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Detroit Lions: Best and worst draft picks


In the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, will allow users to determine the best and worst draft picks for every team. The series continues with the team that owns the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft, the Detroit Lions.

In reality Matt Millen should have his own categorization in these rankings. The breakdown should read Best Picks, Worst Picks and Millen-esque Picks. Finding great picks from the Millen era is like searching for a blade of hay in a needle stack. Alas, Lions fans, we press on.

Best picks


Barry Sanders -- 1989 (No. 3)
Lions fans were blessed when the most elusive running back in the history of the NFL fell to them at the third pick. A slippery ankle-breaker, Sanders was a back that could have dominated during any NFL era. Without a doubt, Sanders' name forever will be brought up in bar-side arguments about who is the greatest running back of all time.
» 1989 NFL Draft | Photos: Sanders through the years


Calvin Johnson -- 2007 (No. 2)
The 6-foot-5 physical freak was the fourth top-10 wide receiver Millen drafted in five years. However, this one has future Hall of Famer written all over it. With his physical gifts, size and speed, Johnson is one of the few wide receivers in NFL history that completely transforms a defense's scheme. Last season, Megatron took down Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record (1,964), and with the proliferation of the pass game Megatron could snatch a few more in the seasons ahead.
» 2007 NFL Draft | Breaking the Madden Curse


Chris Spielman -- 1988 (No. 29)
The gritty middle linebacker led the Lions in tackles each of his eight seasons in Detroit. He still stands as team's all-time tackles leader (1,138) and the single-season tackles record holder (195). He was the leader of some stout Detroit fronts in the early 90s which won two NFC Central titles and the only playoff game for the franchise since the AFL-NFL merger. Oh, and he looked like a complete badass with that neck roll and thick facemask.
» 1988 NFL Draft | Spielman: A Football Life


Lomas Brown -- 1985 (No. 6)
Brown was the model of durability in his 11 seasons with the Lions, starting 163 games at left tackle. Some might argue Gumby could have "blocked" for Barry Sanders and been successful, but Brown was also stellar in protecting for an often overlooked potent passing attack. Brown was a six-time Pro Bowler with the Lions and three-time first-team All-Pro.
» » 1985 NFL Draft


Jason Hanson -- 1992 (No. 56)
Yes, a kicker, that's how poorly the Lions draft. If the goal of the draft is to select a franchise player at his position, you couldn't ask for much more than what Hanson has given the Lions for the past 21 seasons. He holds at least a share of six NFL records, including most field goals of 50 or more yards (51). You might laugh, but if he produced the same on a team that perennially made the playoffs we'd be debating on whether or not this kicker deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.
» 1992 NFL Draft | Hanson retires after 21 seasons

Worst picks


Charles Rogers -- 2003 (No. 2)
The string of Millen-selected receivers began with the disastrous selection of the Michigan State wideout in 2003. In three NFL seasons, Rogers played only 14 games, caught just 36 passes with four measly touchdowns. During that short time he broke his clavicle twice and violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy three times (leading to a four-game suspension).
» 2003 NFL Draft


Mike Williams -- 2005 (No. 10)
As Williams infamously fell on draft day in 2005, Lions fans prayed to the old gods and the new that their buffoon of a general manager wouldn't take a third receiver in as many years, especially one who sat out an entire season after trying to leave USC early. Of course, Millen ran it back again like a drunkard at a roulette table. Williams was overweight and outmatched in his two seasons with the Lions. He caught just 37 passes (eight in his second season) before being traded in 2007 with quarterback Josh McCown to the Oakland Raiders for a fourth-round draft pick.
» 2005 NFL Draft


Drew Stanton, Ikaika Alama-Francis and Gerald Alexander -- 2007 (No. 43, No. 58, No. 61)
I'm taking liberties with the format here to underscore just how awful the Millen era was for the Lions. For a terrible team, second-round picks are gold, but Millen used his 2007 picks on a third-string quarterback, an injured defensive end who washed out of the league after four invisible seasons, and a molasses-slow, future-journeyman safety. Worse for the defense-starved Lions, future studs and local products, LaMarr Woodley and David Harris, were both on the board when Millen selected the superfluous Stanton from Backup Quarterback University.
» 2007 NFL Draft


Andre Ware -- 1990 (No. 7)
Some Lions fans will want Joey Harrington in this spot, but truth be told, Ware, the 1989 Heisman Trophy winner, was a bigger bust than the piano player. After putting up gaudy numbers in the University of Houston's Run and Shoot offense, Ware was supposed to be the perfect complement to Barry Sanders. However, Ware started just six games in four seasons with the Lions and completed just 83 passes. He couldn't beat out the oft-injured Rodney Peete or anemic Erik Kramer for playing time. Ware was so overmatched after he left the Lions that he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars before their expansion season in 1995.
» 1990 NFL Draft


Reggie Rogers -- 1987 (No. 7)
Rogers, a defensive end, had a ton of upside coming out of Washington. However, he never stayed on the field in two seasons with Detroit. He played just six games in his rookie season due to an assortment of emotional problems. Then in 1988 while driving drunk he slammed into a car, killing three teenagers. The Lions released him prior to his spending a year in prison for vehicular manslaughter because he also broke his neck in the accident.
» 1987 NFL Draft

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.

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