Matthew Stafford, the Georgia quarterback whose agent was negotiating with the Detroit Lions to make him the first pick on Saturday. As Stafford waited for a phone call from his agent, Tom Condon, he tried his best to avoid the rumor-go-round that marks the final hours before the draft. Late Friday night, Stafford indeed was entrusted to turn the Lions’ franchise around. The Associated Press reported that Stafford agreed to a six-year contract worth $41.7 million in guarantees and as much as $78 million.
He turned away from television and radio. He tried not to read newspapers. The Web was off limits. He had already consulted with the former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman about what it was like to turn a franchise around. That was an indicator that he expected to be the Lions’ latest choice in their quest to finally find a successor to Bobby Layne — who attended the same Texas high school as Stafford.
The day before the draft is the N.F.L. green room writ large, 24 hours of wondering and waiting for the future to arrive. This draft is particularly unsettled because there is no consensus on who the St. Louis Rams will take second — or on who else will go in the top 10. Stafford is now the name at the top of the draft order, but his University of Southern California counterpart Mark Sanchez, who elected to spend draft day at home in California instead of in New York, could be the player on whom the top half of the draft hinges.