Draft Rewind – Detroit Lions

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With the NFL draft dominating the sports landscape, let’s take a look back at each team’s hits and misses over the past 25 years.

FIVE BEST PICKS

1. Barry Sanders, RB, Oklahoma St. 1st round, #3 overall in 1989.

There was plenty of talent on the board when the Lions were on the clock at #3 (future Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Derrick Thomas); fellow RBs Tim Worley and Sammie Smith were also tapped as top-10 picks.

The Lions nailed the pick and got a top-3 all time RB. Some of his more impressive stats: 2nd all-time in rush yds per game; six-time 1st team All-Pro; 153 games played of a possible 160; and the only year he failed top 1350 yds, he was limited to 11 games with injury. His avg yr was 1350 yds and 10 TDs.

2. Chris Spielman, LB, Ohio St. 2nd round, #29 overall in 1988.
I’m not really sure why Spielman slipped to the second round; he was a two-time All American Lombardi winner who would be a future College Football Hall of Fame inductee. He made an immediate impact at MLB his rookie year and would lead the Lions in tackles a team-record eight straight years. Along the way, Spielman made four Pro Bowls, a first team All-Pro, and famously took a season off to assist his wife who was battling cancer. He was widely respected on and off the field, and later was outstanding in the booth and also as an analyst.

3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech. 1st round, #2 overall in 2007.
The Lions finally got it right at WR (more on that later) in the 2007 draft. Eight other WR went in the first two rounds, and none of them have been particularly impressive. Megatron, on the other hand, can do anything on the field that you can ask of a wideout. The past three years he has piled up an NFL record with over 5,000 receiving yards. If his next seven years resemble his first seven, Johnson is Canton-bound.

4. Jason Hanson, K, Washington St. 2nd round, #56 overall in 1992.
When you pick a kicker in the second, you are really stickin your neck out a bit. Hanson (who will be 44 next month) recently finished his 21st season as a Lion, and has had a very good career in Detroit: he trails only Morten & Gary Anderson on the all-time made FG list, making two Pro Bowls along the way. One of the tougher things in the NFL is finding a reliable kicker. The Lions have had one for two decades and counting.

5. Shaun Rogers, DT, Texas. 2nd round, #61 overall in 2001.

Rogers was a productive starter immediately, and had several very good years before he finally got his due and made a few Pro Bowls. His best days are behind him at age 33, but Rogers gave the Lions excellent production as one of the best DT in football during his tenure there.

FIVE WORST PICKS

1. Charles Rogers, WR, Michigan St. 1st round, #2 overall in 2003.
If you had seen Rogers play with the Spartans, you wouldn’t have seen this coming; he set a division 1 record with 13 straight games with a receiving TD, and lit up defenses for 27 TDs in just two years. He was having a so-so rookie season until breaking his collar bone in practice after five games. A year later he broke his clavicle again, this time the first game of the season. The next year he was suspended for drugs (later it was revealed that he had failed a 3rd drug test). The Lions then released him, and he never played another snap in the NFL. To recap, from the second pick, Detroit got 36 catches and four TDs.

2. Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon. 1st round, #3 overall in 2002.
The 2002 draft is a who’s who of QB mediocrity, and that’s being generous: David Carr (#1), Harrington (#3), Patrick Ramsey (#32), Josh McCown (#81), Rohan Davey (#117), Randy Fasani (#137), Kurt Kittner (#158), and several other stiffs. Only David Garrard turned into a solid starter. That doesn’t excuse the Lions for getting the pick wrong. Harrington is not a complete bust, as he managed to start 76 games over six seasons (his teams went 26-50 in those starts). He takes his place alongside Couch & Mirer as QBs drafted in the top-3 that were not quite bad enough to lose their job for five years on terrible teams. He killed it on the piano though.

3. Mike Williams, WR, USC. 1st round, #10 overall in 2005.

With DaMarcus Ware, Aaron Rodgers, Jamaal Brown, Roddy White, and Vincent Jackson on the board, the Lions botched another top-10 pick in 2005. Williams was a beast at USC – 176 catches and 30 TDs in two years (keep in mind, he sat out a year after unsuccessfully challenging the NFL rule of draft-eligible players being three years removed from HS. See Clarett, Maurice the Moron.) In the NFL, Williams was crap although he managed a mini-resurrection in Seattle during the 2010 season.

4. Andre Ware, QB, Houston. 1st round, #7 overall in 1990.

20 QBs were drafted in the 12-round 1990 draft, including the #1 overall pick Jeff George. Only George, Scott Mitchell, and Neil O’Donnell had respectable careers. After a record-setting season in college at Houston, Heisman winner Ware rewarded the Lions with six starts in four dismal years. He did carve himself out a nice career as a color guy on TV, however.

5. Titus Young, WR, Boise St. 2nd round, #44 overall in 2011.

Young was constantly in trouble at Boise St., but the Lions ignored that and took him early in round two. Predictably, he was a shitbag in Detroit also, getting released less than two years after getting drafted. He punctuated his exile from the NFL with three arrests in six days (in a 24 hr stretch, Young was arrested for DUI and arrested again for trying to steal his car from a tow lot), and is now a punchline.

Stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com

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