4 Hall of Famers you didn’t know the Detroit Lions drafted that never played for them

When you have as storied a history as the Detroit Lions, there are bound to be players that could have been a part of that history but whose stories were written in different threads. With the NFL draft upon us, it's fun to look back at some could-have-beens for the Lions, four guys that were drafted by the Lions, never played for them, but still made it to Canton, Ohio and the Hall of Fame.

Why it matters

The Lions have had somewhat of a tumultuous draft history within recent memory. Thankfully, Brad Holmes has seemed to right the ship, and gone are the days of Matt Millen and his feeble attempts to draft a wide receiver and also the days of “the smartest (or biggest moron) in the room” of Bob Quinn and his endless reaches for bad talent. Yet, throughout the draft's history, the Lions have struck gold a few times with names like Lem Barney, Barry Sanders, and Calvin Johnson. However, there are some other names that would've also had a huge impact on the Lions organization, eventual Hall of Famers that never donned the Honolulu Blue.

- Advertisement -

What Hall of Famers were drafted by the Lions but never played for them?

Alright, so why relive the ideas of what never happened? Short answer: it's fun. Thoughts about these legends being tied to the Detroit Lions is a fun mental exercise. The guys discussed are placed in the order they were drafted, though they went and played somewhere else for their careers.

Detroit Lions Division II Heisman Trophy Tyree Wilson Dan Campbell

Otto Graham – QB – Northwestern – 1944

Long before Matthew Stafford, there could have been Lions quarterback Otto Graham. Graham was selected fourth overall by the Lions in the 1944 NFL Draft. However, he chose to sign with the AAFC's Cleveland Browns. Though drafted by the Lions, Graham was offered the chance to play for Paul Brown and the newly formed Cleveland Browns, spurning the Lions and becoming a legend in Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham dominated professional football in the pre-Super Bowl era. From 1946-55, “Automatic Otto” led the Browns to 10 straight championship games—an achievement no other player in the sport can match. Starting every Browns game during that time frame, Graham won seven titles—a record unmatched for a professional quarterback until 2021 by Tom Brady.

“The Forgotten NFL Quarterback Who Dominated the Pre-Super Bowl Era” – SAM ROBINSON

An opportunity missed for the Lions, since Graham led the Browns to 10-straight championship games, including a very lopsided defeat of Detroit (56-10) in 1954. Graham won three MVP awards, was a seven-time All-Pro, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965.

Y.A. Tittle – QB – LSU – 1948

Add another name to the list of potential Hall of Famer quarterbacks that shunned the Lions. Drafted sixth overall by the Lions in 1948, Tittle declined their offer to head to the All-America Football Conference and the Baltimore Colts. In 1948 he won the AAFC's Rookie of the Year, followed the Colts to the NFL in 1950, then was selected third overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 1951, where he played for 10 seasons. Throughout his Hall of Fame career, Tittle never won a championship, which wouldn't have been the case had he stuck with the Lions who won championships in 1952, 1953, and 1957.

Bill Parcells – OT – Wichita State – 1964

Yes, you read that correctly. The Hall of Fame and Super Bowl-winning coach, Bill Parcells, was once a Detroit Lions seventh-round draftee. Now, in all honesty, he did “suit up” for the Lions for training camp, but stepped away from the team during training camp due to the long practices in the 90-degree heat.

- Advertisement -

It all worked out well for Parcells though who went on to coach linebackers at Hastings College, then moved through the collegiate ranks to eventually a storied career in coaching in the NFL.

Fred Biletnikoff – WR – Florida St. – 1965

Before Megatron, there could have been Fred Biletnikoff. The man the best collegiate wide receiver is named for could've been a Lion. He was selected out of Florida State University in the third round by the Lions but chose to go to the Oakland Raiders who chose him in the second round of the American Football League draft.

Biletnikoff went on to win an AFL Championship, the Super Bowl, become a Super Bowl MVP, and twice an All-Pro. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 after 14 years in professional football.

- Advertisement -

The Bottom Line

This upcoming draft will have the potential for the Lions to draft more players that could end up in the Hall of Fame. Though, now they don't have the risk of losing them to competing leagues. What would the Lions' organization have looked like had these four players chosen the Motor City over the places they eventually went to play? That's a question for the ages, though there would for sure be more numbers hanging in the ring of honor at Ford Field.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement MGID -
- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

- Advertisement -

Latest News

The Chauncey Billups Curse: A Piston-Heads Nightmare

Is there validity to the idea that the Detroit Pistons are under a sort of Chauncey Billups cruse? We've seen this before in Detroit sports, are the Pistons next?
- Advertisement -

More Articles Like This

- Advertisement -