Detroit Lions Greatest Running Backs In History – Detroit Lions Best Running Backs Of All-Time

When it comes to running back success, the Lions have a poor track record. The club has only had 18 seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher despite being the fifth-oldest still functioning franchise in NFL history, having been created in 1930. Six players contributed to those 18 seasons, with Barry Sanders accounting for ten of them. Many consider him to be the greatest running back of all time.

5. Cory Schlesinger (1995–2006)

The Lions selected Cory Schlesinger in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Schlesinger’s running numbers aren’t very great, as he ranks 68th in Lions history in career rushing yards, but his blocking talents as a fullback and special teams player are the reason he made this list. During some of his best seasons, including two 1,500-yard seasons and a 2,000-yard season, he served as a blocker for Barry Sanders.

4. Mel Farr (1967–1973)

A great illustration of a bad situation is Mel “Superstar” Farr. The Lions drafted him eighth overall in 1967. Farr was a fantastic athlete who spent practically his whole career injured or rehabilitating. Injuries contributed to his short career. An injury halted his 1968 season with 490 running yards.

3. Billy Sims (1980–1984)

The Lions drafted Billy Sims first overall in 1980. He had finished a two-year All-American career at Oklahoma, where he earned the Heisman Trophy in 1978. In the NFL, he had the greatest rookie season for a running back in Lions history.

2. Doak Walker (1950–1955)

Doak Walker was acquired in 1950. Despite winning the Heisman Trophy in college, many NFL officials felt he was too little to be effective on the field at 5’11” and 173 pounds. But Walker quickly became the team’s Swiss army knife. He was a runner, receiver, kicker, punter, and return man.

1. Barry Sanders (1989–1998)

Barry Sanders was drafted third overall in 1989. Sanders’ meteoric career began three days after he signed his contract. His first scrimmage was an 18-yard run, and he finished with 71 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. In his debut season, he rushed for 1,470 yards, scored 14 running touchdowns, and caught 282 passes. He was named Rookie of the Year.

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