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Thinking big

Lions leaning toward taking another lineman in first round

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Posted: Friday April 20, 2001 7:16 PM

  Steve Hutchinson Steve Hutchinson is one of three Michigan offensive linemen who could be taken in the first round. Jonathan Daniel Allsport

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Lions have a lot of needs, and it's not a secret which one is most pressing.

Offensive line.

The Lions have drafted an offensive linemen in the first round the past two years, and there's a good chance that trend could continue.

This draft will mark the first of the Lions new era led by president Matt Millen, director of player personnel Bill Tobin and coach Marty Mornhinweg.

"We most likely will pick a guy up front," Mornhinweg said.

Detroit also could use help in the secondary, at defensive end, linebacker, tight end and perhaps even at quarterback -- so it's not a lock that Detroit will pick another offensive lineman with the 18th pick overall in the first round.

Whoever the Lions choose -- and they were not interested in tipping their hand -- Millen wants a player that can help a team right away that finished 9-7 last season.

"You want a playmaker at that position," Millen said of the 18th pick. "A guy who can step in. The other half of that playmaker is somebody who gives you stability. Although he may not score touchdowns, he'll cause them."

The Lions may draft a quarterback because Charlie Batch has not proven that he can stay healthy.

They have said they're interested in Purdue quarterback Drew Brees, but he may not be graded high enough to be the 18th pick.

Picking a quarterback in later rounds seems to be a distinct possibility.

"Anytime, anywhere, anyplace, there's a possibility of that," Mornhinweg said.

There appears to be a good chance a former Wolverine could be the Lions' first pick.

Detroit covets guard Steve Hutchinson, but he's expected to be gone before the 18th pick. If the Lions draft either tackle Jeff Backus or Maurice Williams, it would not be surprising.

Although they both played tackle, Backus and Williams are athletic enough to play guard, which they would likely have to do in Detroit.

"All three of them are excellent," Millen said. "All three have great character, great work ethic, come from a great program. They've been well-coached. You're not going to find any nicks on them. You have to look long and hard at those type players.

"Unfortunately, we may not even have a chance to look at them because other people see the same things. All three are quality, and all three will have long careers and play well in this league."

Although the Lions new front-office regime is excited about the draft, Mornhinweg didn't want to overstate its importance for the 2001 season.

"It won't be a definitive stamp, because we will not know how we did in this draft for two or three years," Mornhinweg said. "But this will be a critical draft for the future of the Detroit Lions."

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