ALLEN PARK - The Lions traded the glitz of recent drafts for the opportunity to fill specific needs, and they feel they accomplished their mission.
Linebacker Ernie Sims, the first-round pick, is likely to be lining up as the starting weak-side linebacker when the Lions open the season September 10 against NFC champion Seattle, and there is a good chance second-round pick Daniel Bullocks will be the starting free safety.
In addition, they landed two offensive linemen -- Jonathan Scott of Texas and Fred Matua of Southern California -- who will get a chance to compete for the left guard job, and they fortified their secondary by taking Alton (Dee) McCann in the sixth round.
Lions president Matt Millen also drafted running back Brian Calhoun in the third round. He is expected to compete with Artose Pinner for the final running back spot on the roster. With their supplemental pick in the seventh round, the Lions landed inside linebacker Anthony Cannon, giving them another body at linebacker and a special teams candidate.
The focus on defensive players with the first two picks was a major change from recent years, when Millen spent his first-round picks on offensive playmakers, including quarterback Joey Harrington, running back Kevin Jones and three wide receivers -- Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams.
There was little doubt the direction the Lions would take in this year's draft. They have put the offensive playmakers in the hands of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and turned their attention to drafting players who could make an immediate contribution to coach Rod Marinelli's defense.
Nobody was happier about the decision to draft four defenders than defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson.
"When the head coach is an offensive guy, they usually bring in offensive players," Henderson said. "When the head coach is a defensive guy, we bring in defensive players. It depends on who the guy is.
"Our value right now, we've got a defensive staff, a defensive head coach (and) we'd like to bring in some defensive players."
BEST PICK: Outside linebacker Ernie Sims, Florida State, first round. Though there was some sentiment for the Lions to take Matt Leinart as their quarterback of the future, president Matt Millen simply could not afford to continue putting the team's future on hold. They needed defensive help immediately and in Sims they believe they got what they needed -- a deluxe hitter who also satisfies coach Rod Marinelli's desire to surround himself with players who love the game and will sell out on every play.
COULD SURPRISE: Offensive lineman Fred Matua, USC, seventh round.
Matua is a seventh-round draft pick who has had injury problems, but the Lions
believe he has the mental and physical toughness to play in the NFL. His game is
pulling and trapping, and he was a strong pass-blocker at USC. Lions line coach
Larry Beightol put considerable stock in the strong recommendation Matua got
from USC line coach Pat Ruel. He will get a chance to develop at all three
interior line positions.
A closer look at the Lions' picks:
Round 1/9 -- Ernie Sims, LB, 5-111/2, 221, Florida State
Coach Rod Marinelli compares Sims' style to that of Tampa Bay OLB Derrick Brooks -- tough, physical and extremely aggressive. A natural leader. With his ability to cover ground and deliver a blow, it would be a surprise if he's not the starting weak side linebacker when the Lions open the season Sept. 10. A little short but not undersized. Has to learn to play under control and won't be able to freelance as he did occasionally in college. Has great bloodlines -- his father played football at FSU and his mother was an All-America sprinter at FSU.
Round 2/40 -- Daniel Bullocks, FS, 6-01/2, 212, Nebraska
Twin brother of Josh, who came out a year ago and was drafted by New Orleans. Can play both FS and SS but the Lions will break him in at FS, where he is expected to compete with Terrence Holt for a starting job. Considered an instinctive player, aggressive but still disciplined, he will sacrifice his body to make plays. Tough and physical, always around the ball though he does not have natural hands and will miss some interception opportunities. A good special teams player and the Lions say he is a sure tackler.
Round 3/74 -- Brian Calhoun, RB, 5-91/4, 194, Wisconsin
Came out after a productive junior season in which he gained 1,636 yards and scored 22 touchdowns, despite tailing off down the stretch. He averaged roughly 3 yards per carry against Purdue, 2 yards against Penn State and 1 yard against Iowa. Not great size but runs hard, has good vision and has an extra gear to get outside and go the distance. Good hands and runs good routes, which makes him a multipurpose threat. Started his career at Colorado, playing in 26 games in his first two seasons before transferring to Wisconsin and sitting out the 2004 season.
Round 5/141 -- Jonathan Scott, T, 6-6 3/8, 315, Texas
Gifted athlete who apparently has not come close to living up to his potential. Must get stronger and tougher, and must improve his technique. Does not play with power and can get hammered in the hole. Nevertheless, the Lions feel he has a definite upside. Has good natural athletic ability, moves well in space and has excellent feet. Played primarily at left tackle at Texas and will probably work there initially with the Lions, but they're hoping to test him inside, probably at left guard where they need help.
Round 6/179 -- Alton (Dee) McCann, CB, 5-111/4, 197, West Virginia
A strong, physical cornerback who can knock receivers around and punish them after the catch. Has enough speed to cover deep throws and has good hands (four interceptions last season). Tough, plays with the aggressive attitude Lions coach Rod Marinelli wants. A good leaper but at times will mistime his jumps. A willing hitter on run support.
Round 7/217 -- Fred Matua, G-C, 6-2 3/8, 306, USC
A guard who has played center. Has the intangibles coach Rod Marinelli likes -- he's tough, nasty and will play hurt -- and offensive line coach Larry Beightol believes he can develop. Emotional player who enjoys the game and has strong hands. Able to pull and trap, can slide in pass protection and has a quick first step. Has short arms, is not terrific athletically and is a waist-bender. Will have to firm up a soft body and learn to sink his hips. Uncles Titus and Navy Tuiasosopo both played in the NFL as offensive linemen.
Round 7/247 -- Anthony Cannon, ILB, 5-11, 220, Tulane
Considered a high-motor player, willing to work. Had good range in a 3-4 defense, effective in pursuit, was disciplined in coverage and got to the ball well. Was not strong at the point of attack, however, and could be swallowed up by blocks. Too often was out of control going to the ball but could contribute on special teams in the NFL.