There are surely plenty of candidates, but we’ve narrowed to the 10 biggest draft busts in Detroit Lions history.
Narrowing a list to any number of draft busts for the Lions could be a challenge, depending on how far you’d like to go. For us here 10 is a nice, round, digestible number, without subjecting the audience of the team’s fans to more misery than necessary.
Some might point to the Lions’ draft history when talking about what they should do this year (take Malik Willis at No. 2?, but what about….?). Failing to learn from history may make you doomed to repeat it, but history is just that in the scope of a single NFL draft year–history that has to be kept in its place.
Within that history, dating back as far as it does, here are the 10 biggest draft busts in Detroit Lions history.
10 biggest draft busts in Detroit Lions history
10. FB James Jones
Jones, the 13th pick in the 1983 draft, had a 10-year NFL career, including the first six with the Lions. Lasting that long in the NFL is an achievement, and he did have 23 rushing touchdowns in his first four seasons.
But Jones primarily makes this list based on the opportunities the Lions missed. The pick after him, to the Buffalo Bills, was Jim Kelly. Dan Marino of course had a famous draft fall, to the Miami Dolphins at No. 27. Going a little further, Darrell Green (No. 28) and Joey Browner (No. 19) headline others who went after Jones in that first round. Still others, like Willie Gault, Gil Byrd, Jim Jeffcoat and Don Mosebar, had recognizable NFL careers.
The Lions took a non-descript fullback in the first round of the 1983 draft, as opposed to some future Hall of Famers or others who stuck around at a solid level for awhile.
9. QB Chuck Long
In their quest for a franchise quarterback, set back in hindsight by not drafting Kelly or Marino, the Lions drafted Long No. 12 overall out of the Univerity of Iowa in 1986. He started two games as a rookie, 12 in his second season and seven as a third-year player, totaling 19 touchdowns and 28 interceptions (a league-high 20 in 1987). He last three more NFL seasons, alternating between the Lions and the Rams, playing in five games and never making another start.
Long landed in a less than ideal situation in Detroit. But he was a failed quarterback first-rounder, and only the first on this list for the Lions.