Ranking the 5 Worst Draft Classes for the Detroit Lions in Past 30 Years

May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Detroit Lions former running back Barry Sanders announces tight end Eric Ebron (North Carolina) as the tenth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions during the 2014 NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Detroit Lions former running back Barry Sanders announces tight end Eric Ebron (North Carolina) as the tenth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions during the 2014 NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

With the 2017 NFL Draft just about a week away, we’ve recently covered the five best draft classes for the Detroit Lions in the past 30 years. Now we get to continue the fun by analyzing the five worst draft classes in that time period.

Unsurprisingly to Lions fans, there were many classes deserving of this distinction.

Let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

5. Class of 2002

Round (overall pick):

1st Joey Harrington (3)

2nd Kalimba Edwards (35)

3rd Andre’ Goodman (68)

4th John Taylor (134)

5th John Owens (138)

6th Chris Cash (175)

7th Luke Staley (214)

7th Matt Murphy (252)

7th Victor Rogers (259)

The 2002 class can thank the play of Kalimba Edwards and the defensive backs, Andre’ Goodman and Chris Cash, for not ranking lower on this list, but can blame the mishaps of Joey Harrington, Luke Staley and others for making an appearance on it.

To this day there are still Harrington supporters, ahem, Matt Urben, but he never found his place as the Lions’ franchise quarterback. As a Lion, Harrington had a win-loss record of 18-37, completed just 54.7 percent of his passes, threw 62 interceptions versus 60 touchdowns and had a rating of 68.1. Don’t forget about the zero playoff appearances.

Luke Staley, a Doak Walker Award winner and consensus All-American, never played a down for the Lions after a knee injury cut his career short. John Taylor never played in an NFL game, either. Victor Rogers appeared in one single game. Meanwhile, John Owens and Matt Murphy, the tight ends taken, combined for just 25 career receptions.

4. Class of 2008

Round (overall pick):

1st Gosder Cherilus (17)

2nd Jordon Dizon (45)

3rd Kevin Smith (64)

3rd Andre Fluellen (87)

3rd Cliff Avril (92)

5th Kenny Moore (136)

5th Jerome Felton (146)

7th Landon Cohen (216)

7th Caleb Campbell (218)

This class will forever live in infamy, as many of the players drafted in 2008 were part of the only team in NFL history to manage an 0-16 record. Cliff Avril and Jerome Felton were the only difference-makers in this entire class.

Gosder Cherilus was one of those first-round picks that you just kind of felt “meh” about. He took over the starting right tackle role early into his rookie season, but let’s recall how absolutely awful that roster was. He ended up starting 71 games for Detroit, but was never a consistent tackle. Cherlius also had a frequent knee problem that caused him to miss several games.

Jordon Dizon’s career never had a chance to take off after tearing two tendons in his knee. He spent just two seasons in the NFL and started zero games. Similarly, injuries and inconsistent play limited Kevin Smith to less than 2,400 career rushing yards in five seasons. Smith never once ran for 1,000 yards in a single season.

Caleb Campbell, who first served two years in the United States Army (respect), played in three career games. Kenny Moore never played a down as a Lion. Landon Cohen started seven games in his eight-year career, and never recorded more than 21 tackles in a season. Similarly, in 10 years in the league, Andre Fluellen started only seven games and registered just 4.5 sacks.

3. Class of 1990

Round (overall pick):

1st Andre Ware (7)

2nd Dan Owens (35)

3rd Marc Spindler (62)

4th Rob Hinckley (90)

4th Chris Oldham (105)

5th Jeff Campbell (147)

6th Maurice Henry (147)

7th Tracy Hayworth (174)

8th Willie Green (194)

8th Roman Fortin (203)

9th Jack Linn (229)

10th Bill Miller (258)

11th Reginald Warnsley (285)

12th Robert Claiborne (313)

The NFL Draft used to have a ridiculous 12 rounds. It was reduced to its current seven-round format in 1994. With a class that large, teams are going to have some home runs and some strikeouts.

Andre Ware was one of the biggest strikeouts in Detroit sports history. After winning the Heisman Trophy, the Lions figured to get a young franchise quarterback. Instead, Ware started a laughable six games with Detroit, throwing for 1,112 yards, with a completion percentage of 51.6, five touchdowns and eight picks. That’s a rating of 63.5 if you were curious. He was not the right guy, and Ware alone can justify this class’ standing on my list.

In addition, five players from this draft class only lasted for two seasons or less, with three players –Bill Miller, Rob Hinckley and Reginald Warnsley – never playing a single down. Meanwhile, Robert Claiborne and Maurice Henry combined for three career seasons, all with teams not located in Detroit, Michigan.

Roman Fortin and Chad Oldham never worked out for the Lions, only playing one season each in Detroit. However, they both ended up being long-tenured players elsewhere. Willie Green was a positive, finishing his career with 237 catches and 26 touchdowns. Likewise, Dan Owens was one of the best picks in this draft class, finishing his career with 33.5 sacks.

2. Class of 2005

Round (overall pick):

1st Mike Williams (10)

2nd Shaun Cody (37)

3rd Stanley Wilson (72)

5th Dan Orlovsky (145)

6th Bill Swancutt (184)

7th Jonathan Goddard (206)

Mike Williams – the third first-round wide receiver taken in a row by general manager, Matt Millen – was a colossal bust. In 22 games with Detroit, Williams recorded just 37 catches for 449 yards and two touchdowns. In six seasons in the NFL, he finished with 127 catches for 1,526 yards and five touchdowns. Williams was out of the league for two seasons before joining the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.

Shaun Cody was also a disappointment on the defensive line. Cody only started 11 games in four years with the Lions, recording just two sacks. He went on to be a starter for the Houston Texans, but only added one sack to his career total there in four seasons.

Dan Orlovsky was a longtime backup in Detroit. He’s most remembered for scrambling out of the back of his own end zone against the Minnesota Vikings, inadvertently giving up a safety. Slow clap commence. Orlovsky just finished his second stint here in Detroit, as he and the Lions went their separate ways once again this past March.

Stanley Wilson’s career ended after just three seasons of NFL football. He totaled zero interceptions and one forced fumble in that time frame. Jonathan Goddard never suited up in the Honolulu blue and Silver, and appeared in one career game as an Indianapolis Colt.

1. Class of 1987

Round (overall pick):

1st Reggie Rogers (7)

3rd Jerry Ball (63)

4th Garland Rivers (92)

6th Danny Lockett (148)

7th Dan Saleaumua (175)

8th Dennis Gibson (203)

9th Rick Calhoun (230)

10th Ray Brown (259)

11th Brian Siverling (286)

12th Gary Lee (315)

This was another large class that was a catastrophe. Reggie Rogers, the No. 7 overall pick, played in just 11 games as a Lion and 15 in his career. He is widely considered the biggest bust in team history. Rogers was driving drunk when he struck another vehicle and killed three teenagers. The Lions waived him in 1989, then he served 13 months in prison for vehicular homicide. Rogers passed away in 2013.

Couple the Rogers saga with the fact that six of the 10 players in this draft class lasted in the NFL for two seasons or less, and you have Detroit’s worst draft class in the last 30 years, and possibly even ever.

Jerry Ball was the exception to this class. He made three straight Pro Bowls as a Lion and finished his NFL career with 32.5 sacks. Dan Saleaumua was never a contributor for the Lions, but he ended up being an All-Pro and Pro Bowl player for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Honorable mentions: 2014

The injury-prone and stone-handed Eric Ebron was drafted entirely too high at No. 10 overall. Kyle Van Noy was not a good scheme fit. Larry Webster, Nate Freese and Caraun Reid are either out of the league or with another squad. At least Travis Swanson was a hit, though.

There you have it. Let me know in the comments who you think the worst draft class since 1987 was. The 1996 and 2003 Drafts were also taken under serious consideration but just didn’t make the cut.

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Next: 5 Best Lions Draft Classes of Past 30 Years