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Detroit Lions Legacy Roster: An introduction

What would an all-time Detroit Lions roster look like? We’re putting the task of building one in your hands in our all new series.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re like me, you’ve sat and wondered what the Lions would have looked like if Barry Sanders were on the field in his prime at the same time as Calvin Johnson in his. How crazy would it have been if Matthew Stafford were throwing a vertical pass to one of Johnson, Herman Moore, and Charlie Sanders?

We here at Pride of Detroit are going to take this exercise one step further and put together an all-time roster, the best of the best. Rather than just put together a 53-man roster like we’ve done in our prediction pieces, we’re going to have you, the fans, select this roster while we take a few trips down memory lane at some of the best to ever don the Honolulu Blue.

This will be a series, so we can fully explore what the best roster would look like. We’ll look at who the best players were over the entirety of Lions history, with a collection of both modern and historic players. Rather than just look at who the best players are, we’re going to do things a little bit differently. For wide receiver, for instance, we’re going to be looking at who the best receivers for each spot on the field would be. So while the starter on the outside may look easy, imagining the best slot receiver is a little tougher.

Since it’s not going to be done all at once, we have to decide how many players we’re going to have an every position up front, so we’ll set a bit of ground rules. We’re going to have to think a little scheme-agnostic as well, since the team has changed on offense and defense several times over its history. As such, we’re imagining a hybrid and multiple scheme on both sides of the ball.

The players do NOT have to have been drafted by the Lions, though we will be considering only how they played while they were here. Jeff Hartings, for instance, was trending upwards but wasn’t a Pro Bowler until after he left Detroit. Likewise, Julian Peterson was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro, but all of that was prior to his time in Detroit and he joined the team only after he was well on the downslide.

Here’s how this will all break down:

Offense (24)

QB: 1 starter, 1 backup, 1 developmental QB

RB: 1 starter, 1 backup, 2 reserves
FB: 1 starter

TE: 1 starter, 1 receiving TE, 1 blocking TE

WR: 1 starting X, 1 starting Y, 1 starting Z, 2 reserves

OT: 2 starters
OG: 2 starters
OC: 1 starter
OL: 3 reserves

Defense (24)

DE: 2 starters, 1 reserve
DT: 2 starters, 1 reserve
DL: 3 reserve

MLB/ILB: 1 starter, 1 reserve
WLB: 1 starter, 1 reserve
SLB: 1 starter, 1 reserve

CB: 2 starting boundary, 1 starting Nickel, 2 reserve

FS: 1 starter, 1 reserve
SS: 1 starter, 1 reserve

Special Teams (5)

K: 1 starter
P: 1 starter
LS: 1 starter
KR: 1 starter
PR: 1 starter

To make it a little more interesting, we’re going light on both offense and defense to make sure we spend some time talking about returners. We’re going to be doing this piece-by-piece in a series of 10 different articles, roughly split as they are above. No need to wait for your favorite position, though. Let us know in the comments who you think should make an all-time Lions roster, aside from the obvious ones of course. We’d love to know who you feel may be overlooked by the Lions community at large!

The first article will be the quarterbacks. We’ll of course be talking about Matthew Stafford and Bobby Layne, but who else do you think deserves to be in the conversation? Who would be the starter and who would back up? Who is the staff bringing in to be that developmental guy?