(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- What a terrible turn of events for University of Miami running back Willis McGahee, who was all but penciled into the Lions starting roster next season.

McGahee, the fourth year junior from Miami Central high school suffered a terrible trio of injuries to his knee in Friday's Fiesta Bowl game for the National Championship.

The junior suffered damage to all three of the major ligaments in his knee, tearing the anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and the medial collateral ligaments. For all intents and purposes, McGahee had no ligaments at all supporting his knee following the blow from Ohio State safety Will Allen.

McGahee sobbed uncontrollably on the sidelines, no doubt realizing that despite being just 15 minutes of football way from becoming an NFL player -- and a multimillionaire -- it could all be gone. McGahee underwent successful surgery at Miami's HealthSouth Doctor's Hospital over the weekend. He is expected to take a full year to recover before; if at all, resuming his playing career.

There may have been some tears shed by Detroit Lions officials also. McGahee was thought to be Detroit first choice if they decided to keep their #2 overall pick and use it to select a player. Despite the presence of James Stewart, a 1,000-yard runner this season, Detroit feels the need to upgrade the team speed in the backfield and McGahee was a real burner.

Now, Detroit must explore other options. McGahee was never Detroit's best option. He was too much of a straight-line runner with good speed true, but not the ability to shake tacklers. The Lions would be better off doing what they did the last time they had the second overall pick. In the 1987 draft Detroit did that and came up with two players who were eventually Pro Bowlers, Miami safety Bennie Blades and Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman.

Detroit's primary focus should be at the wide receiver position. With Az-Zahir Hakim still recovering from the hip injury he suffered early in the season and Germane Crowell showing virtually nothing, Detroit has few options in its passing game. Mikhael Ricks, a pro-bowl alternate, caught just 27 balls. Bill Schroeder was criticized early and often for short arming plays that called for him to cross the middle of the field. Schroeder ended the season as Detroit's best target.

Michigan State's Charles Rogers is the best option if Detroit keeps the pick. Rogers would give the Lions an instant weapon. A playmaker who can make defenders miss and score on almost any play. Rogers isn't Randy Moss, but he might be the closest thing to him; without the attitude. He would give Detroit something they don't currently have, a player the defense has to account for. He would make an instant impact on Detroit's moribund offense. Despite that, it is still worth exploring to see what they could get, perhaps as much as two first round picks for their second overall position. New England currently holds numbers 14 and 18 overall. Oakland possesses numbers 29 and 32 overall.

In this year's quarterback heavy draft, teams will likely be moving to get the quarterback that they can build their team around. Carson Palmer of USC and Byron Leftwich of Marshall are projected as first round picks. Rex Grossman of Florida, Eli Manning of Mississippi and Chris Simms of Texas are thought to be late first, early second rounders, while Texas Tech's Cliff Kingsbury, Tennessee's Casey Clausen, Eastern Illinois' Tony Romo and Miami's Ken Dorsey are all thought to be third round prospects. Someone may very well get crazy and make Detroit an offer they can't refuse.

Right now, Rogers appears to be Detroit's best bet. But what if Cincinnati takes Rogers first overall, a very possible scenario? Then Detroit had better hope that 1998 revisits itself. That was the year the San Diego Chargers traded their first (third overall) and second-round (32nd overall) picks and their 1999 first-round selection, as well as wide receiver/kick returner Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp, to Arizona for right to move up to one spot to take the quarterback that would turn their franchise around.

His name? Ryan Leaf.

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