‘Tis almost time, my fellow Lions brethren and sistren. The NFL Draft is in our midst and thou could not be happier for such an occasion to arrive. I’m so excited, in fact, that I looked up the archaic plural for sister, and wrote it in this Lions article.
It’s around these times that I like to dig into the Lions’ past, just to see if we can learn anything for the future. Of course, this must coincide with my inherent thirst for random knowledge that pertains to the Lions. So here’s what I did:
The Lions hold the 21st pick to this year’s draft. At first, I wanted to see what the Lions had done on the other occasions they held the 21st pick, but that has only happened twice. I can’t form an entire story on that. So I decided to, instead, take a look at every player the Lions have drafted in the 20s since their inception. Here’s what I found.
WR Earl McCullouch: 24th pick of the 1968 draft
It took the Lions 36 years to have a pick in the 20s, partially because there weren’t 20 teams in the league for a long period of time. They decided to use their first 20s pick on USC receiver Earl McCullouch. Apparently Detroit was going for duo that year. They had just selected Greg Landry 13 picks earlier.
McCullouch went on to win rookie of the year honors that year. From there, his career began to trend downwards. Injuries plagued him until he was completely out of the starting lineup. In all, Earl spent six years in a Detroit and eventually retired at the age of 28.
DT Bob Bell: 21st pick of the 1971 draft
Bob Bell: The man with seemingly no history on the internet. Honestly. This man has completely disappeared from the face the Earth. What I do know is that the Lions selected this defensive tackle from Cincinnati, and he only played for the Lions for three years. He ended up spending the remaining five years of his career with the Cardinals.
TE David Lewis: 20th pick of the 1984 draft
Ah, yes, back when tight ends were only meant to block and shut up. The Lions drafted this tight end from California in the first round, thus beginning the city’s long standing hatred of the position.
Lewis played three years with the Lions, playing in fewer games with each passing year. He left for Miami in 1987 and retired soon after.
DE Robert Porcher: 26th of the 1992 draft
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my favorite Lions player during my childhood years. Well, favorite player not named Barry, obviously. Porcher was an absolute beast, easily the best 20s pick for the Lions so far, maybe ever.
Porcher played his entire 12-year career in Detroit. In that time he was a three-time All-Pro and a three-time Pro Bowler. In 1999, he was first-team All NFC. Porche is definitely one of the greatest Lions defenders of all time. I miss this guy.
WR Johnnie Morton: 21st pick of the 1994 draft
I now present you with the only NFL player that’s friends with me on Facebook. Johnnie and I go way back. I was the best man at his wedding. He was groomsman at mine. Oh, that Superfly, he has no idea I exist.
Johnnie was great. That’s really all that needs to be said, but I will say more. I dare say that there was a time that Morton may have been the best No. 2 receiver in the NFL. He hit the 1,000 yard mark four times in Detroit. He currently ranks third in receptions and receiving yards in Lions history. He was even on an episode of Moesha. Seriously, here it is:
I will now and forever be the only sports writer in history to include Moesha in his article.
DT Luther Ellis: 20th pick of the 1995 draft
I wish my name was Luther. I wish it all the time. I guess I’ll just have to stick with Mike. I can’t be as cool as Luther Vandross. Or athletic as this first round pick the Lions absolutely scored on.
Ellis finished his nine year career with two Pro Bowl nods. This had to be due to the fact that Luther stayed relatively healthy for most of his career and he was able to play anywhere on the line. Luther Ellis would have been major player in today’s NFL.
G Jeff Hartings: 23rd pick of the 1996 draft
Jeff had a magical career that was full of championships, Pro Bowls and All Pro nods. Unfortunately he did all that with the Steelers.
Hartings spent his first five years as a guard in Detroit. Then he jumped on the first thing smoking to Pittsburgh and really came into his own as a center. A perfect example of misuse by the Lions. He retired after winning the Super Bowl in the city of Detroit in 2006.
CB Terry Fair: 20th pick of the 1998 draft
I thought Terry Fair was going to be the greatest player to ever defend a receiver. He, instead, became a player that was incapable of staying healthy. In his short six year career, Fair never played an entire 16 game season.
He was out of Detroit after three years. After a short stint in Carolina, Fair left football until an attempted comeback in 2005. Fair is now an assistant coach Colorado State.
OT Aaron Gibson: 27th pick of the 1999 draft
Sadly Gibson is an example of another oft-injured player. Gibson never played his rookie year. He injured his shoulder in minicamp and didn’t play until the 2000 season. He started the first ten games of the year, then tore his shoulder again.
Gibson would spend the next six years trying to catch on somewhere. He eventually wound up with the Austin Wranglers of the Arena Football League. The league folded the next year. It was a rough go for this guy.
OL Stockar McDougle: 20th pick of the 2000 draft
Good old Stockar McDougle. I think the Lions had a lot of high hopes for this guy. He immediately became a starter. After some earlier injuries that had him missing time, he eventually became a guy that started all 16 games and wasn’t half bad, but he never turned out to be what many hoped he would.
TE Brandon Pettigrew: 20th pick of the 2009 draft
Oh, what could have been. The Lions traded Roy Williams and got the 20th pick in the 2009 draft out of the deal. With that they drafted Pettigrew, who had had some trouble while at Oklahoma State.
Up until 2011, Pettigrew looked like he was going to be the next big tight end in the NFL. He was a weapon. Then, in 2012 he literally fumbled all of that away. I can’t explain what happened. Pettigrew’s career just went down hill at an alarming rate, to the point where all the blocking skill in the world couldn’t save him.
He’s now a free agent, but his career is likely over. That injury just proved to be too much.
OT Riley Reiff: 23rd pick of the 2012 draft
We’ll always have that one moment. Who will ever forget Matthew Stafford’s crackly puberty voice as he shouted “Riley! Riley!” before having what I feel is the greatest Lions moment of all time?
Riley wasn’t bad. Rick Wagner and Taylor Decker are just better. With as many tackle issues as there are in the league, the Lions can call themselves lucky for having an okay one like Reiff for so long. Now he’s the Vikings’ boy. So don’t worry, Lions fans, he’s still a part of your life.
G Laken Tomlinson: 28th pick of the 2015 draft
Well, that escalated quickly. Laken recently had a gigantic fall from grace. He lost his starting spot almost immediately to Graham Glasgow, and he’s just generally had a rough time adapting to the NFL.
Regardless of that, Laken is still an asset to the team. While he has struggled, it hasn’t been a struggle that’s bad enough to say he shouldn’t be in the league. He will serve a great purpose as a depth player in 2017. And who knows? He might still wind up being more some day.
So altogether, the Lions haven’t done too bad in the 20s. There have been a few misses here and there, but for the most part, the Lions have been able to get some quality production out of each of them. What will the Lions do in in a couple weeks? Will they stay at 21, or will they trade up or down? I can’t wait to find out.