Detroit Lions: The Best 30 Draft Picks in Franchise History

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January 7, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

9. Matthew Stafford

First round, No. 1 overall, 2009

One of the most polarizing players in the entire NFL for most of his seven season, the quarterback from Georgia has proven to be a historically prolific passer.

Just last week, he became the fastest to ever accrue 25,000 passing yards. He did so in two fewer games than Dan Marino, and did so throwing 28 fewer interceptions. His three-year yardage total from 2011-13 is the second-most for any three-year span in NFL history.

Stafford already owns just about every passing mark in Lions franchise history. One of the most impressive is his 17 fourth-quarter comebacks. In 2014 he became the first Lions QB to make a Pro Bowl in over 40 years and earned MVP honors in the game.

It’s hard to overlook his warts at times. He misses too many throws and his erratic play is often the reason for the glorious comebacks. Yet the pick could have been much, much worse. Mark Sanchez went 5th overall as the next QB, and he’s not even close to Stafford’s level. Picks 2-4? Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry. Two are out of the league already.

8. Chris Spielman

Second round, No. 29 overall, 1988

My football hero as a teenager growing up in Ohio, Ohio State LB Chris Spielman remains one of my all-time favorite players. In eight seasons in Detroit, Spielman racked up over 1000 tackles as an inside backer in the peak of the relatively successful Wayne Fontes era.

One of the toughest SOBs to ever don the Honolulu blue and silver, Spielman was the leader of the defense and a shutdown run defender between the tackles. He earned four Pro Bowl berths and one All-Pro season, which curiously wasn’t one of his two best seasons.

A generation of young linebackers was brought up being coached to play like Chris Spielman. His efforts in cancer research in honor of his late wife are emblematic of a great Lion.

7. Herman Moore

First round, No. 10 overall, 1991

His accomplishments in the 1990s go strangely overlooked by the national media and even some Lions faithful. That’s a shame, because the lanky wideout from Virginia was one of the best in his era.

Moore holds the NFL record (albeit an unofficial one) for targets in a season, with 221 in 1995. He led the NFL in receptions twice and was a first-team All Pro from 1995-97.

Still a valued and beloved member of the Lions media, Moore proved a very savvy choice. Only one player (Alfred Williams’ one great year in Denver) chosen in the next 14 picks after him ever played in a Pro Bowl, while Moore made four and was snubbed at least two other times.

6. Jason Hanson

Second round, No. 56 overall, 1992

Were the Lions, or any team for that matter, to spend a second-round pick on a kicker these days they would be crucified. Heck, I’d hammer the first nail myself. Yet this second-round kicker is clearly one of the ten best picks in franchise history.

Jason Hanson is a Lions legend thanks to over 20 years of above-average kicking. The list of accolades is amazing…

  • Only player ever to play 300 games with one team
  • Most FG of 50 or more yards
  • Most FG of 40 or more yards
  • Most consecutive 40+ yard FG
  • Fourth in career FG and total points scored

Taking the Washington State kicker proved a brilliant decision by GM Chuck Schmidt and scouting director Kevin Colbert. You’d need a great memory or an in-depth search engine to know almost every player taken with 15 picks either way from Hanson’s spot at the bottom of the second round.

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