4. Chris Spielman
Spielman just got into the Lions Ring of Honor this past season, in an overdue honor. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles (1,138), with four Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro honors on his resume. For his career as a whole, counting two seasons with the Buffalo Bills at the end, he is a top-20 tackler in NFL history (1,363 tackles; 18th).
Pro Football Reference’s Hall of Fame monitor is not kind to Spielman, placing him well below the average Hall of Fame inside linebacker. But from this corner, anyone that thinks Zach Thomas is a Hall of Famer should easily follow by lauding Spielman’s potential candidacy.
3. Billy Sims
For a certain generation of Lions’ fans, Sims was Barry Sanders almost a decade before the real thing arrived (he even wore No. 20). The first overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma, he ran for 1,303 yards and 13 touchdowns on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he followed that with 1,437 yards and 13 touchdowns in his second season. He earned a third Pro Bowl nod in 1982.
Sims suffered a knee injury during the 1984 season that abruptly ended his career. A lack of longevity works against him for Hall of Fame consideration, but the list of career comps in years three, four of five of his career (via Pro Football Reference) is littered with Hall of Famers–Marcus Allen, Franco Harris, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Barry Sanders, Tony Dorsett. Among Sims’ career comps on PFR is Gale Sayers.
Sims somehow is not in the Lions’ Ring of Honor yet. Despite a very short career, he should get his place in Canton at some point. Check out a cool NFL Films video feature on Sims here.