The top 20 Detroit Lions of the last 20 years

Detroit Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Robert Porcher, Detroit Lions (Photo Credit: Tom Pidgeon /Allsport)
Robert Porcher, Detroit Lions (Photo Credit: Tom Pidgeon /Allsport) /

15. Kevin Jones (2004-07)-RB

Unfortunately this isn’t saying much, but Jones remains Detroit’s leading rusher since the retirement of Barry Sanders in 1999. Jones rushed for 3,067 yards and a combined 27 (24 rushing, 3 receiving) touchdowns in his four years as the feature back. Injuries slowed down a promising start to his career, but almost fifteen years later, Jones is still the most productive back in a long time in Motown.

Memorable feat: Bursting out of the gate with 1,133 rushing yards in 2004, Jones joined Lion legends Barry Sanders and Billy Sims as the only rookies in team history to go over the1,000 yard mark.

14/13. Dominic Raiola (2001-14) and Jeff Backus (2001-12)-OL

Coming into the league together in 2001, Raiola and Backus were ultra-reliable mainstays on the offensive line for over a decade apiece. In his twelve seasons at left tackle, Backus never missed a single game until his final year. Starting at center for thirteen of his fourteen years, Raiola possessed a real mean streak to go along with his toughness, missing only five total games in his career.

Raiola and Backus were never stars and also played through the ugliest ten year stretch in the history of the team. Still, their longevity on the offensive line is noteworthy, and their intertwined careers deserve some recognition on this list.

Memorable feat: Between 2002 and 2008, Backus and Raiola started 104 consecutive games together on the Lions offensive line.

12. Robert Porcher (2000-03)- DE

Porcher would be quite a bit higher on this list if it was covering a larger time frame. By 2000, the Lions official* leader in career sacks was in the final third of his twelve year career, but he still remained productive until the end. Porcher collected 28 of his 95.5 career sacks in those last four seasons, including his third and final Pro Bowl selection in 2001.

Memorable feat: 11.0 sacks in 2001 at age 32, the last of five seasons with ten plus sacks for Porcher.

11. Ezekiel Ansah (2013-18)- DE

‘Ziggy’ leaves something of a polarizing legacy in Detroit. Many fans fondly remember him as the wildly athletic sack savant who racked up 48 quarterback takedowns in six seasons (officially fourth place in franchise history). However, others have a hard time seeing past his hot and cold production levels, nagging injuries, and contract tensions at the end of his stint with the team.

The reality is somewhere in the middle, but Ansah was a dynamic force on some explosive defensive lines for the Lions, a key player on several playoff teams. Maybe there was some unfulfilled potential in there as well, but that shouldn’t subtract from what Ziggy was able to do on the field.

Memorable feat: Finished second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks (as well as four forced fumbles) in the 2015 season, a Pro Bowl appearance.

*Individual sacks have only been kept by the NFL as an official stat since 1982.