2. OLB Mike Cofer
The Lions missed big on an opportunity to get a franchise quarterback like Jim Kelly or Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft, taking fullback James Jones 13th overall instead. Down in the third round though, they redeemed themselves some by taking Cofer with the 67th overall pick.
Cofer tallied seven sacks as a second-year player, starting a run of six out of seven seasons where he had at least that number of quarterback takedowns. He earned the only Pro Bowl nod of his career in 1988, when he had 12 sacks, then followed with nine and 10 sacks in 1989 and 1990 respectively.
Cofer’s 62.5 sacks is good for second on the Lions’ all-time sacks list. From this corner, he is one of the most underrated pass rushers of his era. He passed away in March of 2019, at the age of 58.
1. ILB Chris Spielman
Spielman, the Lions’ all-time leader in tackles (1,138), was the 29th overall pick in 1988 out of Ohio State. Today 29th overall would be a first-round pick. But plenty of teams quickly regretted passing on Spielman when he was runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1988, and then earned three straight Pro Bowl selections.
Spielman is back working in the Lions’ organization, as a key part of setting a new culture. He finally gained induction into the Lions Ring of Honor during last season.
Honorable Mentions: C Kevin Glover (No. 34 overall, 1985); TE Charlie Sanders (No. 74 overall, 1968); Amon-Ra St. Brown (No. 112 overall, 2021); DE Robert Porcher (No. 26 overall, 1992); NT Jerry Ball (No. 63 overall, 1987); K Jason Hanson (No. 56 overall, 1992)