NFC North draft review: Detroit Lions

In this second of a four-part series focusing on the NFC North, the Sports Xchange reviews the Detroit Lions' draft. The Lions filled numerous positions with character players, starting with RT Gosder Cherilus and including big-time RB Kevin Smith.

We've all seen the old recruiting poster, the one with Uncle Sam pointing and the famous slogan: "We want you."

It could be a symbol for the Lions' draft, and not just because the Lions drafted Army's Caleb Campbell in the seventh round.

The Lions didn't get everybody they wanted. The two defensive players they were thought to covet most — Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey and Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo — came off the board before they had a chance to pick.

But the Lions did get what they were looking for: players with the football character coach Rod Marinelli wants who fit their systems and needs. The Lions have made mistakes in the past by collecting talent. They didn't want to do repeat them.

"The guys that we draft, we've got to make sure they make this team," Marinelli said. "So let's not draft somebody where all of a sudden we have four guys in that spot and he doesn't make this team for whatever reason.

"I want to make sure the guys were getting, we have spots, we have a plan for these guys and we know how to use them and they're going to come in and make our team."

The Lions started with a pick in each round, plus an extra third-round pick. After a lot of maneuvering by president Matt Millen, they ended up with five picks in the first three rounds, two fifth-rounders and two seventh-rounders.

They sought to bolster their running attack with Boston College right tackle Gosder Cherilus (first round, 17th overall), Central Florida running back Kevin Smith (third, 64th) and Furman fullback Jerome Felton (fifth, 146th). A tough, confident back, Smith has the skill set to fit the Lions' new zone running game.

"I believe I'll do exactly what I'm supposed to do in the pros, and that's play football to the best of my ability," Smith said. "Whatever that outcome is, that's what will be shown. But I can guarantee it's going to be a good one."

The Lions found some players who they think can improve a defense that ranked last in the NFL last year: Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon (second, 45th), Florida State defensive tackle Andre Fluellen (third, 87th) and Purdue defensive end Cliff Avril (third, 92nd).

"They're gym-rat-type football players," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "Maybe they weren't the biggest guy or the fastest guy at the combine. Maybe they didn't have the most reps on the bench. But they're the guys that we'll put on the tape and at the end of the game you put out the stat sheet, they're the ones that were productive."

The Lions also drafted Wake Forest wide receiver Kenneth Moore (fifth, 136) as a returner and Ohio defensive tackle Landon Cohen (seventh, 216th). The pick that got the most attention, though, was Campbell, who was at Radio City Music Hall in New York and interviewed by ESPN and NFL Network.

Marinelli served in the Army. Millen's son Marcus played at West Point with Campbell, who says they are good friends. But Millen said that wasn't why he drafted Campbell.

"If you took West Point off his chest and put another school on, he's still getting drafted there," Millen said. "You draft him for the right reasons, and the reasons are: First and foremost, he's a good football player, second of all, he's what you're looking for in terms of football character."

BEST PICK: When the Lions passed on Arkansas' Felix Jones and Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall in the first round, they did it because they thought they could get a running back they wanted later in the draft. Then they moved up two spots to the top of the third round to make sure they got one: Central Florida's Kevin Smith. He's a tough, confident running back with the skill set to fit their new zone running game. He represents good value. By taking a running back in the third round, the Lions were able to address two other pressing needs earlier: right tackle and middle linebacker.

COULD SURPRISE: Defensive tackle Andre Fluellen's stock dropped because he was dogged by injuries at Florida State and weighs only 296 pounds. But the Lions might have gotten a bargain in the third round (87th overall). Coach Rod Marinelli, a defensive line guru, raved about how quickly Fluellen got off the ball. Fluellen fits the Lions' defense well, can play under tackle or nose, and has opportunity to make an impact with Shaun Rogers traded to Cleveland.

A closer look at the Lions' picks:

Round 1/17 — Gosder Cherilus, OT, 6-7, 319, Boston College

After the Lions' top choices came off the board quickly — Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey at No. 8, Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo at No. 10 — the Lions traded down from No. 15 and took an offensive lineman within the first three rounds for the first time since 2001. Cherilus has the football character coach Rod Marinelli wants and fills an immediate need. He is a big, tough, strong guy with long arms, big hands and a mean streak. He is a natural right tackle, and the Lions had a huge hole there.

Round 2/45 — Jordon Dizon, LB, 6-0, 229, Colorado

The Lions badly needed a middle linebacker who fit their Tampa Two defense, after failing to acquire Jonathan Vilma in a trade, flirting with free agent Dan Morgan and watching New England swipe Tennessee's Jerod Mayo 10th overall in the draft. Dizon is small, but he's energetic and productive. He led the nation in tackles last season with 173 and had 463 in his career, eighth-best in major college history. The Lions want him to bulk up, but they plan to plop him in the middle immediately and let him compete for the starting job.

Round 3/64 — Kevin Smith, RB, 6-1, 217, Central Florida

The Lions want to run the ball more now that they have replaced offensive coordinator Mike Martz with Jim Colletto, and after cutting Kevin Jones, a first-round pick in 2004, they were down to Tatum Bell, Brian Calhoun and Aveion Cason. They loved Smith's production at Central Florida and moved up to get him. Last season he was 62 yards shy of the record 2,628 yards Lions great Barry Sanders posted at Oklahoma State in 1988. Smith is a tough, confident runner who fits their new zone running scheme.

Round 3/87 — Andre Fluellen, DT, 6-2, 296, Florida State

Fluellen has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, but the Lions were impressed by how he played through most of them and weren't put off by his size. Coach Rod Marinelli, a defensive line guru, has had a lot of success with 300-pound defensive tackles. He likes Fluellen's quickness off the ball. The Lions signed veteran Chuck Darby after trading star Shaun Rogers, but there is plenty of opportunity for Fluellen to make an impact. He can play under tackle or nose.

Round 3/92 — Cliff Avril, DE, 6-3, 252, Purdue

The Lions had Avril rated much higher than the pick and traded up to get him. The reason they didn't take him over Fluellen at No. 87 was because they felt they had more options at defensive end than they did at defensive tackle. Avril can make an immediate impact as a third-down pass rusher, but the Lions hope he will develop into a three-down defensive end.

Round 5/136 — Kenneth Moore, WR/PR, 5-11, 195, Wake Forest

Moore's main value is as a punt returner, though the Lions hope he can return kicks, too, and he hopes he can enter the mix as a wide receiver. The Lions' return game is wide open. Wide receiver Troy Walters did not return.

Round 5/146 — Jerome Felton, FB, 6-0, 246, Furman

Felton is not a prototypical lead-blocking fullback, like the Lions had in Cory Schlesinger for so many years. But their offense doesn't require one, and Felton fits what they want to do in the running game. The only fullback the Lions had on the roster was Jon Bradley, a converted defensive tackle.

Round 7/216 — Landon Cohen, DT, 6-3, 274, Ohio

When in doubt, feed the front. That is coach Rod Marinelli's philosophy. Cohen adds depth and competition at defensive tackle.

Round 7/218 — Caleb Campbell, LB, 6-2, 229, Army

Campbell was the sentimental favorite because he comes from Army. He was interviewed on ESPN and NFL Network during the draft. Coach Rod Marinelli served in the Army. President Matt Millen's son Marcus played with Campbell there. But Millen said that was not why he drafted Campbell. He said he would have drafted Campbell had he come from another school. The Lions will start him out at strong side linebacker.

NOTES, QUOTES

—The Lions lived up to their promise of not trading wide receiver Roy Williams. President Matt Millen said he received no serious offers, though Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington were reportedly interested. "If they're really interested in doing something, they'll say something," Millen said. "But if they're not, they'll just kind of throw something out there. It never got past the introductory speech."

—Defensive end Cliff Avril and offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus scuffled during a one-on-one pass rush drill at the Senior Bowl. Avril said he was mad because Cherilus was holding him. Cherilus scoffed. "He's a defensive guy," Cherilus said, smiling. "Of course he's going to say that." Millen watched the scuffle on film. "To be honest with you, we just kind of laughed over it, because it was what you'd expect," Millen said. "They had some intensity, and they knew what it meant. They both approached it the right way, they finished it up the right way and now they'll laugh about it the right way."

—Cherilus celebrated his first-round selection with family at home Saturday, then went out and bought a new suit for his introductory news conference Sunday. Linebacker Jordon Dizon? He just borrowed a suit from his college roommate. "Last night at 10 o'clock, he ironed it for me," Dizon said. "I only wore a suit twice in my life. I never really owned a suit. Growing up in Hawaii, you don't need to wear a suit."

—Safety Kalvin Pearson was arrested in Tampa after an alleged incident of domestic violence. He was with two felonies — aggravated battery on a pregnant female and domestic battery by strangulation — plus a misdemeanor of opposing or obstructing an officer without violence.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Is it a glamorous guy coming in? No. But for a coach, it is." — Lions coach Rod Marinelli on his first-round pick, Boston College offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

—S Idrees Bashir could be back because the Lions need depth in the secondary.

—OT Barry Stokes was signed late in the season when the Lions had problems on the offensive line. He was cut earlier, though, and probably won't be back.

—WR Troy Walters was a solid fifth receiver and return man, but he won't be re-signed.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

—WR Devale Ellis spent 2007 on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

—CB Leigh Bodden (trade Browns).

—DT Chuck Darby: UFA Seahawks; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

—TE Michael Gaines: UFA Bills; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.

—LB Gilbert Gardner: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.

—OG Corey Hulsey: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

—CB Brian Kelly: UFA Buccaneers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

—S Kalvin Pearson: RFA Buccaneers; $3.5M/3 yrs, $1.1M SB (Buccaneers elected not to match and receive no compensation).

—S Dwight Smith: FA Vikings; $5M/2 yrs, $350,000 SB/$300,000 reporting bonus; 2008 cap: $1.825M.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

—RB Tatum Bell: UFA; $1.6M/1 yr, SB unknown.

—DB Greg Blue: ERFA; terms unknown.

—RB Aveion Cason: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

—CB Travis Fisher: UFA; $9M/3 yrs, SB unknown.

—OT George Foster: UFA; $1.1M/1 yr, SB unknown.

—DB LaMarcus Hicks: Not tendered as ERFA; terms unknown.

—TE Sean McHugh: ERFA; terms unknown.

—DL Langston Moore: RFA; $927,000/1 yr.

—DE Corey Smith: UFA; terms unknown.

—CB Keith Smith: Potential UFA; $5M/2 yrs, SB unknown.

—QB Dan Orlovsky: RFA; tendered at $927,000; terms unknown.

—TE John Owens: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

—G Stephen Peterman: RFA; tendered at $927,000; terms unknown.

—CB Stanley Wilson: RFA; tendered at $927,000; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

—LB Boss Bailey: UFA Broncos; $17.5M/5 yrs, $4.35M SB.

—CB Fernando Bryant (released).

—RB T.J. Duckett: UFA Seahawks; $17M/5 yrs, $5M guaranteed.

—DE Kalimba Edwards (released; post-June 1 designation).

—RB Kevin Jones (released/failed physical).

—S Kenoy Kennedy (released).

—LB Teddy Lehman: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.

—QB J.T. O'Sullivan: UFA 49ers; $645,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB.

—DT Shaun Rogers (traded Browns).

—C/G Blaine Saipaia (released).

—T/G Damien Woody: UFA Jets; $25.5M/5 yrs, $8.75M guaranteed.


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