When we look back at the greatest Detroit Lions ever to play the game, the great Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders is at the top of the list.
But what if the Lions never even had a chance to select Barry?
According to a 1989 NFL re-draft we came across, that’s exactly the case as Troy Aikman was selected No. 1 overall by the Dallas Cowboys (no change there) and Barry was selected No. 2 overall by the Green Bay Packers.
With the No. 3 overall pick, the Lions were able to snag possibly the greatest CB to ever play in the NFL, Deion Sanders out of Florida State.
Here is a summary of the first five picks, according to Robinson Athletic.
1 Dallas Cowboys
Select: Troy Aikman QB UCLA
Aikman of course was the actual selection by the Dallas Cowboys.
There were 4 Hall of Famers from this draft. It may not be as easy as you think to pick Aikman when you consider who else was there (actually it still is a no-brainer). As much as I like some of the other players in this draft, Aikman had a great career and was an elite QB. We know that these guys are hard to come by. This would absolutely still be the pick for the Cowboys. When you have a QB who wins you Super Bowls you are thrilled. No reason to go back on the pick that got you Super Bowls.
2 Green Bay Packers
Select: Barry Sanders RB Oklahoma State
Sanders was actually selected with the 3rd overall pick by the Detroit Lions.
Actual Selection: Tony Mandarich OT Michigan State
The Packers would have the chance here not only to avoid one of the biggest busts of all-time, but to pick up one of 3 Hall of Famers. Everyone selected in the top 5 other than Mandarich went to the Hall of Fame. That is a crazy high hit percentage. The one team that blew it was Green Bay. They would have loved to re-draft this one. Had a re-draft happened, Green Bay would pick the greatest RB that I have seen play in Barry Sanders. I rarely say to pick a back this high, but Sanders is obviously an exception to this rule. This selection would also keep him away from a division rival.
3 Detroit Lions
Select: Deion Sanders CB Florida State
Sanders was actually selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 5th overall pick.
Actual Selection: Barry Sanders RB Oklahoma State
So the Lions miss out on their actual pick of the Hall of Fame Sanders. They respond by selecting another Hall of Fame Sanders. From arguably the best RB of all-time to arguably the best CB of all-time. From one dynamic playmaker to another. They go from the quiet confidence of Barry to the outrageous antics of Deion. Honestly, this is one case where I don’t think you can really lose.
4 Kansas City Chiefs
Select: Derrick Thomas LB Alabama
Thomas was the Chiefs actual selection.
To have 4 Hall of Famers in the first 5 picks is absolutely amazing. With those kinds of stats, the Chiefs would pick whoever was left from the group. In this case, they get to keep the incredible Derrick Thomas. With the career that Thomas had, he is the obvious choice for Kansas City. This draft was truly loaded at the top.
5 Atlanta Falcons
Select: Steve Atwater S Arkansas
Atwater was actually the 20th overall selection by the Denver Broncos.
Actual Selection: Deion Sanders CB Florida State
With Deion gone in the re-draft, the Falcons are hurt the most by the new picks. This will be the first selection that is not a Hall of Famer. They go to the defensive backfield still with this pick, but to safety instead of corner. Steve Atwater is the best player available at this point. Atwater was an 8x Pro Bowler and one of the best defensive backs of his era. His only competition for this pick was with Andre Rison and Steve Wisniewski, but Atwater would have been a great fit for the Falcons here.
*Note: Steve Atwater is now in the Hall of Fame.
Nation, would the Lions have won more or less had they picked Deion Sanders instead of Barry?