It appears that Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew isn't planning to take the advice of ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who suggested that the Lions trade up to the No. 1 overall pick of the draft to ensure they could select Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
"That's not going to happen," Mayhew said with a smile Thursday during his annual pre-draft news conference.
Mayhew sounded pretty definitive, and for the moment I tabled conventional wisdom that requires doubt on any authoritatively-stated facts from NFL decision-makers at this time of year. I'm less sure of how seriously to take Mayhew's comments on a topic we discussed earlier this week: Can the Lions afford to take a player at No. 5 overall who might not be ready to make an immediate impact?
Mayhew said at several points that he would expect a pick that high "to come in and play a major role" right away. Then he said:
"At the top I think that's really important. You certainly want guys with that high ceiling, but it's also important to make sure you get that solid player that you're going to have for a long time. It may not be the best place to swing for the fence. You might not want to be Dave Kingman at 5. You might just want to get on base. You know what I mean?"
Kingman, of course, has become the go-to sports analogy for all-or-nothing aggression. (He hit 442 career home runs, struck out 1,816 times and had a lifetime batting average of .236.) If Mayhew is to be believed, he was implying that he will have a cautious appetite for the type of player -- perhaps BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, maybe Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson -- who might need some time to develop his considerable skills and doesn't have the past production to ensure a smooth transition to the NFL.
Of course, the Lions' internal evaluations could be different from those of media draft analysts. They might believe that Ansah and/or Johnson are more polished than media projections suggest. But if the Lions have anyone in that "high ceiling, low development" category, Mayhew seemed to be suggesting he will look elsewhere. Unless it was all a Jedi mind trick. So there's that.