Since UCrawford is heading out of town this week, he wanted to get his pick posted before he left so he could get in on the debate. The rest of the AP Mock draft will start next Monday with the #2 pick. Until then,
watch out for a post about how this is all going to go down (Here is that post). UC's first post is an excellent example of the quality you should be sending in. -Chris
(The Lions fans I talked to at Pride of Detroit convinced me that the Lions were more likely to select Curry than Stafford…I think this will probably piss off a huge number of commenters who had Curry already in Chiefs red).
Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry
["Defense wins championships"]
It's been a dark decade in Detroit for football. Plagued by quite possibly the worst general manager in the history of the NFL, the much despised Matt Millen, and one of the most autocratic and incompetent owners (William Clay Ford) Detroit's Lions have been the epitome of a poorly run franchise. Bad drafts, bad trades, bad coaching, bad philosophies...all have contributed to a team that has averaged less than five wins a season for the last nine years (culminating in the NFL's only 0-16 season in 2008) and that hasn't won a championship in over half a century...despite fielding several players whose names are or should be enshrined in Canton. Barry Sanders, Billy Sims, Chris Spielman, Herman Moore, Alex Karras...none of them, even with their considerable talent, could push Detroit over the hump to respectability.
But things are different this year in Detroit, or so the despondent Lions fans hope. For the first time in recent memory the Lions cleaned house...out went the GM, head coach and most of the staff. To replace them came Martin Mayhew, a young GM who Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian tabbed as a rising star of front office executives, and head coach Jim Schwartz, the architect of the stifling Tennessee Titans defense of 2008. And with them, Lions fans pray, comes an end to the inertia and futility that has plagued the Lions franchise for a generation.
The moves the franchise has made this last year already give some reason for hope for the team. The Lions traded an injured, ineffective and disgruntled (and soon to be free agent) wide receiver, Roy Williams, to the desperate Dallas Cowboys for two draft picks (including Dallas first-rounder). They traded the ineffective (and likely to be waived) former starting QB Jon Kitna to the Cowboys for much needed starting cornerback Anthony Henry. They upgraded the defense with free agent signees Grady Jackson, Eric King, and Phillip Buchanon. They upgraded the offense with WR Bryant Johnson and backup RB Maurice Morris. And now it's time for their draft.
Conventional wisdom is that the Lions will be selecting Matt Stafford with this pick. After all, the Lions offense features All-Universe wide receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson and the only guys the Lions have to throw to him are Daunte Culpepper (and his bad knee) and 2007 2nd rounder Drew Stanton (a bust so far). Stafford is the star of a weak 2009 draft class. He's got a live arm, he's got three years worth of starts at a premier school (Georgia) and he's expressed his willingness to come to Detroit and help them build a winner...to be the first franchise quarterback for the team since they traded away Bobby Layne 51 years ago. This pick is such a no-brainer in the minds of many draftniks that Stafford might as well start shopping for houses in Detroit's bargain real estate market.
But those draftniks likely haven't talked to many Detroit Lions fans, and they probably don't know their Lions history because the hunt for a franchise QB to run a high-powered offense has played itself out before for Detroit...several times. Seven years ago the Lions selected uber-bust John Joseph "Joey" Harrington from Oregon to lead their team. Harrington had the same tools as Stafford...a live arm, a good school (Oregon) in a prestigious conference (Pac-10) and all the hype, and a reputation for shaky accuracy. He went nowhere. Neither did Andre Ware (#7 pick, 1990), or Scott Mitchell (heralded free agent), or Dan Orlovsky, or Mike McMahon, or Charlie Batch, or Erik Kramer, or Rodney Peete. None of the quarterbacks the Lions have brought in (several of them very capable) were able to bring the Detroit Lions close to winning a championship. And the reason for that is simple...because in the last 20 years, despite fielding some very potent offenses, the Lions have fielded exactly one top ten defense for points allowed...in 1997 (when the team went 9-7). Most of the rest of those teams had defenses that were firmly mired in the bottom half of the NFL, along with the Lions franchise (who've gotten to double digit wins only three times in that span).
"Defense wins championships" as the old adage goes...an adage that rings especially true in the brutal winters of the NFC North. And that's why this team, run by defense-obsessed head coach Jim Schwartz and former cornerback Martin Mayhew will attempt to break the cycle of Lions futility by going defense with their first pick, and will draft Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry to replenish their underachieving and undersized linebacking corps. They'll turn Curry over to former Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham in the hopes of replicating Cunningham's magic with the 1990s Chiefs' defenses and Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas. And instead of trying to win by beating the Curse of Bobby Layne, the Lions will try to win by following in the footsteps of other dominant NFC North teams...with a crushing defense led by dominant players. And with Curry and incumbent linebacker Ernie Sims leading the way, the Lions will start their journey back to respectability.