BEST FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: RB Barry Sanders. Detroit took the 1989 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma State after Dallas drafted Troy Aikman and Green Bay selected Tony Mandarich. Sanders averaged 99.8 yards rushing per game — trailing only Jim Brown in NFL history — and ran for 15,269 over 10 seasons in his Pro Football Hall of Fame career. Sanders suddenly retired just before training camp in 1999, walking away from a chance to break Walter Payton’s rushing record.
BEST SECOND-ROUND DRAFT PICK: CB Lem Barney. The Lions took the relatively unknown player from Jackson State with the No. 34 overall pick in 1967. He had 10 interceptions in 14 games as the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He finished with 56 career interceptions and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame. The do-it-all Barney also returned punts, kickoffs and punted 113 times over two seasons.
BEST LATE-ROUND DRAFT PICK: LB Joe Schmidt. The franchise’s 1957 NFL championship team leaned on a linebacker it took a chance on as a banged-up prospect from Pittsburgh. Schmidt was the final pick of the seventh round in 1953. Schmidt was All-Pro eight times and a captain for nine seasons. In one of six seasons as coach, he was nine games over .500 and led the Lions to the 1970 playoffs.
WORST FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: QB Andre Ware. Detroit reached in the draft for the Houston Cougars star with the No. 7 pick overall in 1990 and it backfired. Ware had just six starts over four years with five touchdown passes and eight interceptions. The Lions failed to take advantage of having Sanders on the team in part because they missed on Ware, who played in just 14 games.
WORST SECOND-ROUND DRAFT PICK: Nebraska safety Daniel Bullocks, drafted No. 40 overall in 2006, did not pick off one pass in 31 games over two seasons. The Lions later released him and he didn’t appear in another NFL game. Former general Matt Millen missed on a lot of picks, leading to the Lions being bad enough to have the league’s first 0-16 team in 2008.
BEST DRAFT TRADE: General manager Bob Quinn traded a third-round pick, No. 85 overall, three years ago to the New England Patriots, his former employer, for the No. 96 slot overall and a fourth-round pick. Quinn took Northern Illinois receiver Kenny Golladay in the third round and Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin in the fourth. Golladay had a league-high 11 touchdown receptions last season and Maybin is a key player on special teams.
DID YOU KNOW THEY ONCE DRAFTED? QB Y.A. Tittle was drafted by Detroit with the No. 6 pick overall in 1948. Instead of leading the Lions, the former LSU star chose to play in the All-America Football Conference for the Baltimore Colts. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants.
LAST YEAR’S PICKS: (Round, Name, Position, School): 1st, T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa; 2nd, Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii; 3rd, Will Harris, DB, Boston College; 4th, Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson; 5th, Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State; 6th, Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion; 6th, Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland; 7th, Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia; 7th, P.J. Johnson, DT, Arizona.
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