Detroit Lions: 15 best first-round draft picks of all-time

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Billy Sims, Detroit Lions
Billy Sims, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

If not for a devastating knee injury versus the rival Minnesota Vikings in 1984, running back Billy Sims would not only be higher up on this list, but a certain Pro Football Hall of Famer. Detroit knew exactly what it was doing in taking the 1978 Heisman Trophy winning running back out of Oklahoma with the No. 1 overall pick in 1980.

Sims was electrifying collegiately for the Oklahoma Sooners, being a two-time All-American. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Sims is considered to be one of the greatest football players that has ever played for the Lions. If only his NFL career last more than 4.5 seasons…

Sims was the 1980 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, earning his first of three trips to the Pro Bowl. He rushed for 1,303 yards for a league-best 13 touchdowns on 313 carries. Sims would make the Pro Bowl the next two seasons, including the strike-shortened 1982 NFL campaign. Three times would Sims rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.

Sadly, he only played in 60 NFL games, all with the Lions. In his brilliant, but short NFL career, Sims had 5,106 rushing yards for 42 touchdowns on 1,131 carries. While his injury was absolutely devastating to the Lions fan base, a running back we will surely get to in a few minutes wouldn’t have played in Detroit if Sims got to keep on playing in the NFL.