Detroit Lions: 15 greatest draft-day steals of all-time
By John Buhler
Al “Bubba” Baker made quite the name for himself as a member of the Lions from the late 1970s to early 1980s. Drafted No. 40 overall out of Colorado State in the second round of the 1978 NFL Draft, Baker would make an easy return on his investment as a rookie.
In 1978, Baker would record an unofficial 23 quarterback sacks. Sacks were not an official stat until Baker’s last season with Detroit in 1982. Regardless, Baker would be named to three straight Pro Bowls as a member of the Lions from 1978 to 1980.
Interestingly enough, his rookie campaign in 1978 would end up being arguably his greatest season as a pro in his 13-year NFL career with four franchises. Baker not only made the Pro Bowl, but was a First-Team All-Pro and was named 1978’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Baker was a popular player in Detroit, as he was a staple of the Lions’ “Silver Rush” of that era. However, he was not long for the Lions, as he only played five NFL seasons in the Motor City. Baker would go on to play with the then-St. Louis Cardinals (1983-86), the Cleveland Browns (1987, 1989-90) and the Minnesota Vikings (1988).
Though sacks were not official until Baker’s last season with the Lions, he finished with 65.5 over his NFL career. Unofficially, Baker had somewhere close to 75.5 during his first four seasons in the NFL. That would put Baker north of 140 career sacks, with seven seasons of 10 or more.
In his post-playing career, Baker would open a restaurant called Bubba’s Q World-famous Barbecue and Catering in suburban Cleveland. He even holds a patent for how to de-bone ribs, so that they can be enjoyed with a knife and a fork. His patent was even featured on an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank.
Frankly, Baker could be higher up on this all-time list, if not for three things. One, nearly all of his Lions’ sacks are unofficial, which have a hard time holding up in the grand scheme of things. Two, he only played five seasons in Detroit. And three, post-Lions Baker never sniffed the Pro Bowl. This might have something to do with playing for the highly dysfunctional Cardinals in their final years in St. Louis.
Overall, to get a premier pass-rushing talent in the middle of the second round as the sixth defensive end off the board in very impressive. Only Art Still who went No. 2 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs had more career Pro Bowls than did Baker. Still manage four trips in his decade with the Chiefs.