Lying Lions? Detroit plays the game

Saturday, April 26, 2003

NEW YORK -- Matt Millen insists he has five or six players in mind when Detroit makes the second pick in today's NFL draft.

The Lions' president acknowledges, however, that he might not be telling the whole truth when he suggests wide receiver Charles Rogers, who has breathtaking talent and local roots, will not be his pick.

"There's probably a little bit of that in everybody's speech these days," Millen said, referring to the deception that goes with draft talk.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Carson Palmer of Southern California is signed by Cincinnati, which holds the first pick. If the Lions take anyone but Rogers, who starred at Michigan State and is likened by some scouts to Randy Moss, it will be a surprise.

The only thing that could change that scenario is a trade that would get the Lions extra picks. After five wins in Millen's first two seasons at the top, the Lions need all the help they can find.

Bears trade down

There was one deal Friday: The New York Jets traded their two first-rounders, Nos. 13 and 22, to Chicago for the Bears' pick, fourth overall. The Jets said there are four players they can take, but they most likely will take Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson or wide receiver Andre Johnson of Miami if he somehow gets by Houston at No. 3.

"Anything can happen," Jets general manager Terry Bradway said Friday. "There are still trades that can occur at two or three. But whatever happens, there will still be two players at four that will be worth picking at No. 4."

Detroit is unlikely to deal away the chance to take Rogers, even though he tested positive at the scouting combine for excess water, considered a possible masking agent.

New coach Steve Mariucci, who had Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens at San Francisco, relishes a big target for second-year quarterback Joey Harrington. And at 6-foot-2 with 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash, Rogers is that -- much faster in workouts than either of San Francisco's great receivers.

"He'll be one of the fastest players in the league," Mariucci said, perhaps tipping his hand. "Over and above that, there is something to be said about having a local guy on your football team. ... He's going to be good in the community for this city."

The draft, which will last two days and cover 262 picks, will be held at Madison Square Garden. And Palmer will be there when commissioner Paul Tagliabue makes Cincinnati's pick official.

This draft primarily will be about big men. Between 10 and 12 defensive linemen are expected to be taken in the first round, and 30 or more in the two days of the draft.

Quarterbacks are also available -- at least three and as many as five could go in the first round and six in the first two.

The Jets-Bears trade was the first deal in what could be a lot of maneuvering. Four teams hold two first-round picks each: Chicago (Nos. 13, 22), New England (Nos. 14, 19), New Orleans (Nos. 17, 18) and Oakland (Nos. 31, 32).

But what will really happen is shrouded in disinformation and misinformation.

"Nobody is telling the truth," Chicago defensive coordinator Greg Blache says.

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