At this point in time, it is still unknown who the Lions will draft at #1 overall (assuming they are unable to trade the pick). Any group of 10 fans will garner you 4 different names to choose from, and each will have multiple reasons why their choice is the correct one. I only know for sure the #1 pick will not be a running back or kicker, since neither position group has had any scouting activity by the Lions. Based on the cap implications, I can also rule out Center, Guard, and Safety. We may as well rule out WR as well, for the obvious reasons (already have CJ and the recent draft history). At this point I don't see a DE or a DT that is better then the other choices for #1, so they go off the list.
That leaves LB, LT, and QB.
There is a perfectly good LB named Curry in this draft who has been called the safest pick in the draft. The only big issue is the money (cap hit) that the #1 pick takes up. No LB has ever gotten a contract as large as what it is assumed the #1 pick will get. Some say it's no big deal, but that just isn't true. How many times have good players been cut due to cap reasons? How many free agents weren't signed by teams that needed them because the money/cap hit was too much? The NFL is a business, everything revolves around the money, and the #1 pick and his agent will be after it. The Lions might feel they will overpay for a LB to avoid the other choices, but that indicates they have rated the players and there's a huge gap between Curry and everyone else. I am not convinced that is the case. There are several other linebackers in the draft who have played their entire college careers at middle line backer and they are options further down the draft board. So even though I don't foresee Curry as the pick, and even though it's unlikely he will be the pick, it is not impossible that he could be the pick.
There are also two left tackles rated fairly high on most boards, and either could be the pick. Both have their plusses and minuses. It's been rumored that J. Smith is the most likely of the two to be picked by the Lions. I just do not know which is better, and I guess I don't really care. If they both are that good then either would help the team. I'm sorry Jeff Backus, but you had 8 years to make an impression and you have been unable to do so. Quite the opposite in my case in fact. If it were up to me, a LT would be the #1 pick in the draft.
There are also two quarterbacks in the draft rated fairly high by some (and not nearly so high by others). The Lions appear more interested in Stafford then Sanchez, and most draft pundits have ordained Stafford the Lions pick. I feel they are feeding off of each other somewhat because the Lions have not said one word about who they would take, and anything they have said was probably misinformation designed to muddy the waters. They are in contract negotiations and are looking for a signed deal they can live with... they are also near a phone all the time in case a trade offer comes up... and they are getting ready for the rest of the draft, which I am sorry to say is actually more important then just the #1 pick. One pick alone is not going to fix the team... while those other picks could go a long way in doing so.
So here are some names I believe contain the players the Lions will draft, throughout draft weekend, depending on who is available and what trades they partake in. Just before the draft I will be posting a list of even more names, ones that have been verified the Lions have scouted, but for now, my short list... the guys who I think stand the best chance of getting picked by the Lions, ranked in the order I believe the Lions to be interested in them, grouped by draft pick location.
Matt Stafford QB Georgia
Jason Smith OT Baylor
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
Mark Sanchez QB USC
Rey Maualuga ILB USC
Andre Smith LT Alabama
Peria Jerry DT Mississippi
Michael Oher LT Mississippi
James Laurenitus LB OSU
Conner Barwin DE
Josh Freeman QB KSU
Alex Mack C Cal
Evander Hood DT
Cory Irvin DT Georgia
Donald Washington CB OSU
TJ Lang OG/OT EMU
Jarron Gilbert DT San Jose State
DeAngelo Willingham CB Tennesee
Demetrius Byrd WR LSU
Mohammed Massaquoi WR Georgia
Johnny Knox WR Abeline Christian
Vaughn Martin DT Western Ontario
Brice McCain CB/RS Utah
Nick Hennessey OL Colgate
They won't draft 2 left tackles or 2 QBs, so if 1 is picked, the rest fall off the list, etc. However, they could take more then one DT and LB and CB, so that is not always the case.
I expect some trades down and up to happen as well, and there are many many other players they have scouted to pick from. It all depends on how things fall. That said, 7 players they would like on the team just may be on the above list, if I have done my homework correctly. They currently have 8 picks, but like I said, trades will likely happen.
(I would like to thank LionHawkeye for his scout contact list and all the people at MLive Lions Forum for their opinions on the various players that helped me form my opinions on the 2009 Lions Draft).