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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2005

10th-place selection good spot for Lions

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Detroit Lions may find themselves sitting in the catbird's seat during Saturday's first round of the NFL Draft.

The general consensus is that there is no consensus regarding this draft.

It's buyer beware on just about all fronts.

But Detroit is sitting pretty at the No. 10 spot. Something good should fall into their hands without risking big bucks - all things being relative - on someone who could turn out to be a big bust.

They won't have to worry about whether Alex Smith and/or Aaron Rodgers are truly franchise quarterbacks. Conversely, the Lions won't have to pull a rabbit out of their hat, either, like some of the teams drafting in the bottom of the first round might.

If they're extremely fortunate, a cornerback like Antrel Rolle or Adam "Pac Man" Jones will survive nine picks and make Detroit's selection a no-brainer. Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards won't last that long, but maybe Mike Williams of Southern Cal will. A lot of the mock drafts that you trip over anytime you visit the Internet have the Lions takings Derrick Johnson, the draft's top-rated linebacker from Texas, and he'd certainly be a plum.

The Lions will have six picks in the draft and the main emphasis figures to be on defense. They need an end to play opposite James Hall and the secondary could stand to be reinforced, especially by a lock-down cover corner.

Linebacker is less of a need with Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman in the fold, but it's a position where teams can never have enough quality talent.Johnson has All-Pro potential as a speed rusher who has a nose for the ball, as 130 tackles last season would attest. The Lions have a decent front seven, but few opposing offensive lines fear their pass rush.

The Lions reportedly have met with tight ends Heath Miller of Virginia and Alex Smith of Stanford, but using a first-round pick at that position would make little sense after signing free agent Marcus Pollard (Indianapolis) during the offseason.

One offensive position that would make sense is at tackle, where Detroit has to replace Stocker McDougle. The slot could probably be filled in the second round as capably as in the first, however.

But what if USC's Williams is still there at No. 10? The Lions used first-round picks on Charles Rogers in 2003 and Roy Williams in '04, but stockpiling another top receiver could alleviate some of the always-present injury concerns.

Whether the Lions draft for need or just grab the best available player, regardless of position, No. 10 looks like a good place to be in this year's first round.

ALAMEDA, Calif. - The Raiders agreed to a trade with the New York Jets yesterday that will send tight end Doug Jolley to the Jets and give Oakland a first-round pick in this weekend's NFL draft after all.

Jolley, a fourth-year tight end out of Brigham Young University, goes to New York along with a second-round pick in exchange for the Jets' 26th overall pick, one Raiders source and one NFL source said, both speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Raiders traded their first-round draft selection - seventh overall - to Minnesota for Randy Moss in March and weren't scheduled to make their first pick until sixth in the second round, 38th overall.

Jolley, a second-round draft pick out of BYU in 2002, had 27 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns last season.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - The Detroit Lions re-signed safety Vernon Fox and offensive tackle Victor Rogers to one-year contracts. Both were restricted free agents.

The 5-10, 200-pound Fox played in 14 games for Detroit in 2004, making nine special-teams tackles. San Diego signed Fox as an undrafted free agent on April 26, 2002. In two seasons with the Chargers, he played in 28 games and had 45 tackles, one interception and five pass defenses.

The 6-6, 330-pound Rogers enters his fourth season with the Lions. He was drafted by Detroit with its third selection of the seventh round (259th overall) in 2002.


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