Ex-Texans GM: Lions Played Right Into Our Hands in 2003 Draft

"We were lucky, there's no question about it."

Will Burchfield
April 24, 2018 - 7:58 pm
Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson (80) catches a touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium.

© Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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Of the many draft picks Lions fans would like back from the Matt Millen era, Charles Rogers -- second overall in 2003 -- probably takes the cake. 

On top of the fact Rogers lasted just three seasons in the NFL before flaming out due to injuries and off-field issues, the Lions chose him over fellow wide receiver and seven-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, who went one pick later to the Texans. 

Detroit's blunder was Houston's blessing. Then-Texans GM Charley Casserly told 97.1 The Ticket his team had no interest in Rogers and, thanks to Millen and the Lions, wound up with the much better receiver. 

"There was no consideration for Charles Rogers," Casserly told the Jamie and Stoney Show. "The issues that Charles Rogers had at Michigan State and had in the pros, we weren’t going to draft Charles Rogers. Period.

"It’s one of those ones you have to be lucky. We knew they were taking Rogers, the information was out there, so we were going to get Andre Johnson. Did I think Andre Johnson would be as good as he was? I thought he was going to be a great player, and he turned out to be that player. We were lucky, there's no question about it." 

Johnson enjoyed a sterling 14-year career, twice leading the league in receptions and yards and three times leading the league in yards per game. He was an All-Pro in both 2008 and 2009, during which time he was widely considered the best receiver in the game. He boasts a strong case for the Hall of Fame. 

Rogers, an MSU product by way of Saginaw, scored two touchdowns in his NFL debut -- and then watched everything go downhill. A broken clavicle cut his rookie season short after five games and he suffered the same injury on the third play of the next season. Rogers developed an addiction to pain pills during his recovery, he would later say, and continued to smoke marijuana on a daily basis, a routine he began at MSU. 

He was suspended four games in 2005 for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, and then returned to the team overweight. He played in just nine games that season before the Lions released him in September 2006. That was the end of his career.

If there's any silver lining for Detroit fans, the Lions likely wouldn't have drafted Calvin Johnson in 2007 had they taken Andre Johnson in 2003. Of course, given Millen's fancy for first-round receivers, who's to say? Maybe the Lions would have wound up with both. 

Casserly also said the Texans much preferred David Carr to Joey Harrington in the 2002 draft. Carr went first overall to Houston, Harrington went third overall to Detroit. Neither quarterback had much NFL success. 

"We thought there was a clear difference in arm strength between the two of them, and that’s the number one thing there. I don’t want to knock Joey’s personality, but we liked David, he was married, he was mature," Casserly said.