The Detroit Lions are one of the oldest football franchises in the NFL. Despite their extended run of bad fortune, they have also had a great deal of success during their time in the league. This includes having had some great players over the years.
One of the most important roster spots on a football team is the running back. A good running back can contribute greatly to a team’s production and a great running back can dominate and take over a game. Great running backs are hard to find though, especially as rookies.
With that in mind, here is a look at the top five rookie running backs in Detroit Lions history.
#5 – Mel Farr – 1967
In 1967, the Lions used the 7th overall pick to select running back Mel Farr. Far would run the ball 206 times that season for 860 yards and three touchdowns. He would go on to have a great career and be a fan favorite.
#4 – Kevin Smith – 2008
Kevin Smith was picked near the end of the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He would go on to perform quite well for the team that season, making 12 starts at running back. He finished with 238 carries for 976 yards and eight touchdowns.
#3 – Kevin Jones – 2004
Blessed with some great talent, Kevin Jones made quite a splash in Detroit in 2004. Over the course of the full season he would carry the ball 241 times for 1,133 yards and five touchdowns.
#2 – Billy Sims – 1980
Billy Sims came to the Lions as the first pick in the entire 1980 NFL Draft. By the time his rookie season was done, he had the team records for rookie running backs in games started, rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. He finished that season with 313 carries for 1,303 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
#1 – Barry Sanders – 1989
It should come as no surprise that the great Barry Sanders sits atop the list of best rookie running backs in Detroit Lions history. He played in 15 of the team’s 16 games that year, carrying the ball 280 times for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s an average of 5.25 yards per carry… for a rookie! He set many team records that year for rookies and would go on to have one of the best running back careers in football history.