Once again active players don’t count, not sure about Calvin Johnson so I left him off for now.
15) Charlie Sanders, TE
Sanders truly was a complete tight end. He not only caught everything thrown his way, but he was also a nasty, tenacious blocker.
14) Dick LeBeau, DB
LeBeau was a smooth operator on the field, capable of jumping a route and intercepting the ball when the quarterback didn’t even know he was there.
13) Roger Brown, DE
Namely, Brown was part of the Lions’ “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line along with Alex Karras, Sam Williams and Darris McCord.
It was that group that was responsible for the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” against the Green Bay Packers, in which he got after Bart Starr for five sacks, including one for a safety.
12) Lou Creekmur, OL
Creekmur was a star offensive lineman who went to eight Pro Bowls in his 10 years with the Lions. As a testament to his versatility, he went to two of those Pro Bowls as a guard and six as a tackle.
He also filled in as a defensive tackle in short-yardage situations, and even spent an entire season playing two ways to fill in for an injured teammate.
11) Billy Sims, RB
There is no doubt that Sims had Hall of Fame-caliber talent, and for about four-and-a-half years, he showed it. Unfortunately, a career-ending knee injury killed any aspirations Sims may have had of being an all-time NFL great.
10) Yale Lary, DB
Lary was a standout at three positions. Made 9 pro bowl teams even with a two=year absence for military service.
He was a dangerous fixture at safety for the entirety of his 11-year career, but he also made a living as a punter and punt returner.
How was he in those roles? He returned three punts for touchdowns, and ended his career with a 44.3-yard punting average.
9) Herman Moore, WR
Even though he didn’t have All-Pro quarterbacks throwing to him, Moore still ranked among the league’s best in every receiving category during the decade of the 90’s
8) Dick “Night Train” Lane, DB
Night Train was feared around the league as not only a top cover corner, but also as a vicious hitter. Night Train was such a dangerous player, many of the hits he was notorious for have since been outlawed by the league.
7) Doak Walker, RB
Walker won division titles, won championships, went to Pro Bowls, made All-Pro teams, was Rookie of the Year, and generally wreaked havoc on opposing defenses for his entire seven-year career.
Walker doesn’t come close to touching any modern-day rushing records, nor any all-time records. But that’s more an issue of the era he played in, as well as his decision to retire early. Make no mistake, in his time, Walker was unstoppable.
6) Alex Karras, DT
Karras was one of the most feared linemen in NFL history, and for that, he certainly deserves a spot on this list.
He likely deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame as well, but the general belief is that he has been “Pete Rose’d” off the list by some enemies he made as a result of his mid-career gambling suspension.
5) Jack Christiansen, DB
Christiansen was named to six consecutive All-Pro teams, intercepted 46 career passes, and returned eight punts for touchdowns on 85 career punt returns. He was a dangerous man defensively and on special teams.
All this, in a Hall of Fame career that just spanned nine years.
4) Bobby Layne, QB
What we’re also talking about is a guy who delivered championships to the Detroit Lions. If that alone doesn’t make him one of the greats, what does?
3) Lem Barney, DB
Barney was a shutdown corner who led the NFL in interceptions his rookie year, but was also highly proficient as a kick returner. He is among the Lions’ all-time leaders in both areas. Between his kick returns and defensive scores, Barney scored 11 touchdowns in his 11-year career.
He was also Defensive Rookie of the year in 1967, made seven Pro Bowls, four All-Pro squads, and in 1992, he became the fifth cornerback to be inducted to the Hall of Fame.
2) Joe Schmidt, LB
Joe Schmidt was a tough, smart player, who basically ran the Lions defense from his rookie year on. Joe was a 10 time pro bowler and was selected on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.
More impressive was he became the Lions coach after he retired and actually retired from coaching the Lions with a winning record.
1) Barry Sanders, RB
No explanation needed on this one, just watch the film.
Honorable mention, Chris Spielman, Mel Gray, and Jerry Ball.