Yes, Matthew Stafford knows all about the eerie connection between himself and former Detroit Lions quarterback Bobby Layne.

"It's weird," he said. "It's crazy."

Even crazier now that the Lions will select the Georgia quarterback with the first pick in today's NFL draft.

The Lions last won an NFL title in 1957. A year later, Layne was traded and, legend has it, left town saying the Lions wouldn't win again for 50 years.

Bobby short-changed himself, because the drought has reached 51 seasons. In fact, coming off the league's first 0-16 record, the Lions have never been worse.

Perhaps Stafford can change Detroit's fortunes. Heck, listening to Stafford's story, perhaps he's Bobby Layne reincarnated, minus the heavy drinking and late-night bar-hopping, of course.

Layne went to high school at Highland Park in Dallas. So did fellow Lions Pro Football Hall of Famer Doak Walker. So did Stafford.

"It's kind of ironic," Stafford said. "He and Doak Walker both have a face plaque right when you walk in the stadium."

Now imagine Highland Park winning a state title in 1957 and going nearly 50 years without winning another one until Stafford came along in 2005.

"We won, 59-0," Stafford said. "It was a good game for us. I didn't even throw a touchdown."

Stafford was then asked if he knew the year the Lions won their last NFL title.

"I don't," he said.

It was 1957, same as Highland Park, pre-Stafford.

"Well," he said, "there you go."

We'll see.

The Lions have had one Pro Bowl quarterback in the past 51 years. It was Greg Landry. In 1971.

In 1990, the Lions drafted Andre Ware seventh overall. He started six games in four years. In 2002, the Lions drafted Joey Harrington third overall. He lasted four miserable years before getting bounced out of town.

Today, still doomed because of poor choices at quarterback, the Lions are giving more than $40 million in guaranteed money to a college junior who most feel is anything but guaranteed to succeed in the NFL.

He has tremendous arm strength but was inconsistent in college. He completed only 57.1 percent of his passes with 51 touchdowns and 33 interceptions in 39 games.

Most junior quarterbacks struggle when they get to the NFL. But there are exceptions, such as two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.

Most teams don't envy the Lions' position. Yes, they have their pick of any player, but the consensus is this year's draft lacks great players at the top. Good players making great money tend to mess up a team's future.

"This is going to be a need-based draft," former Cleveland Browns General Manager Phil Savage told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Realistically, you could go one to 20 and essentially you're going to get about the same level player."

Word is as many as eight teams in the top 10 picks this year would prefer to trade down. The Packers, at No. 9, are one of those teams. Of course.

In four drafts as Packers General Manager, Ted Thompson has traded down 13 times. He traded out of the bottom of the first round a year ago.

In the past decade, the ninth pick has sometimes produced a game-changer, a Pro Bowler, even a multiple All-Pro selection. Heck, the Vikings were late in making their first pick in 2003, slipped behind two teams and still ended up with defensive tackle Kevin Williams at No. 9. In 2000, the Bears picked a guy named Brian Urlacher No. 9.

But this year could be much different, which has Trader Ted on the lookout for trade partners.

The Lions, meanwhile, wouldn't have any takers even if they wanted to trade down. So 23 years after Layne's death, Detroit is turning over the face of the franchise to a 21-year-old kid from Layne's alma mater.

"That would be something that would be definitely interesting," Stafford said. "It's something that you guys could probably write a lot about."

Mark Craig •