Detroit Lions Have First Pick In NFL Draft
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne at NPR West.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep in Detroit. We are reporting this week from downtown Detroit, just a few blocks from the home of the Lions - Ford Field. During one of our interviews, I asked a man if he was a Lions fan and he answered, no, I try to stay positive.
Detroit's pro football team lost every single game last year. They were 0-16. And now they get the benefit of all that futility. NPR's Mike Pesca is here to preview the NFL draft.
And Mike, it's the one time of the year it's good to be a loser.
MIKE PESCA: Well, yes, the Lions did have the worst record in the history of the NFL, so they get the first pick. Lot of rumors. Lot of draft gurus. And by the way, in this bad economy, that's a growth industry - draft guru.
(Soundbite of laughter)
PESCA: A lot of draft gurus are saying that they will take Matthew Stafford, who is a quarterback from Georgia, quarterback being the most important position in the NFL. But it's also a risky position. And so they might go another direction, take a very skilled offensive lineman from Baylor, Jason Smith.
Either way, the Lions say they want a deal in place by the time the draft comes. There's an interesting reason to take Matthew Stafford other than the fact that he's a very good quarterback. Matthew Stafford went to the same high school in Dallas, Texas, as Bobby Lane. And Bobby Lane, Steve, as you might know, and the people in Detroit definitely do know, was the last good quarterback the Lions had. And supposedly, he laid a curse on the team when he left. So maybe by drafting Stafford, they'll reverse the curse.
MONTAGNE: Hey, guys, just a quick question I wanted to get in here. From where I sit out here in Los Angeles, fans are excited to see where the other highly rated quarterback in the draft - Mark Sanchez of USC - where he ends up.
PESCA: Most people do rate Stafford ahead of Sanchez. You'll get a fair number saying Sanchez could be the better quarterback than Stafford. It's less certain where he will go. He could go as high as number four, to the Seattle Seahawks. He could go anywhere in the high teens. There are a bunch of teams who are desperate for a quarterback. The Jets, the Broncos, the Buccaneers.
The difference between Sanchez and Stafford and the quarterbacks last year who went high - Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco - is that the two current quarterbacks we're talking about are underclassmen. So people look at what happened last year where Ryan and Flacco, two new quarterbacks, were given the starting job. That doesn't always happen. But those two guys took their teams to the playoffs. And for Flacco's part, he took his team deep into the playoffs.
So people are saying maybe this is a new era in the NFL. Maybe they'll draft Stafford and Sanchez, and they'll be able to take their teams deep in the playoffs. The problem with that is, like I said, Sanchez and Stafford are underclassmen. Sanchez, for instance, only started 16 games in college. So it could be a little bit harder for him to jump right into a system, be the day-one quarterback, and be successful at the NFL level.
INSKEEP: Mike Pesca, we've got time for one other, quick question. I have to ask about this. It was reported this week that a couple of high-profile prospects failed their drug tests. How does that affect their draft chances?
PESCA: I think that the problem with - and we're talking about, specifically, a player named Percy Harvin, who plays for the University of Florida, who was seen by many as the best athlete in the draft. But the way it works is, when you fail a drug test during your tryout period for the NFL, essentially you're told when the drug test is, you're told exactly how it's going to be administered. So a lot of scouts say they didn't really fail a drug test, they failed an intelligence test.
And people are saying that this will be one of the more intriguing players in the draft. Where will Percy Harvin go? Do you look and say, he's so athletic we can use him like Reggie Bush? Or do you say, this guy doesn't have the maturity to pass a simple drug test that he knew about weeks ahead of time.
MONTAGNE: Mike, thanks.
PESCA: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mike Pesca, reporting on the NFL draft, which comes this weekend.
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