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The impact of public sentiment

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Thanks to everyone who took part in our hour-long chat Monday over at SportsNation -- where, just as I predicted, the draft was among the topics of discussion.

Pete's question provides us an avenue to make a few comments on the scene of several hundred fans chanting both for Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and against drafting Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford at the Lions' new logo/uniform unveiling Monday afternoon. First, the exchange:

Pete (Alexandria, VA): Kevin...it seems the majority of Lions fans want the team to draft Curry over Stafford. Do you think that is the right pick?

SportsNation Kevin Seifert: I have a hard time picking a linebacker No. 1 overall, especially if you're going to play him out of position in the middle. If all three guys grade out equally, I go with Stafford. If Stafford is lower than the other two, I go with the left tackle. Makes more sense from a team-building perspective.

To be clear, I would draft Curry if the personnel department determined he was the best player in the draft -- and clearly ahead of any quarterback or left tackle. But if the grades are equal or very close, you can't justify taking a middle linebacker over two positions that are more important relative to the NFL value tree.

As for the fan chants Monday, we should caution against assuming they don't necessarily represent the majority opinion among Lions faithful. But if they do, it would represent quite a role reversal for most fan bases.

From a public relations perspective, usually you can't go wrong drafting a quarterback. Nothing generates excitement like the idea of a young, strong-armed quarterback joining a moribund team and leading its resurgence. But as we've maintained on this blog for month, there seems to be a healthy debate about whether Stafford can be that type of player.

Based on the comments I've seen on this blog and in reading accounts of Monday's unveiling, it seems that sentiment has seeped into at least a vocal minority of Lions fans. It would be pretty unique if the Lions draft a quarterback amid calls for a linebacker at No. 1 overall.

Remember, only two linebackers have been taken with the top pick of the draft since the 1970 merger between the NFL and AFL. More often than not, the top pick is reserved for quarterbacks, offensive tackles and defensive ends. That's the kind of history you would expect fans to root against. But in this case, there seems to be a healthy section of Lions fans who would be fine with the team taking a historic gamble over drafting a quarterback.

Ultimately, the Lions can't and won't make their decision based on public sentiment. But when it's the topic of drafting a quarterback, it's usually not even an issue.