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Detroit Lions All-Time Legacy Roster: Wide Receivers

No doubt Lions fans have the starters locked in here, but what to do from the slot receiver position onward?

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

The Legacy Roster project has been moving along and it’s been everything we hoped it would be. We’ve seen passionate arguments made for both recent players and those from earlier eras. There has been a little bit of recency bias, most noticeable in the recent tight ends article, but that’s a part of why this series has been so much fun. On the one hand, we get to look at the achievements of Lions players in days past, but it’s important to recognize the players who have made an impact in today’s fast moving league.

Today’s piece will allow us to look at a skill position where the traits are far more translatable across eras, so I don’t expect recency to play as big of a role as it may have before. If you want to familiarize yourself with the terms used for the starters here, Danny Kelly had a great write up years ago that still holds up right here.

Previous Legacy Roster articles

Running Backs
Tight Ends

The Starting X

An X receiver, to give a brief explanation of differences, is the guy who is going to man up and face the corner one-on-one. Your X is normally the guy who can get off press the best and isn’t going to be coming in motion. This is normally your top receiver, the guy who faces the best corners and can win straight up in any situation. The Lions have had several guys win here in their storied history, but bets are you’re looking at one of two guys here.

Calvin Johnson (2007-2015)

  • Lions all-time leader in receiving yards
  • Lions all-time leader in receiving touchdowns
  • Lions all-time leader in receptions
  • Lions all-time leader in yards per game (by 15.1 yards per game)
  • Most yards in a single season (NFL record)
  • 4 All Pro Selections
  • 6 Pro Bowls

Megatron. A name that struck fear in every cornerback he faced for nearly a decade. Often in the conversation for the most dominant receiver to ever play football, Calvin set an NFL record for receiving yards in a season, one that nobody has even threatened to beat since. One of the best athletes to ever put on cleats (he’s held the 10.00 spot for RAS since 2007), Calvin Johnson was as respected by peers as he was feared by opponents.

Herman Moore (1991-2001)

  • Lions #2 all-time leader in receiving yards
  • Lions #2 all-time leader in receiving touchdowns
  • Lions #2 all-time leader in receptions
  • Three 100 reception seasons
  • 4 All Pro Selections
  • 4 Pro Bowls

Before there was Megatron, there was the indomitable Herman Moore. Moore was a mainstay of the Lions during the 90s and remains one of the most well respected players to ever put on a Lions uniform. He owned every Lions receiving record for nearly two decades, and while he hasn’t put on a Hall of Fame jacket for the NFL, he’s always one of those guys you’re surprised isn’t in the hall. Moore was a physical, powerful, football-catching machine in a decade full of big names, but still found himself considered one of the top in the league four times.


Who is the starting X receiver for the Detroit Lions Legacy Roster?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Calvin Johnson
    (702 votes)
  • 9%
    Herman Moore
    (73 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (You’re gonna need a GREAT explanation in the comments for this one)
    (0 votes)
775 votes total Vote Now

Starting Z Receiver

Unlike the X receiver, the Z is able to come into motion and lines up off the line of scrimmage, so doesn’t face as much press. This is the guy lined up outside of the tight end, but he’s still facing off against a top corner on the edge. Your flanker should have the speed and athletic ability to separate, but adding in versatility to move across the formation or challenge the middle of a defense can provide a dangerous wrinkle for an offense. Obviously, whoever you didn’t pick for the X will be considered, but here are a couple more options you could consider.

Brett Perriman (1991-1996)

  • Lions #4 all time leading receiving yards
  • 2 1,000-yard seasons
  • 1 100 reception season

Herman Moore had a partner in crime, and Brett Perriman was the perfect compliment to a player like Moore. While he never made a Pro Bowland was always known as a second fiddle to someone else, Perriman put up some very good numbers of his own while he was in a Lions uniform, with his best being a 108 catch, 1,488 yard, and 9 touchdown season in 1995. With 280 career rushing yards, you’re not going to get him in the backfield as an option, but you have some versatility to run end arounds and other plays.


Who is the starting Z for the Legacy Roster?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Whoever wasn’t picked between Johnson and Moore
    (612 votes)
  • 11%
    Brett Perriman
    (81 votes)
  • 1%
    Someone Else (In comments)
    (12 votes)
705 votes total Vote Now

Starting Y Receiver

The Y, or slot receiver, lines up inside of another receiver, often placing them in a mismatch with one of the lesser corners on a team’s roster (depending on defensive scheming) and occasionally against linebackers or safeties. Sometimes mischaracterized as just your small, shifty guys, the NFL has seen an increase in ‘big slot’ receivers in the past few years where the same types of mismatches are used to exploit smaller slot corners or provide someone who can better weather hits inside. In addition to the guys above, the Lions have had a few guys who can make this roster great.

Golden Tate (2014-Present)

  • 1 Pro Bowl
  • Only Lions player with 4 seasons of 90+ receptions (consecutive)
  • 3 1,000-yard seasons
  • Most missed tackles forced by a WR from 2014-present
  • Lions all time leader in receptions per game

Golden Tate was a prize of the 2014 free agent class. Having improved every time he stepped on a football field for the Seahawks, he left them with little fanfare to join the Lions as Calvin Johnson’s No. 2. From there, he’s went on to catch virtually every pass thrown at him and broke off yards after the catch in bunches. One of the best YAC players of the last decade, Tate has been a monster whether he’s lined up outside or inside, though the slot has seen him at his most comfortable.

Johnnie Morton (1994-2001)

  • Lions #3 all-time leader in receiving yards
  • Lions #3 all-time leader in receiving touchdowns
  • 4 1,000-yard seasons

Running with Herman Moore and Brett Perriman, it’s amazing that Johnnie Morton is often the forgotten man. Providing versatility to play almost anywhere, Morton was an integral part of the Lions offense in the 90s, and was a reliable target in a time when the pass catchers were productive, but not the focus of the offense. One of a string of Lions first-round receivers who found NFL success, Morton was a dangerous weapon out of the slot and a valuable returner on special teams.


Who starts in the slot for the Lions Legacy Roster?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Johnnie Morton
    (117 votes)
  • 76%
    Golden Tate
    (560 votes)
  • 6%
    Brett Perriman
    (46 votes)
  • 0%
    Somehow Johnson or Moore if they didn’t make the earlier cut
    (5 votes)
728 votes total Vote Now

Depth Receiver

Now that we have starters, we’ve got two more spots for depth. This could be a developmental player who maybe didn’t last on the team or got hurt, a veteran free agent who showed valuable production in a reserve role, or anyone you feel could round out the roster. You’d probably expect a player like this to have some kind of elite trait, or to have the versatility to play all over. We’re going to highlight a few, here.

Marvin Jones (2016-present)

Best known to Lions fans for eating Packers defensive backs alive, Marvin Jones has had a short but productive tenure playing as an outside receiver for the Lions. Best used in a deep role and one of the very best at beating defensive backs in contested situations, Jones came in from Cincinnati with high expectations that he’s delivered upon in his two years here.

Leonard Thompson (1975-1986)

Thompson was a reliable, versatile rotational player for the Lions for more than a decade. He sits fourth all time for the Lions in receiving yards, though he only bested 750 yards twice.

Germane Crowell (1998-2003)

A second-round pick in 1998, Crowell would come out in his sophomore season and put up more than 80 catches for more than 1,300 yards. A series of injuries would derail his career after that, and he would never recover. That type of promise early in his career can’t be ignored for potential development, though.

Pat Studstill (1961-1967)

Pat Studstill put up a 67 reception, 1,266 yard season all the way back in 1966, which was 16th all time back then. He holds the record for the longest reception in Lions history (a 99 yarder). It probably doesn’t hurt that he was a pretty awesome punter as well.


Who is the #4 receiver for the Legacy Roster?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Golden Tate
    (87 votes)
  • 31%
    Brett Perriman
    (219 votes)
  • 22%
    Johnnie Morton
    (159 votes)
  • 24%
    Marvin Jones
    (172 votes)
  • 3%
    Germane Crowell
    (25 votes)
  • 3%
    Pat Studstill
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (in comments)
    (15 votes)
704 votes total Vote Now


Who is the #5 receiver for the Legacy Roster?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Golden Tate
    (47 votes)
  • 28%
    Brett Perriman
    (179 votes)
  • 27%
    Johnnie Morton
    (175 votes)
  • 28%
    Marvin Jones
    (182 votes)
  • 2%
    mane Crowell
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    Pat Studstill
    (25 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (in comments)
    (9 votes)
631 votes total Vote Now

Current Legacy Roster

QB: Matthew Stafford, Bobby Layne, Erik Kramer
RB: Barry Sanders, Billy Sims, Doak Walker, Reggie Bush
FB: Cory Schlesinger
TE: Charlie Sanders, Jim Gibbons, Brandon Pettigrew

Do your thing!

Alright, folks, you know what to do. Let us know what your Legacy Roster looks like at receiver and why you feel that will make this squad the best Lions team to ever take the field. There were a bunch of one-year players that I didn’t put on the list, as well as some guys I felt just missed the cut, so let me know in the comments who I left out that you feel is worthy of mention, and give us your own best roster. Do it to it, Lions fans!

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