Fan perspective: The five greatest draft steals of the Detroit Lions

As a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, I have seen my share of botched draft picks, particularly during the Matt Millen era. However, Detroit has had a few shining moments by coming up with some picks that turned out to be truly visionary. A look at some of the greatest draft steals by the Lions shows several names that will not be remembered by younger fans but have provided thrills for the beleaguered franchise in years past. Here are my top five all-time best:

Lem Barney

It is hard to believe that this Hall of Fame corner managed to slip all the way to the 34 th overall pick in 1967(1). Barney is widely considered to be the greatest cornerback in the history of the Lions. His resume includes 56 career interceptions(2), and he also ran back kickoffs and punts. For a second-round draft pick, Lem Barney proved to be one of the Lion's all-time great steals.

Joe Schmidt

Joe's relatively small size prevented the Lions from selecting him until the seventh round, where he was selected as the 85 th overall pick in 1953(3). Despite his lack of physical bulk, Schmidt excelled due to sheer determination, talent, and aggression. He shook off injuries, particularly of his shoulder, and played well enough to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973

Jack Christiansen

The 69 th overall pick in the 1951 draft(4) yielded a defensive back that was arguably the best Lions defensive player of all time. His eight-year career showcased his ball-hawking skills, as he had 46 interceptions, as well as his unmatched punt return skills. His 12.8 yard career punt return average is still an all-time Detroit mark(5). He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Yale Lary

Picked 34 th overall in the 1952 draft(6), Yale was an all-around athlete who played both safety and punter. He led the pros in punting several times during his career and is still widely considered one of the greatest punters of all time(7). His defensive skills as a safety were equally impressive, as he netted 50 career interceptions and played in the famed defensive backfield with Jack Christiansen. He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1979.

Charlie Sanders

Charlie was a tight end selected by Detroit as the 74th overall pick of the 1968 draft(8). Charlie was one of my favorite players to watch growing up, as he was the consummate blocker/receiver. Perhaps the greatest player on the Lions during the 1970's, I watched with the pride of a fan when he was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.



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Updated Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011