Lions won’t rule out much with 13th pick overall

The Detroit Lions won’t take a quarterback with the 13th pick

overall in the NFL draft.

Other than that, not even the Lions’ brain trust is certain what

the team will do next week.

”It’s always interesting to me and funny when I read that

somebody said that we’re not going to take an offensive player or

we’re not going to take a certain player,” general manager Martin

Mayhew said Thursday. ”I don’t even know who we’re going to take

right now. I’m not sure how somebody else could know.”

Detroit’s biggest voids seem to be at cornerback, linebacker and

offensive tackle after closing last season with four wins and a

6-10 record two years after becoming the first NFL team to go

0-16.

”We have a lot more needs than people realize,” Mayhew said,

entering his third draft in charge of football operations after

assisting fired GM Matt Millen. ”There are a lot of places we can

get better and there are a lot of good players in this draft.

”Our philosophy has been to take the best player. I don’t think

that’s going to change.”

Mayhew, though, acknowledged common sense will prevail if the

best player on the Lions’ draft board is a QB when it is their turn

to pick in the first round.

”In the first round, we’re not taking a quarterback,” he said.

”You can put that on the record.”

Detroit is very comfortable with its trio of quarterbacks:

Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton.

After they’ve made the 13th selection Thursday night, the Lions

will have one pick each in the second and third rounds Friday night

and slots in fourth, fifth and seventh rounds Saturday.

Detroit got its seventh-round pick back from the league after

appealing a ruling that the franchise had to give up that selection

and switch fifth-round slots with the Kansas City Chiefs for

violating the league’s tampering policy.

”That’s very important,” Mayhew said. ”That’s why we

aggressively went after that pick.”

If the Lions make the playoffs next season, they will give

Kansas City their sixth-round pick. If not, the Chiefs will get

Detroit’s seventh-round slot in the 2012 draft.

Detroit’s chances of having success next season, assuming the

NFL lockout ends and there is a season, may hinge on Stafford’s

ability to play an entire year for the first time as a pro. That

could lead Detroit to draft at least one offensive lineman.

Stafford was healthy enough to play just three games last year

and 10 games after being the No. 1 pick in 2009 because of shoulder

and knee injuries.

”We need to keep him on the field,” coach Jim Schwartz said

last month in New Orleans at the owners meetings.

If the Lions can help Stafford enough to at least approach 16

starts, they might have a shot at completing their quest to finish

ahead of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, conference

runner-up Chicago and Minnesota in the NFC North. Detroit was the

last team to beat Green Bay last season, closed the regular season

with a win over Minnesota and lost two tight games to Chicago.

”The goal for this team is to win our division and we showed

last year we can match up with the teams in our division,” Mayhew

said.

The Lions might want to move toward that next step with a

standout cornerback.

If Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara is not available, they may take a

chance on Colorado’s Jimmy Smith. He failed at least one drug test

and faced two minor-in-possession of alcohol charges in college.

Mayhew said the Lions extensively investigate the character of

prospects, including Smith.

”We’ve done a lot of work on Jimmy,” he said. ”I feel better

about him than I did before I met him.”

Of course, Mayhew might be publicly praising Smith as a person

in the hopes that another team picks him to make an offensive

tackle such as USC’s Tyron Smith or Boston College’s Anthony

Castonzo or another targeted player available in the first

round.

”There are probably a little bit more than a handful of players

who were talking about,” Mayhew said. ”We’ll continue to talk

about those players until we make a final decision.”

Mayhew acknowledged the team’s first pick may not start right

away. That probably would be the case with Smith or Castonzo

because either would likely back up Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus

as a rookie.

”We’re not drafting to get ready for the first game of the

season,” Mayhew said. ”We’re drafting for the future of the

franchise.”