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Lions' Draft Plans Falling Into Place

Although the NFL Draft is still more than two weeks away, what will happen at the top of the first round is seemingly becoming clearer and clearer each day, especially with the Lions.

Last night's surprising trade that sent Donovan McNabb to the Redskins essentially eliminated any real possibility of the Lions trading down.  There's always the chance that something unforeseen could happen (like St. Louis passing on Sam Bradford, for example), but considering a trade wasn't all that likely even before McNabb was moved, now that Washington no longer needs to draft a QB the chances of Detroit being able to move down are very slim.

Look at it this way, before last night's trade it was not out of the question that the following teams in the top 10 of the draft all could consider drafting a QB: St. Louis (#1), Washington (#4), Seattle (#6), Cleveland (#7), Buffalo (#9), and Jacksonville (#10).  Assuming Sam Bradford does go #1 to the Rams, the Lions were in a pretty good position leverage-wise to trade down if a team happened to fall in love with Jimmy Clausen enough to move all the way up to the #2 pick.  The key for the Lions was the fact that Washington was sitting there at #4 with a need for a QB.  Now, though, it looks like Kansas City is the team with the most leverage simply because if a team is going to move up to for sure draft Clausen, they probably won't have to do it until right before Seattle goes on the clock (Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City aren't going to select a QB).  Again, never say never, but the Lions' leverage went out the window with Washington trading for McNabb.

Just as a trade down is looking more and more unlikely, the same can be said about drafting an offensive tackle, namely Russell Okung.  Personally I never thought that was very likely to begin with just based on what Jim Schwartz has said about Jeff Backus, but many people truly believed that the Lions would select Okung and then move Backus to left guard.  With the move to trade for Rob Sims, however, it certainly seems like the Lions' starting offensive line for the 2010 season is in place.  Just like a trade down, you never say never about the possibility of Okung being drafted, but right now it appears that the Lions are content with Backus at left tackle and Sims at left guard, meaning they will be able to focus on another position with the second overall pick.

As it stands right now, it seems highly unlikely that the Rams will go in a direction other than Sam Bradford, leaving the Lions with a chance to have their pick of either Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.  I'd put my money on Suh going with the second overall pick and then McCoy being drafted by the Buccaneers.  This would all allow Washington to pick Okung to protect Donovan McNabb and then allow Kansas City to draft a player like Eric Berry. 

Surprisingly, right now it doesn't look like we are in for many surprises with the first few picks of the draft based on how everything stands right now.  The only thing that could happen to truly shake up the top of the draft is if St. Louis passes on Sam Bradford.  If that were to happen, suddenly the Lions would be in a prime position to make a trade with one of the teams that needs a QB.  Although I'm sure the Lions wouldn't have any problem with drafting someone like McCoy if Suh was taken with the top pick, there would be an insane amount of leverage on the Lions' side if Bradford were still on the board.  In that scenario I would be surprised if a trade didn't happen simply because the Lions could conceivably move down to the bottom half of the top ten, get extra picks, and draft a player like C.J. Spiller or Joe Haden or Eric Berry (if he's still available) with the lower first-round pick.

As we continue to count down the days until the draft, things certainly look like they're shaping up for Ndamukong Suh to be picked by the Lions.  Past drafts would teach us to expect the unexpected, but right now all signs point to Suh at #2.

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