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35 Years of Lions Draft-Butchery (Including 10 Missed Super Bowl QBs): A Masochistic NFL Draft-Day Guide

I'm going to celebrate on the best day of a Lions fan's year -- NFL Draft Day. But to be fair, I'm not going to analyze their ineptitude identifying talent since the Eisenhower years -- again, that would be cruel. I'm just going to start when I began following this incredibly consistent team.
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The following was originally posted on Kevin's blog,

The last time the Lions won a title I was just a few months past my negative-seventh birthday. Sure, it would be unfair to point out that there has been only one playoff win for our sad NFL franchise since 1957 -- against the 1991 Dallas Cowboys who had an injured Troy Aikmann.

So instead, I'm going to celebrate on the best day of a Lions fan's year -- NFL Draft Day. But to be fair, I'm not going to analyze their ineptitude identifying talent since the Eisenhower years -- again, that would be cruel. I'm just going to start when I began following this incredibly consistent team.

Two teams that didn't exist until 1976 have since won Super Bowls, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks. When I started paying attention to football by wondering what my father was screaming at in our family room (as well as, I suspect, my buddy's Cowboy cheerleader poster) I've seen Dallas go from great, to terrible, to great, to bad, to good, to disappointing but still expected to be in the playoffs.

In 1979, the Lions and 49ers were both 2-14, neither having won a title -- no comment necessary.

So tonight I'll be compulsively watching the ESPN show with Chris Berman and his terrible puns, Mel Kyper with his analyses and a thousand commercials for beer, trucks, and mid-life crisis males needing a little boost to help them in their kitchen romances with their wives carrying in the groceries -- only to end up in two bathtubs in the yard looking at a sunset. So during those exciting commercials, Lions fans, enjoy the moment and dazzle/bore your friends with life's greatest "what-ifs."

For tonight our team is undefeated. Tonight, they're going to draft the missing 14 pieces to the puzzle -- all in the first round. Tonight, during those long pauses between trips to the podium, we can all travel the familiar road of 35 years of draft picks yielding 13 Pro-Bowlers and one Hall-of-Famer.

To quote Sesame Street's famous quiz-song, "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong..." We'll take a quick glimpse at the 1999 draft's Top 11 picks and you'll notice the few white squares of non-Pro-Bowlers selected.


Most of my metro-Detroit contemporaries know the following list pretty well, but a morning tour of Wikipedia allowed me to pour even more salt into my favorite wound--the ones who got away. Sure, they got away from a lot of other teams, but let's not throw logic into our lovely misery!

We'll look at the Lions first-pick, then some notables they coulda-had! (Lions draft-picks that are in bold made a Pro Bowl. Underlined and bold (aka Barry Sanders) also made it to Canton.

  • 1979 (10th pick--Keith Dorney--OT): Kellen Winslow (3 picks later), Joe Montana (72 picks later), Dwight Clark (239 picks later)

  • 1980 (1st pick--Billy Sims--RB): Anthony Munoz (2 picks later), Art Monk (17 picks later), Charles White (26 picks later)
  • 1981 (16th pick--Mark Nichols--WR): Mike Singletary (22 picks later), Howie Long (32 picks later), Rickey Jackson (35 picks later), Chris Collinsworth (21 picks later), Russ Grimm (53 picks later)
  • 1982 (15th pick--Jimmy Williams--LB): Andre Tippett (26 picks later), Joe Morris (30 picks later)
  • 1983 (13th pick--James Jones--FB): Jim Kelly (1 pick later), Dan Marino (14 picks later), Darrell Green (15 picks later), Roger Craig (36 picks later), Nate Newton (undrafted)
  • 1984 (20th pick--David Lewis--TE): Boomer Esiason (8 picks later)
  • 1985 (6th pick--Lomas Brown--OT): Jerry Rice (10 picks later), Randall Cunningham (31 picks later), Jack Del Rio (62 picks later), Andre Reed (82 picks later)
  • 1986 (12th pick--Chuck Long--QB): Neal Anderson (15 picks later), Pat Swilling (48 picks later)
  • 1987 (7th pick--Reggie Rogers--RB): Rod Woodson (3 picks later), Jim Harbaugh (19 picks later), Christian Okoye (28 picks later)
  • 1988 (3rd pick--Bennie Blades--S): Tim Brown(3 picks later), Sterling Sharpe (4 picks later), Michael Irvin (8 picks later), Keith Jackson (10 picks later), Randal McDaniel (16 picks later)
  • 1989 (3rd pick--Barry Sanders--RB): No need to dig into this draft. Barry was worth skipping the rest of the rounds.
  • 1990 (7th pick--Andre Ware--QB): Emmitt Smith (12 picks later), Bryce Paupp (152 picks later), Shannon Sharpe (185 picks later), John Randle (undrafted)
  • 1991 (10th pick--Herman Moore--WR): Brett Favre (23 picks later), Leon Lett (163 picks later)
  • 1992 (26th pick--Robert Porcher--DE): Darren Woodson (11 picks later), Mark Chmura (131 picks later)
  • 1993 (33rd pick--no 1st round--Ryan McNeil--CB): Michael Strahan (7 picks later), John Lynch (49 picks later), Mark Brunell (85 picks later)
  • 1994 (21st pick--Johnny Morton--WR): Larry Allen (25 picks later), Kurt Warner (undrafted), Jeff Garcia (undrafted)
  • 1995 (20th pick--Luther Ellis--DT): Kory Stringer (4 picks later), Derrick Brooks (8 picks later), Kordell Stewart (40 picks later), Curtis Martin (54 picks later), Antonio Freeman (70 picks later)
  • 1996 (23rd pick--Jeff Hartings--G): Ray Lewis (3 picks later), Tedy Bruschi (63 picks later), Terrell Owens (76 picks later), Stephen Davis (79 picks later)
  • 1997 (5th pick--Bryant Westbrook--CB): Walter Jones (1 pick later), Warrick Dunn (7 picks later), Tony Gonzales (8 picks later), Tiki Barber (31 picks later), Jake Plummer (37 picks later), Priest Holmes (undrafted)
  • 1998 (20th pick--Terry Fair--CB): Randy Moss (1 pick later), Hines Ward (72 picks later), Matt Haselback (167 picks later), London Fletcher (undrafted)
  • 1999 (9th pick--Chris Claiborne--LB): Chris McAlister (1 pick later), Daunte Culpepper (2 picks later), Jevon Kearse (7 picks later), Damien Woody (8 picks later), Jon Jansen (28 picks later), Dre Bly (32 picks later), Peerless Pryce (44 pick later)
  • 2000 (20th pick--Stockar McDougle--OT): Keith Bullock (10 picks later), Mark Bulgar (148 picks later), Tom Brady (179 picks later)
  • 2001 (18th pick--Jeff Backus--OT): Deuce McAllister (5 picks later), Drew Brees (14 picks), Chad Johnson (18 picks later), Steve Smith (56 picks later), Jake Feely (undrafted)
  • 2002 (3rd pick--Joey Harrington--QB): Roy Williams (5 picks later), Jeremy Shockey (11 picks later), Ed Reed (21 picks later), Clinton Portis (48 picks later), Brian Westbrook (88 picks later)
  • 2003 (2nd pick--Charles Rogers--WR): Andre Johnson (1 pick later), Kevin Williams (7 picks later), Terrell Suggs (8 picks later), Troy Polamalu (14 picks later), Larry Johnson (25 picks later), Tony Romo (undrafted), Antonio Gates (undrafted)
  • 2004 (7th pick--Roy Williams--WR): Ben Roethlisberger (4 picks later), Matt Schaub (83 picks later), Jared Allen (119 picks later), Wes Welker (undrafted)
  • 2005 (10th pick--Mike Williams--WR): DeMarcus Ware (1 pick later), Shawn Merriman (2 picks later), Derrick Johnson (5 picks later), Aaron Rogers (14 picks later), Roddy White (17 picks later), Frank Gore (55 picks later), Justin Tuck (64 picks later), Richie Incognito (71 picks later), Marion Barber (99 pick later), Derek Anderson (203 picks later), Matt Cassel (220 picks later)
  • 2006 (9th pick--Ernie Sims--LB): Jay Cutler (2 picks later), Chad Greenway (8 pick later), Antonio Cromarte (10 picks later), Joseph Addai (21 picks later), Devin Hester (48 picks later), Maurice Jones-Drew (51 picks later)
  • 2007 (2nd pick--Calvin Johnson--WR): Adrian Peterson (5 picks later), Steve Smith (49 picks later), Jacoby Jones (71 picks later),
  • 2008 (17th pick--Gosder Cherilus--OT): Joe Flacco (1 pick later), Jordy Nelson (19 picks later), Matt Forte (27 picks later), DeSean Jackson (32 picks later), Ray Rice (38 picks later)
  • 2009 (1st pick--Matthew Stafford--QB): Percy Harvin (21 picks later), Clay Matthews (25 picks later), LeSean McCoy (52 picks later), Arian Foster (undrafted)
  • 2010 (2nd pick--Ndamukong Suh--DT): Dez Bryant (22 picks later), Rob Gronkowski (40 picks later), Jimmy Graham (93 picks later), Aaron Hernandez (111 picks later), Victor Cruz (undrafted)
  • 2011 (13th pick--Nick Fairley--DT): Robert Quinn (1 pick later), Mike Pouncey (2 picks later), Ryan Kerrigan (3 picks later), Kyle Rudoph (30 picks later)
  • 2012 (23rd pick--Riley Reiff--OT): Russell Wilson (52 picks later), Nick Foles (65 picks later), Blair Walsh (152 picks later)
  • 2013 (5th pick--"Ziggie" Ansah--DE): Eric Reid (13 picks later), Kyle Long (15 picks later), Eddie Lacy (56 picks later)
  • Okay, call it revisionist history. 20-20 hindsight. Yada-yada-yada.

    Just let Lions fans savor the pain and enjoy our dreams for this lone day of the year.

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