Draft questions: Sleepers, the No. 1 pick

Once again, it's time for our weekly draft Q&A with Scott Wright from draftcountdown.com.

If you've missed any of our previous Q&As with Scott, you can find them here, along with the rest of MTC's draft coverage. I'll make sure to keep this subsection of the blog updated as we inch closer to April 25.

And one more plug. You can now follow Moving the Chains on Twitter.

Now on to the questions and answers:

Q: Who do you think the Lions WILL take with the first pick, and who do you think they SHOULD take?

A: I still think in the end the Lions WILL take Georgia QB Matthew Stafford.  I liken it to the Atlanta Falcons last year.  Right up until the morning of the draft, they were in love with Glenn Dorsey, saying he was the best player in the draft and that they were going to build in the trenches.  However, when push came to shove, they looked around, realized their quarterbacks were Joey Harrington and Chris Redman, then pulled the trigger on Matt Ryan.  Then again, they are the Lions, and they didn’t just go 0-16 by making the right moves on Draft Day.  In fact, they’ve been in the business of making bad decisions, and business is very good.

There is no question that Detroit SHOULD take Stafford.  Quarterbacks are what separates the good teams from the bad teams in the NFL, and Stafford has all the physical tools and intangibles to be a franchise signal-caller.  Also, it only makes sense for the Lions to bring in someone who can get the ball to their best player, Calvin Johnson.

Let me quickly address the arguments against taking Stafford No. 1 overall:

It’s too risky.

There is no question that taking a quarterback early in round one is a high-risk proposition, but the potential is also there to reap unbelievable rewards.  I always say that if you give me a 1 in 3 chance of landing John Elway, Troy Aikman or Peyton Manning, I’ll take those odds every day of the week.  The Lions can’t be concerned about making the safe choice at No. 1, they need a franchise-changer and have to swing for the fences.  What if the Falcons had been to afraid to take Matt Ryan because Michael Vick didn’t work out?  Or if the Ravens were too scared to select Joe Flacco because Kyle Boller was a bust?  If an NFL decision-maker is drafting with fear in his eyes, he needs to find a new line of work.

Why take a quarterback when we can’t protect him?

If the Lions take a quarterback with the No. 1 pick, they still have Nos. 20 and 33 to upgrade their offensive line.  Look at what the Falcons did last year, getting Matt Ryan early, then landing their left tackle Sam Baker later in round one.  They have a MUCH, MUCH better chance of getting a good offensive lineman with one of those other two picks than they do a franchise quarterback.

We can get a quarterback later.

Think again.  This is a three-quarterback draft, and Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman are all going to be gone before the No. 20 pick.  After that, there may not be another quarterback selected until the fourth or fifth round.  If you don’t get one of the “Big 3” you aren’t getting a good quarterback in this draft.

Let’s wait until next year and take Sam Bradford.

That might not be such a bad plan, but there are two major hiccups.  First of all, Bradford is probably going to be the No. 1 overall pick so if you win a single, solitary game in 2009, it might take you out of that race.  Even if you have a nightmare season, it doesn’t guarantee you a shot at Bradford.  And that is assuming Bradford is even a part of the 2010 NFL Draft.  He will only be a redshirt junior next year so he could go back to Oklahoma for yet another season.  Don’t think that’s not possible either  The guy is a 4.0 student, loves college and has already passed up tens of millions of dollars once.  As for the other top college signal-callers, at this point there isn’t another senior or junior who looks like a probable first-round pick in 2010.  Sorry Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow.

Q: What offensive player in this draft has the highest ceiling? In other words, a guy who, if he reaches his potential, could have an especially remarkable career.
A: Stafford is the only offensive player in this draft I gave my “Elite” grade to, and I truly believe he has what it takes to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.  If he doesn’t succeed, it will be because his franchise mishandled him.

Q: Same question, but a defensive player.

A: I gave Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry my “Elite” grade, but even though he is going to be a very good player for a long time, I don’t know that he is ever going to be one of those rare defensive superstars in the NFL.  With that being the case, I would probably single out Boston College DT B.J. Raji.  We have seen the kind of impact stud defensive tackles can have, and the type of money Albert Haynesworth commanded as a free agent, and I think Raji has the potential to be that type of player.  Not only is he a force in the middle at 6-1½ and 337 pounds, but he is also very athletic with rare quickness to penetrate and make plays in the backfield.

Q: We’re going to give you two sleeper questions this week since there are only a few weeks left. Give us an underrated prospect and a small-school sleeper at offensive lineman.

A: Underrated:  T.J. Lang, OT/OG, Eastern Michigan

A college offensive tackle who may kick inside to guard at the next level, Lang isn’t necessarily a great athlete, but he’s a tough, physical, aggressive football player.  For some reason he didn’t get an invite to the Scouting Combine, but in my mind he’s a legitimate mid-round talent with starting potential.

Sleeper:  Roger Allen, OG, Missouri Western St.

A four-year starter, the 6-2¾, 326-pound Allen has rare size and unbelievable strength, but he also possesses the top-notch intangibles that will help him maximize his potential.  Some have compared him to Larry Allen, and while that might be a stretch, he definitely has the talent to play at the next level despite his small-school roots.

Q: Same thing, but at tight end.
Underrated:  Anthony Hill, TE, North Carolina St.

In many ways, Hill is a poor-man’s Brandon Pettigrew.  At 6-5 and 260 pounds, he has the size to dominate as a blocker, to the point where some have even raised the possibility of bulking him up and making him an offensive tackle.  However, while he isn’t a dynamic vertical receiving threat, he is a good enough pass-catcher to be a weapon in the short to intermediate range as well as in the red zone.

Sleeper:  Jared Bronson, TE, Central Washington

In the scouting community we often refer to triangle numbers, which is height, weight and speed.  That is what stands out about Bronson.  At 6-4 and 250 pounds with 4.75 speed, Bronson is a great athlete who can be a real weapon in the passing game, which was evident when he caught eight balls for 169 yards in the Division II playoffs as a senior.  He doesn’t offer much as a blocker, but he’s an intriguing H-Back prospect.