Detroit Lions: The Best 30 Draft Picks in Franchise History

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Sep 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A view of a Detroit Lions helmet on the sidelines during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Lions won 39-35. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

30. Paul Naumoff

Third round, No. 60 overall, 1967

Naumoff was a solid starting linebacker for the Lions from 1969-78. He was known for perennially being in the right place at the right time and for his toughness in taking on much bigger blockers.

The Tennessee grad only made one Pro Bowl, as part of the excellent 1970 team that lost 5-0 in the playoffs to the Cowboys. He still holds the team record for tackles in a game, with 25 in a 1975 game.

29. Dexter Bussey

Third round, No. 65 overall, 1974

Younger fans are probably thinking, who? Dexter Bussey was a running back in the 1970s and early 80s who never had a 1,000 yard rushing season. He scored just 23 total TDs in 11 seasons and is probably best known for fumbling a lot.

So why does he make this list? Because none other than Bill Belichick once cited the Texas-Arlington product as the type of player he was looking for as a third-down back when he was coaching the Cleveland Browns. If an otherwise nondescript player can make that sort of impression on The Hoodie, that’s worth something.

28. Jeff Hartings

First round, No. 23 overall, 1996

The offensive lineman from Penn State was a solid starter for five years in Detroit, even scoring a touchdown in 2000. He was an above-average right guard who helped paved the way for a lot of Barry Sanders runs.

Hartings hit his peak after leaving Detroit. He made two Pro Bowls as the center for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 2000s, earning a Super Bowl ring as the starting center in 2005.

He was a pretty good pick, but two players taken immediately after him would have been a better. Eric Moulds went 24th and had a four-year run as one of the better wideouts in the league for the Bills. But the big one that got away was Ray Lewis at No. 26 overall. Of course he had some off-field issues that pushed him down, but picture having Ray Lewis in Honolulu Blue…

27. Darius Slay

Second round, No. 36 overall, 2013

It’s still pretty early in his career, but thus far the cornerback from Mississippi State has proven quite a find. After struggling early as a rookie, Slay found his confidence and has emerged as one of the best cover men in the NFL. The arrow is definitely pointing up for Big Play Slay.

26. Jeff Backus

First round, No. 18 overall, 2001

(see under Dominic Raiola)

25. Dominic Raiola

Second round, No. 50 overall, 2001

These two come as a package deal. Matt Millen’s first two choices as GM were pretty solid hits. Both were solid starters along the offensive line for over a decade. Raiola even had a late-career hiccup where he was strongly above-average. For all the grief Backus took from fans, he was the best left tackle in the NFC North for most of his career.

Next: Numbers 24-20