Detroit Lions: The Best 30 Draft Picks in Franchise History
By Jeff Risdon
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
24. Charlie Batch
Second round, No. 60 overall, 1998
His career record as a starter in Detroit wound up being just 19-27 over four years with a completion percentage that ranks in the bottom five of QBs in that time frame with at least 20 starts. He fumbled a lot, negating his positive impact as a runner.
Yet Batch still gets viewed by many as the one who got away, who never got a fair shake with the new Matt Millen regime. He fled Pittsburgh after the 2001 season, where he spent over a decade as an above-average backup QB and effective spot starter.
The Eastern Michigan signal caller was a good draft value. The Lions traded 3rd, 5th and 6th round picks to Miami for the pick. Those picks made a total of five NFL starts and were all out of the league before Batch’s tenure in Detroit was (shamefully) cut short.
23. DeAndre Levy
Third round, No. 76 overall, 2009
For the first four years of Levy’s career in Detroit, he was a solid contributor but largely anonymous linebacker. The Wisconsin product was the image of an average, replacement-level starter.
Then it clicked. Levy broke out as a playmaker in 2013, picking off 6 passes and showing great range all over the field. His 2014 was even more dynamic; that he wasn’t an All-Pro is a travesty, let alone not even making the Pro Bowl.
A hip injury wiped out the free thinker’s 2015, and his future is somewhat in doubt. If he can return to the form of 13-14, he’ll rocket up future editions of this list. If he can’t ever get back above his early level of play, well, it was a heck of a ride.
22. Bennie Blades
First round, No. 3 overall, 1988
While he never achieved the greatness many hoped coming out of The U., Blades nevertheless had a solid nine-year career in Detroit as an above-average, sure-tackling safety.
Blades topped 100 tackles twice and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1991. He was the leader of the back end of the defense in the successful run in the early 1990s.
In retrospect, he wasn’t the most optimal choice. Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe and his Miami Hurricane teammate Michael Irvin all came off the board in the next 10 picks. Yet he was a good-not-great player and not the bust some revisionist fans have made him to be.
21. Johnnie Morton
First round, No. 21 overall, 1994
The speedy USC wideout was a reliable, exciting second fiddle in the wide-open run-and-shoot offense of the 1990s in Detroit. He caught 469 passes in eight season, topping 1,000 yards four times and scoring 35 TDs.
20. Greg Landry
First round, No. 11 overall, 1968
Landry was a good-not-great quarterback in Detroit for a solid 5-year stretch in the early 1970s. He made a Pro Bowl in 1971 and compiled a 25-16 starting record through 1972. The UMass product was a dual-threat quarterback well ahead of his time, rushing for over 500 yards twice.
His Pro Bowl berth was the only one for a Lions quarterback for over 40 years. Injuries and a propensity for getting sacked downgraded his later career, though he did have a solid 1976 campaign, enough to win Pro Football Weekly’s Comeback Player of the Year.
What helps his position on the draft pick list is the utterly brutal group of players taken after him. Only Forrest Blue, the 15th overall pick, ever made an All-Pro team of the other first-rounders after Landry. More than half never started a full slate of 14 games in their entire careers.
Next: Numbers 19-16