History of Detroit Lions First-Round NFL Draft Picks All Time

Highlighted by the selections of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions' history of first-round picks in the NFL Draft has its bright spots.

The Detroit Lions‘ performance with NFL Draft first-round picks has always been up and down. But the team’s modern history is indicative of the potential the Lions have. First-round picks like Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford have shown they can revitalize a franchise, and all it takes is one more strong cycle to bring the team the success it craves.

Detroit Lions First-Round Draft Picks Throughout History

The Lions are one of the NFL’s oldest franchises. They took part in the very first NFL Draft showcase in 1936, and since then, they’ve selected seven Hall of Famers. That figure, however, is misleading. Three Hall of Famers drafted by the Lions — quarterbacks Otto Graham and Y.A. Tittle, and defensive back Johnny Robinson — never played a down in Detroit, all opting for AFL counterparts at the time.

Nevertheless, Detroit received excellent returns from defensive lineman Alex Karras — the great uncle of current Bengals center Ted Karras — and their two most recent Hall of Fame first-round picks are the most impressive. Barry Sanders is regarded as one of the greatest RBs of all time, and Calvin Johnson — a 2021 Hall of Fame inductee — might be the most dominating WR spectacle ever to play.

2024

  • Terrion Arnold | Pick 24
    CB, Alabama

2023

  • Jahmyr Gibbs | Pick 12
    RB, Alabama
  • Jack Campbell | Pick 18
    LB, Iowa

2022

  • Aidan Hutchinson | Pick 2
    EDGE, Michigan
  • Jameson Williams | Pick 12
    WR, Alabama

2021

  • Penei Sewell | Pick 7
    OL, Oregon

2020

  • Jeff Okudah | Pick 3
    CB, Ohio State

2019

  • T.J. Hockenson | Pick 8
    TE, Iowa

2018

  • Frank Ragnow | Pick 20
    C, Arkansas

2017

  • Jarrad Davis | Pick 21
    LB, Florida

2016

  • Taylor Decker | Pick 16
    T, Ohio State

2015

  • Laken Tomlinson | Pick 28
    G, Duke

2014

  • Eric Ebron | Pick 10
    TE, North Carolina

2013

  • Ezekiel Ansah | Pick 5
    DE, BYU

2012

  • Riley Reiff | Pick 23
    T, Iowa

2011

  • Nick Fairley | Pick 13
    DT, Auburn

2010

  • Ndamukong Suh | Pick 2
    DT, Nebraska
  • Jahvid Best | Pick 30
    RB, California

2009

  • Matthew Stafford | Pick 1
    QB, Georgia
  • Brandon Pettigrew | Pick 20
    TE, Oklahoma State

2008

  • Gosder Cherilus | Pick 17
    T, Boston College

2007

  • Calvin Johnson* | Pick 2
    WR, Georgia Tech

2006

  • Ernie Sims | Pick 9
    LB, Florida State

2005

  • Mike Williams | Pick 10
    WR, USC

2004

  • Roy Williams | Pick 7
    WR, Texas
  • Kevin Jones | Pick 30
    RB, Virginia Tech

2003

  • Charles Rogers | Pick 2
    WR, Michigan State

2002

  • Joey Harrington | Pick 3
    QB, Oregon

2001

  • Jeff Backus | Pick 18
    T, Michigan

2000

  • Stockar McDougle | Pick 20
    T, Oklahoma

1999

  • Chris Claiborne | Pick 9
    LB, USC
  • Aaron Gibson | Pick 27
    T, Wisconsin

1998

  • Terry Fair | Pick 20
    DB, Tennessee

1997

  • Bryant Westbrook | Pick 5
    DB, Texas

1996

  • Reggie Brown | Pick 17
    LB, Texas A&M
  • Jeff Hartings | Pick 23
    C, Penn State

1995

  • Luther Elliss | Pick 20
    DT, Utah

1994

  • Johnnie Morton | Pick 21
    WR, USC

1993

The Lions traded the eighth pick to the New Orleans Saints.

1992

  • Robert Porcher | Pick 26
    DE, South Carolina State

1991

  • Herman Moore | Pick 10
    WR, Virginia

1990

  • Andre Ware | Pick 7
    QB, Houston

1989

  • Barry Sanders* | Pick 3
    RB, Oklahoma State

1988

  • Bennie Blades | Pick 3
    DB, Miami (FL)

1987

  • Reggie Rogers | Pick 7
    DE, Washington

1986

  • Chuck Long | Pick 12
    QB, Iowa

1985

  • Lomas Brown | Pick 6
    T, Florida

1984

  • David Lewis | Pick 20
    TE, California

1983

  • James Jones | Pick 13
    FB, Florida

1982

  • Jimmy Williams | Pick 15
    LB, Nebraska

1981

  • Mark Nichols | Pick 16
    WR, San Jose State

1980

  • Billy Sims | Pick 1
    RB, Oklahoma

1979

  • Keith Dorney | Pick 10
    T, Penn State

1978

  • Luther Bradley | Pick 11
    DB, Notre Dame

1977

The Lions traded the 12th selection to the Buffalo Bills.

1976

  • James Hunter | Pick 10
    DB, Grambling State
  • Lawrence Gaines | Pick 16
    RB, Wyoming

1975

  • Lynn Boden | Pick 13
    G, South Dakota State

1974

  • Ed O’Neil | Pick 8
    LB, Penn State

1973

  • Ernie Price | Pick 17
    DE, Texas A&M-Kingsville

1972

  • Herb Orvis | Pick 16
    DT, Colorado

1971

  • Bob Bell | Pick 21
    DT, Cincinnati

1970

  • Steve Owens | Pick 19
    RB, Oklahoma

1969

The Lions traded their first-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams.

1968

  • Greg Landry | Pick 11
    QB, Massachusetts
  • Earl McCullouch | Pick 24
    WR, USC

1967

  • Mel Farr | Pick 7
    RB, UCLA

1966

The Lions forfeited their first-round selection to the Green Bay Packers as compensation for signing free agent Ron Kramer

1965

  • Tom Nowatzke | Pick 11
    FB, Indiana

1964

  • Pete Beathard | Pick 5
    QB, USC

1963

  • Daryl Sanders | Pick 12
    T, Ohio State

1962

  • John Hadl | Pick 10
    QB, Kansas

1961

The Lions traded the 10th pick to the Cleveland Browns.

1960

  • Johnny Robinson* | Pick 3
    DB, LSU

1959

  • Nick Pietrosante | Pick 6
    FB, Notre Dame

1958

  • Alex Karras* | Pick 10
    DT, Iowa

1957

  • Bill Glass | Pick 12
    DE, Baylor

1956

  • Howard Cassady | Pick 3
    HB, Ohio State

1955

  • Dave Middleton | Pick 12
    DE, Auburn

1954

  • Dick Chapman | Pick 13
    T, Rice

1953

  • Harley Sewell | Pick 13
    G, Texas

1952

The Lions traded the 10th pick to the Cleveland Browns.

1951

The Lions traded the eighth pick to the Philadelphia Eagles.

1950

  • Leon Hart | Pick 1
    DE, Notre Dame
  • Joe Watson | Pick 5
    C, Rice

1949

  • John Rauch | Pick 2
    QB, Georgia

1948

  • Y.A. Tittle* | Pick 6
    QB, LSU

1947

  • Glenn Davis | Pick 2
    HB, Army

1946

  • Bill Dellastatious | Pick 8
    QB, Missouri

1945

  • Frank Szymanski | Pick 6
    C, Notre Dame

1944

  • Otto Graham* | Pick 4
    QB, Northwestern

1943

  • Frankie Sinkwich | Pick 1
    QB, Georgia

1942

  • Bob Westfall | Pick 5
    FB, Michigan

1941

  • Jim Thomason | Pick 5
    RB, Texas A&M

1940

  • Doyle Nave | Pick 6
    QB, USC (did not play a game for the team)

1939

  • Johnny Pingel | Pick 7
    RB, Michigan State

1938

  • Alex Wojciechowicz* | Pick 6
    C, Fordham

1937

  • Lloyd Cardwell | Pick 7
    RB, Nebraska

1936

  • Sid Wagner | Pick 8
    G, Michigan State

*Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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