Welcome to the official 2009 SB Nation mock draft! Starting things off is Sean Yuille, head man at Detroit Lions blog Pride of Detroit.
The phrase "Defense Wins Championships" has never been reflective of the Lions' strategy in building a team in the modern era of football. Jim Schwartz, a former defensive coordinator, is going to try and change that. Free agency filled many positions of need (as did a trade with the Seahawks), but there is still a gaping hole at middle linebacker, which is perhaps the most important position on defense. With that in mind, Pride of Detroit decided to draft linebacker Aaron Curry, who will be able to come in and immediately start in the middle for the Lions. Although he is an OLB, Lions GM Martin Mayhew has said that Curry can be a starter at MLB from day one. He has unbelievable talent and is someone the Lions could build their defense around. There is a risk with moving a player to a new position, but if he didn't make as much of an impact as hoped in the middle, down the road he could be moved back outside to take over for Julian Peterson, who isn't exactly all that young.
I'm sure many will wonder why Matthew Stafford wasn't picked, especially since nearly every expert out there thinks he will be taken by the Lions with the top overall pick. It's pretty simple, though. To the majority of Lions fans, Stafford isn't viewed as someone that is guaranteed to be a great franchise quarterback. Even if that opinion turns out to be wrong, Stafford isn't the right pick at this point in the rebuilding process. It is probably unlikely he would start very much in year one with the Lions, and even if he did, Detroit doesn't have enough talent on the offensive line to protect Stafford. The Lions could help the o-line with their other first-round or the 33rd overall pick, but by that time all of the elite tackles will be gone.
For Detroit, it is wiser to spend the top overall pick on someone that can immediately have an impact and make this team better. Stafford simply wouldn't do that, and although the Lions will have to find a franchise QB someday, it is not necessary to do that right now. The ideal scenario would be to turn the Lions into a respectable team in 2009, a winning team in 2010, and a team that can make noise in the playoffs by 2011. Like I already said, the Lions will have to find a franchise QB at some point in this process, but right now it is more important to start winning some games. Drafting Matthew Stafford won't accomplish that goal and will only delay the rebuilding process.
MTD thoughts: What is most concerning about taking Curry first overall is moving him to the middle. He absolutely has the intelligence and athleticism to play the position, but does that best suit his talents? The Lions' current starting linebackers, Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson, are at their best when they can flow around the field making plays. That will leave the middle linebacker to make plays up the middle. And if he's just plugging gaps, why not see if Rey Maualuga is there with pick 20, or even take Jasper Brinkley later in the draft?
Still, Curry has the talent to be a star, even in Detroit. If he is indeed the team's choice, Detroit will immediately have one of the best linebacking trios in the NFL.
Mocking the Draft's Top Five Remaining Prospects - WR Michael Crabtree, QB Matt Stafford, CB Malcolm Jenkins, OT Michael Oher, OT Jason Smith