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Lions draft Ndamukong Suh at No. 2 in NFL draft

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions biggest need is talent.

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh seems to have a lot of it.

Detroit drafted the game-changing Suh with the No. 2 pick overall Thursday night. The Heisman Trophy finalist is the first defensive tackle to be drafted among the top two picks since Oakland took Darrell Russell in 1997.

Suh says he isn't worried about the lackluster track record of similar players at his position taken high in the draft.

"I'm a different type of person," Suh said on a conference call with reporters at Lions headquarters.

The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh was the first defensive player to win The Associated Press College Football Player of the Year award since its inception in 1998. He had 4½ sacks against Texas in the Big 12 title game and finished with 12 sacks for the season.

"He made it an easy pick for us," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's not just a one-year wonder. He's strong. He's good versus the run. He's good versus the pass. He's very intelligent."

The Lions also traded up to get California running back Jahvid Best with the 30th pick. Best ran for 2,668 yards, caught 62 catches and scored 35 total touchdowns at Cal and could fill in for Kevin Smith as he recovers from major knee surgery.

Detroit has a lot of voids as the first team in NFL history to lose 30 games in two seasons and its biggest gaps are on defense.

The Lions allowed 517 points, the second most in a year, in 2008 and 494 last season, ranking fourth worst in NFL history.

"I'm a guy who can help that defensive unit out tremendously," Suh said.

The native of Portland, Ore., graduated with a construction management degree and plans to donate $2.6 million to his alma mater.

"Great player — better person," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.

Detroit has done a lot this offseason, trying to improve after winning twice last year following the NFL's first 0-16 season.

The defensive line got special attention, with the Lions signing end Kyle Vanden Bosch and trading for tackle Corey Williams before choosing Suh.

"We have the makings of a strong unit that can be the strength of our defense," Schwartz said.

Detroit drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall last year and have tried to help him by signing wide receiver Nate Burleson and trading for tight end Tony Scheffler and guard Rob Sims.

The Lions figure their fortunes have to change soon after enduring an awful start to the century.

They're 33-111 since 2001 — when ex-GM Matt Millen turned a lackluster franchise into perhaps the worst — in what has been the poorest nine-season stretch by an NFL team since World War II. They've won just three games since midway through the 2007 season in what has been the worst 40-game stretch since the Dayton Triangles were slightly less successful during the 1920s.

"It doesn't bother me at all," Suh said. "I went to Nebraska when they were not coming off a very good season and our class turned that around, winning 10 games for the first time in eight or nine years. I think I can come in and help the Detroit Lions do the same thing."

A lot of poor picks in the draft, usually ignoring defense until later rounds, went a long way toward the Lions making unwanted history.

Only one of Detroit's previous 12 first-round picks played defense and that player just got dealt: The Lions drafted linebacker Ernie Sims with the ninth pick in the 2006 draft and traded him earlier this week for Scheffler in a three-team trade.

A vast majority of Detroit's first-round picks have been busts or simply average, and so have most of the defensive tackles taken with the No. 1 or 2 pick overall in the draft.

Russell played in just five seasons and played in two Pro Bowls, an accomplishment Tony Casillas, Steve Niehaus and Mike McCoy can't claim after being drafted second overall. Merlin Olsen, drafted No. 2 in 1962, was arguably the last defensive tackle to have a stellar career.

Defensive tackles drafted first overall haven't panned out, either, since Buck Buchanan was picked in 1963 and had a strong career after. Dan Wilkinson, Steve Emtman, Russell Maryland, Kenneth Sims and Walt Patulski all struggled to earn stardom as No. 1 overall picks, playing in a combined total of one Pro Bowl.

Mayhew doesn't sound concerned about the history of defensive tackles taken in the top two.

"It's not my concern at all," Mayhew said. "You have to believe what you see on film."

The Lions watched a lot of it, evaluating whether to draft Suh, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy or perhaps defensive back Eric Berry or an offensive tackle. The Lions staff took advantage of coaching at the Senior Bowl and of every opportunity to find out more about the prospects as players and people.

They settled on Suh.

"It was a long process and we kept an open mind," Schwartz said. "Every step along the way, he was the best player on our draft board."

Suh was the players fans wanted to, especially the few thousand cheering from Ford Field when the pick was made.

"I plan on not disappointing them at all," Suh said.