It's too early to tell if the Lions are playing it smart in this draft, but they sure aren't playing it safe. With their first three picks, they grabbed one of the riskiest players, then followed with one of the fastest and one of the biggest.

More important than that, the Lions seem to be subtly shading their philosophy, taking players at positions of enormous need. For instance, on the defense, and on the offensive line, and on the big-play scale. This looks more like the best-player-available-who-might-fill-a-gaping-hole approach, and it's what teams must do when urgency rises.

Martin Mayhew selected swift Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay in the second round Friday night, then landed (figuratively) 333-pound Kentucky offensive guard Larry Warford in the third. Along with first-round defensive end Ziggy Ansah, the Lions are betting on upsides, which does have a downside. But when you're coming off a 4-12 season and have a defense that can go entire months without making a big play, you give it a shot.

It's impossible to unequivocally applaud the Ansah and Slay picks because of the risks, but it's equally impossible to overlook the enticing possibilities. Both need to make an immediate impact, even if Ansah is a fast-developing project. He didn't start playing football until three years ago and started only nine games at BYU, but is considered one of the NFL draft's all-time physical freaks. Mel Kiper Jr. said no player in his 35 years of analysis has had a more meteoric rise than Ansah.

That gets Lions fans gurgling with excitement, even if meteors generally suffer the same unfortunate, fiery fate. Not to go all astronomy on you, but the Lions are way overdue to spot a rare one. That's also what they're looking for from Slay, who ran the fastest 40 time (4.36) for cornerbacks at the NFL combine and has good size (6-foot, 192 pounds). But he recently was discovered to have a torn meniscus in the knee that he said won't require surgery.