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Published: 4/24/2005

Millen takes what Lions don't need

Mike Williams celebrates with his mother, Kathy McCurdy, as family and friends react to his selection by Detroit. He caught 176 passes for 2,579 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons at Southern California but had to sit out last season. Mike Williams celebrates with his mother, Kathy McCurdy, as family and friends react to his selection by Detroit. He caught 176 passes for 2,579 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons at Southern California but had to sit out last season.
JASON BEHNKEN / AP Enlarge

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Round One of yesterday's NFL Draft was the Super Bowl for Detroit Lions president Matt Millen.

There's a lot of pressure in the draft room, pressure on Millen to produce his first winning season in Detroit.

Good teams excel and bad teams panic on draft day.

It's so damaging to mess up a No. 1 pick because it costs a team money and production for years to come.

The Lions have missed on a number of high first-round picks, and look where it's gotten them - no trips to the playoffs since 1999.

Under Millen, the Lions have had the No. 3, No. 2, No. 7 and No. 10 overall picks in the first round.

Millen's draft strategy has been based on need. Former top-10 picks Joey Harrington (2002), Charles Rogers (2003) and Roy Williams (2004) addressed specific needs.

That strategy changed suddenly and revealingly yesterday when Millen took the best player available on Detroit's draft board, Southern California receiver Mike Williams.

"We ran a lot of scenarios and we didn't believe that Mike Williams would be sitting there," Millen said.

The Lions had several needs to fill - defensive end, linebacker, offensive tackle, etc., etc.

Everything - anything - except another wide receiver.

With the 10th overall pick, the Lions could have filled an immediate need at offensive tackle with Florida State's Alex Barron or Oklahoma's Jammal Brown, added depth at defensive end with Maryland's Shawne Merriman, LSU's Marcus Spears, Troy's Demarcus Ware, Wisconsin's Erasmus James or Georgia's David Pollack, or at outside linebacker with Texas' Derrick Johnson.

Millen took Mike Williams with the No. 10 overall pick although the Lions selected Roy Williams No. 7 overall a year ago and Rogers No. 2 overall the year before that.

Millen drafted Mike Williams with Roy Williams and Charles Rogers already in the starting lineup, and despite the Lions recently signing veteran receiver Kevin Johnson.

"A few years back we sat here and said we need playmakers," said Millen, who traded up to switch positions with Tennessee in the second round to draft Southern California defensive end Shaun Cody. "Right now, we've done that."

"When you have weapons now like we do, we are equipped to have some explosiveness. You can tell in our voices how excited we are to have a guy like this," said coach Steve Mariucci, who indicated the addition of Mike Williams means the Lions will showcase more three-receiver sets in 2005.

Williams, 6-foot-5 and 229 pounds, was the third receiver drafted, behind Michigan's Braylon Edwards (No. 3 pick to Cleveland) and South Carolina's Troy Williamson (No. 7 to Minnesota).

The knock on Williams, who's expected to wear No. 88 for the Lions, was that he's a step slow and he hasn't played in a year. The focus should be on Williams' 176 receptions and 30 touchdowns in just two seasons.

"I don't think I could have [fallen] into a better situation with the guys that are already there and what they are trying to do with that offense," he said.



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