Lions Complete 2008 NFL Draft

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Rod Marinelli and Matt Millen know they can't afford any more mistakes.
After years of draft-day blunders and losing seasons, the Detroit Lions' coach and the club's president are hoping they finally got things right this year.
"We need to pick players that are going to make this team, and help us win games," Marinelli said Sunday. "We have to have a plan for every player -- what he is going to do and how he is going to fit in to our system."
After six straight seasons with double-digit losses, the Lions started 6-2 last year only to falter to an eventual 7-9 finish.
"We are looking for two things," Millen said. "We want guys who fit our system, and we want guys that have ability and talent."
After filling needs with both picks on Saturday -- Boston College tackle Gosder Cherilus in the first round and Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon in the second -- Millen and Marinelli decided that they couldn't risk losing a chance to take care of another problem area.
Before the draft resumed Sunday, the Lions traded a sixth-round pick to Miami to move up two spots to the first pick of the third, which let them pick Central Florida running back Kevin Smith.
"We were concerned that St. Louis or Miami might take him, and we didn't want to miss out on this young man," Marinelli said. "Sometimes, you just connect with a kid, and we knew we wanted him."
Smith rushed for 2,567 yards as a junior, missing Barry Sanders' single-season college record by less than 100 yards.
"I never though of myself as chasing Barry -- he's a legend, and it was thrilling just to be mentioned in the same thought of him," he said. "To get drafted by the same organization where he played is a dream come true."
After taking Florida State defensive tackle Andre Fluellen with their second third-round pick, the Lions made another move, trading this year's fourth-round pick and next year's fourth-round pick to the Cowboys for another pick in the third.
That move gave them a second defensive lineman, Purdue defensive end Cliff Avril. Avril and Cherilus had a well-publicized fight during a Senior Bowl practice, but both downplayed it Sunday.
"It was just a football thing -- you compete hard and then everything is OK," Cherilus said. "We talked about it afterwards, and it was fine. He's a great kid."
Avril joked that Cherilus had been holding him during the drill, a claim that Cherilus denied with equal seriousness. Millen, a former linebacker, had no problem casting the deciding vote.
"Was he holding? He's an offensive lineman," said Millen, who said he saw the incident on tape and didn't think it was a problem. "What do you think?"
In the fifth round, Detroit took kick returner Kenny Moore from Wake Forest and fullback Jerome Felton from Furman, who scored 67 touchdowns in his college career.
Unlike Cherilus (Haiti) and Dizon (Hawaii), who played soccer while growing up outside the continental United States, the German-born Felton never took to the game.
"It was too much running," he said. "I didn't like running without scoring -- it felt like I was doing it for no reason -- so I switched to football."
After their joint press conference, Dizon stared in amazement at the 6'6", 320-pound Cherilus.
"That's the biggest soccer player I've ever seen," the 230-pound Dizon said.
The Lions finished their draft with one of the day's most poignant moments when they selected Army defensive back Caleb Campbell with the 218th overall pick. Both the NFL Network and ESPN went live to the draft podium for the selection, the first time for either network in hours, and the remaining fans at Radio City Music Hall chanted his name and "U-S-A!"
"That was an unbelievable moment," said Campbell, who had also been interviewed by both networks. "This is something I've dreamed about since I was a kid, when I went to West Point, I thought I'd give that up in order to protect and serve my country."
Campbell, who will be commissioned as a second lieutenant when he graduates on May 31, will be on active duty while with the Lions, working as a recruiter. If his career lasts more than two seasons, he will have the option of buying out the last three years of his active-duty commitment in exchange for six years in the reserves.
"If my football career doesn't work out, I go right on with my Army career," he said. "My classmates, my friends and the faculty and staff here have all been cheering for me."
Marinelli is an Army veteran, while Millen's son Marcus is a student at West Point.
"That kid embodies what the Academy is all about, and that's what everyone in this country should be trying to be," Millen said. "He's got skills, he's got desire and he's going to get a great opportunity."
Ironically, Campbell plays the same position as Kalvin Pearson, a Lions free-agent signee who was arrested Saturday on charges of domestic violence. Millen said the team was still trying to find out details of the situation before making any decisions on Pearson's future.


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