NFL draft: Lions havenít decided who they will draft at No. 2
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. ó The Detroit Lions were historically bad the past two seasons in large part because their defenses ranked among the all-time worst.
Detroit is expected to take a defensive tackle ó Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy ó on Thursday night with the No. 2 pick overall pick in the NFL draft.
The Lions would have a choice between the two if the St. Louis Rams select Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford.
Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew insisted recently that the franchise hadn't decided who it wanted to take and didn't expect that to change until draft day.
"I don't think it makes a lot of sense to decide before then," Mayhew said.
Mayhew didn't plan to reveal much about his plans, but did say he anticipated keeping the team's top pick instead of accepting an offer from a team trying to move up.
"If I had to guess what's going to happen, which I hate to do, I would lean toward us being at two and picking," Mayhew said. "We've had some conversations with teams about moving back."
The Lions have a lot of needs after losing an NFL-record 30 games over two seasons and most of them are on defense.
Detroit allowed 517 points, the second most ever, during the league's first 0-16 season in 2008, and allowed 494 last season, ranking fourth worst in NFL history, as it won just two games.
Help seems a pick away.
Suh was The Associated Press national player of the year, the first defensive player to win it, and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He swept the Nagurski and Bednarik awards as national defensive player of the year, and also won the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy for linemen.
McCoy, a second-team All-American, is a candidate to be drafted ahead of Suh despite being less celebrated.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz has said there's a lot to like about both players.
"Both guys are big, they're fast, have high character," Schwartz said a couple months ago at the NFL scouting combine.
The Lions haven't had a lot of those this century.
They're 33-111 since 2001 ó when ex-GM Matt Millen began turning a lackluster franchise into a laughingstock ó in what has been the poorest nine-season stretch by an NFL team since World War II. Detroit has won just three games since midway through the 2007 season in what has been the worst 40-game stretch since the Dayton Triangles were slightly less successful during the 1920s.
A lot of poor picks in the draft, usually ignoring defense until later rounds, went a long way toward creating the mess.
The Mayhew-led front office took a step toward cleaning it up last April.
The Lions drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall, tight end Brandon Pettigrew late in the first round, safety Louis Delmas in the second, and linebacker DeAndre Levy in the third. Each generates legitimate hope for a turnaround.
Detroit has been busy this offseason, signing defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and wide receiver Nate Burleson. It also acquired defensive tackle Corey Williams, guard Rob Sims, cornerback Chris Houston and backup quarterback Shaun Hill in trades to fill some of its many voids.
The Lions plan to let talent supersede need in the draft even though they seem to desperately need a running back, free safety and cornerback besides a playmaking defensive tackle.
"While we are aware of things that we need, we're not going to reach for something that we need if it means bypassing players who are more talented," Mayhew said. "You want to take the best player you can take and that's what our philosophy is."