Having NFL's top overall pick brings power, pressure

In less than a week, the Lions will find themselves on the clock, armed with the first overall pick in the draft.

It's a great position to be in, having control of the draft board. Most people can only imagine the feeling of absolute power that comes from knowing the entire NFL is waiting breathlessly for your move.

But therein lies the problem.

Possessing the top pick can be the key to future success (see Peyton Manning, 1998). But it just as easily can be a recipe for disappointment if the player fails to live up to the incredible expectations that come with the pick.

This is not lost on the Lions.

"I've compared it a little bit to playing blackjack," said rookie coach Jim Schwartz, who most believe will use the pick on Georgia QB Matt Stafford. "You can go play blackjack in Vegas and play the $5 table and play for a couple of hours and make a lot of bad decisions and lose $100 and have some fun.

"If you go play at the $5,000 or $10,000 table, if you make bad decisions, you're walking home. You're not flying home. I think you've got to add that into the equation. Not only is it an opportunity to get a great player, but you need to make sure (he'll be great)."

Make the wrong call and the call-maker can count on forever being identified by many by that single bad decision, like the guys who took RB Ki-Jana Carter (Bengals, 1995), QB Tim Couch (Browns, 1999) and QB David Carr (Texans, 2002).

Carter never rushed for more than 500 yards in any of his seven seasons. Couch was perpetually injured and twice threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a season in his five years. Carr allegedly is an active player.

The man who brought Carr to Houston in his first draft, former GM Charley Casserly, will never live it down. He made other head-scratching moves, but he drafted well after Carr, skillfully picking Pro Bowl players Andre Johnson, Mario Williams (first overall in 2006) and DeMeco Ryans.

Casserly resigned in 2006 and now is a TV analyst who criticizes others' questionable moves.

The brain trust in Detroit, Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew, is overseeing its first draft. If those two get it right, perhaps they won't be in this position again. Get it wrong and they might not be around long.

Said Schwartz: "This is my 16th year in the NFL, and it's my first exposure to (the No. 1 pick) and hopefully my last."

A NEW LOOK: Nine defenses used 3-4 systems last season, and at least five more are expected to use it this fall. With nearly half the league soon to be using the scheme, pay attention to linebackers and defensive ends in this draft. Several teams will look to stockpile them.

The Broncos, for example, could grab DE Tyson Jackson of LSU at No. 9 because of his ability to adapt to the 3-4. They are among the teams making the switch. Others include the Packers, Cardinals and Jets.

What's influencing the trend? The 3-4 has worked out rather well for the Steelers, don't you think?

NO EXCUSE: Rumors are that a number of players tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine in February, including top prospects. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said it's one thing for a player to fail a random test while in school but another to do so at the combine. The result can be a precipitous fall in the draft.

"If a guy has a positive test in college, it doesn't impact people all that much," he said. "It's a recreational drug. The next level is if you test positive for anything at the combine. There aren't many coaches or GMs that I know who want a kid on their team who is dumb enough to get caught at the combine. We all know when the combine is."

Having NFL's top overall pick brings power, pressure 04/18/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 19, 2009 7:54am]

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