Sports Illustrated draft gurus divided on Lions' first pick

If the nation’s self-proclaimed leading NFL draft experts can’t come together on who’ll be the first pick overall, what chance does the Lions’ brain trust have?

The biggest draft guru of them all — hair included — ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., thinks the Lions will go with the glamour pick and take Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford.

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But over at, Don Banks is predicting they’ll go with a more bread-and-butter choice in Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith.

“It’s the arm,” Kiper said of Stafford on ESPN. “When you look at his physical prowess, the way he throws the football, he’s done some amazing things in the SEC against elite competition. He’s done it for three full years. His touchdown-interception ratio, his accuracy, all has improved since his freshman campaign. …

“When he starts throwing the football during those workouts, he will wow over the NFL brass, and the Lions need a quarterback moving forward.”

Banks writes at “Sure, it’d be a sexier No. 1 pick if I went with Georgia junior quarterback Matthew Stafford, but I’m not yet at the point where I can see the winless Lions taking anything that resembles a risky pick with the very first selection of the Jim Schwartz era.

“Plenty of questions remain about Stafford’s readiness to play quickly in the NFL, and my early read is the Lions will play it safe and start rebuilding their roster from the lines out. ”

And that does seem to be the popular thinking among Lions fans, too: Stick with the basics. But do you get the feeling that after the Millen era, they’re afraid of getting burned again if the Lions go for a home run with a QB?

For example, also is running a poll as to who the Lions should take, and 60% of the first 5,000 voters in Michigan said Smith, to just 18% for Stafford.

Nationally, with about 115,000 votes in, Stafford was leading with 37%, and Smith was second with 30%.

Anyway, both Kiper and Banks agree the Lions will go for defense with the second first-round pick, 20th overall.

Kiper says they’ll draft Southern Cal linebacker Rey Maualuga, who said this week he’d be happy to bring some intensity to the Detroit defense.

But Banks, who has Maualuga going eight picks earlier to Denver, says the Lions will get Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, so two linemen with their first two picks.

So, should the Lions go for a skill position or a something for the trenches? Personally, I’m not going to get hung up on positions. How about they just draft some good players for a change?