Detroit Lions draft: Top-five history since Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have a chance to secure a top-five selection in the 2019 NFL Draft Sunday. Let’s take a look back at their history of high picks since 1989.

If you’re picking within the top-five sections of the NFL draft either you’ve made a blockbuster trade to move up or your team stunk it up the previous season. Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions fall into the latter category as they have a chance to earn themselves a top-five selection in the 2019 NFL Draft with a loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Although it’s extremely unlikely, if the San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders all win in Week 17, the Lions could land themselves a selection as his as the second overall pick in the draft. Unfortunately, all three of those teams play opponents who have posted a 10-5 record or better so far this season.

But let’s say the Lions do actually land a top-five pick. As possessing a high selection doesn’t guarantee you’ll land a franchise-altering talent, how has Detroit fared in the recent past when given the opportunity to draft near the top of the first round?

Below, we answer that question. We reached back all the way to 1989 when the Lions drafted the best player in franchise history. That figured to be a good starting point. But has it all been downhill since Barry? Let’s take a look …

1989 – Barry Sanders, RB – 3rd overall
1997 – Bryant Westbrook, DB – 5th overall
2002 – Joey Harrington, QB – 3rd overall
2003 – Charles Rogers, WR – 2nd overall
2007 – Calvin Johnson, WR – 2nd overall
2009 – Matthew Stafford, QB – 1st overall
2010 – Ndamukong Suh, DT – 2nd overall
2013 – Ezekiel Ansah, DE – 5th overall

Reviewing the above list, one thing stands out. Outside of Sanders, not one of these top-five selections has led the Lions to a single playoff win. And it’s weird to think of how the only two players who remain on Detroit’s roster from this list, Stafford and Ansah, are two of the most controversial among the fanbase.

Next. Lions 2019 full 7-round mock draft. dark

On a positive note, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn has had a good track record in the draft since coming to the Motor City in 2016. You have to believe that under his guidance, Detroit has a chance to land a transcendent player if they get into the top-five.