8 Greatest players in Detroit Lions history

By W.G. Brady  - Senior News Desk Writer
6 Min Read
NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
Nov 26, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) celebrates his touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter of a NFL game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a fan of the Detroit Lions, you are well aware of the fact that the team has never been to a Super Bowl. Heck, they only have one playoff win in the Super Bowl era.

Even though they may be one of the least successful franchises in NFL history, the Lions have had some very good players over the years.

Here is a list of the top 8 players in the history of the Detroit Lions.

#8 – HERMAN MOORE (WR) (1991-2001)

Herman Moore was drafted by the Lions in the first round of the 1991 NFL Draft and never looked back. Moore held the Lions record for most career receptions with 670 until he was passed by Calvin Johnson. Other than Johnson, Moore is the best wide receiver ever to play for the Lions.

#7 – ALEX KARRAS (DT) (1958-1962 AND 1964-1970)

Alex Karras was drafted in the first round of the 1958 NFL Draft by the Lions. In his 12 seasons with the team, he was considered one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league. Karras was selected to play in four Pro Bowls and was named to the 1960s All-Decade NFL Team.

#6 – JASON HANSON (K) (1992-2012)

Yes, a kicker made the list!

Jason Hanson spent 20 years with the Detroit Lions and is the team’s all-time leader in scoring, with 2,100 points, and field goals with 483, and holds a variety of other team records for kicking and scoring.

Career highlights and awards
  • 2× Pro Bowl (1997, 1999)
  • AP Second-Team All-Pro (1997)
  • SN First-Team All-Pro (1993)
  • Consensus All-American (1989)
  • PFWA NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1992)
  • PFW Golden Toe Award (2008)
  • PFW First-Team All-NFC (1993, 1999)
  • Holds multiple NFL records
Career NFL statistics
Field goals made: 495
Field goals attempted: 601
Field goal %: 82.4
Long field goal: 56
Points scored: 2,150

#5 – LEM BARNEY (CB) (1967-1977)

Lem Barney, who is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is the greatest defensive back ever to play for the Detroit Lions. Barney was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1967 as a second-round draft pick and was selected to seven Pro Bowls. Barney was also named to NFL 1960s All-Decade Team.

T-#4 – BOBBY LAYNE (QB) (1950-1958) and MATTHEW STAFFORD (2009-2020)

Bobby Layne was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1948 NFL Draft. Layne went on to join the Detroit Lions in 1950 and is recognized by most as the best quarterback in the history of the team. Layne led the Lions to three NFL championships, including their most recent in 1957. Layne was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and was named a member of the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team.

Matthew Stafford was selected by the Detroit Lions with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and though he was never able to lead the team to a single playoff win (not all his fault), he set plenty of team records that will likely never be broken.

#3 – CALVIN JOHNSON (WR) (2007-2015)

Calvin Johnson, or “Megatron” as many fans like to call him, is without question one of the best receivers ever to play in the NFL. Prior to retiring, Johnson racked up 11,619 receiving yards and 83 touchdown receptions, both of which are Lions records.  He is a Hall of Famer and deserving of the No. 3 spot on this list.

#2 – JOE SCHMIDT (LB) (1953-1965)

Joe Schmidt is without question the greatest linebacker ever to suit up for the Detroit Lions. Schmidt is a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He helped lead the Lions to two NFL championships and will always be known as one of the toughest players ever to play in the NFL.

#1 – BARRY SANDERS (RB) (1989-1998)

Taking the No. 1 spot on the list of greatest Detroit Lions of all time is none other than Barry Sanders. Sanders is the greatest running back ever to play in the NFL and his running style was something to behold. Sanders was selected to the Pro Bowl every year from 1989 to 1998 and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Barry still holds the NFL record with 14 consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

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