It comes as no surprise to anyone that the Detroit Lions aren’t what you would call one of the most successful franchises in NFL history.
In fact, they might be one of the most down-trodden cities in all of sports, and the Lions are a big reason to why.
Building a team through collegiate prospects is exactly what the NFL Draft was, and still is intended for.
Teams throughout league history have used the Draft to build Super Bowl champions, while others have whiffed and missed on players that have become Hall-of-Famers, while their respective picks have become nothing more than footnotes in NFL lore.
The Detroit Lions have plenty of draft day regrets.
You can name wide receiver Charles Rogers, quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Andre Ware as some of the teams most notorious draft day regrets in franchise history, but when you look back at all of the Drafts over the past thirty years, one name sticks out above the rest, mainly because of who the Lions passed to draft him.
James Jones, former Florida Gator running back, was selected 13th overall by the Lions in the 1983 NFL Draft.
James Jones isn’t what you would categorize as a ‘bust’ NFL Draft selection, but he is the Lions’ biggest draft day regret purely because of who they passed on in that year’s Draft, which we will touch on shortly.
Jones had a successful career at the University of Florida, being named to the First-Team All-SEC in 1981 and 1982, as well as Third-Team All-American in 1982. Jones left the Gators with 2,026 yards rushing, and also led Florida in rushing three consecutive years from 1980-82.
Jones was selected 13th overall in a Draft that was littered with future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Lions have never had a quarterback who’s career resembled the likes of John Elway, Dan Marino, or Jim Kelly. Ironic that Jim Kelly and Dan Marino’s names are mentioned, because those are the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks the Lions passed on to draft James Jones.
Jones played for the Lions from 1983-88 before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive back Terry Taylor, finishing his career in Seattle in 1992. During his ten-year career in the NFL, Jones rushed for 3,626 yards and 26 touchdowns for both Detroit and Seattle.
In that same ten-year span, Dan Marino passed for 39,502 yards which would be good enough for 15th all-time, and threw for 290 touchdowns which would be good enough for tied-for 9th best all-time. Those numbers aren’t even counting the fact that Marino played another seven seasons after that en route to becoming one of the most prolific quarterbacks to ever play.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly also managed to have himself a Hall of Fame career. In the same ten-year span we covered for Marino, Kelly threw for 23,031 yards and had 161 passing touchdowns. Kelly also appeared in four Super Bowls, losing each time.
While Jones will not go down as a bust in Detroit Lions draft history, he will certainly forever carry the burden of never being what just those two men alone were to their respective franchises.
Jones will never make the Hall of Fame, and he will never be what Marino and Kelly were in the NFL. This article will only add to the already frustrating life it is of a Detroit sports fan, but the truth must be told and questions must be asked. How in the world do you pass on a franchise quarterback, for a fullback?
Looking back, other draft day regrets for the Detroit Lions are wide receiver Charles Rogers in 2005, as well as Joey Harrington in 2003. Neither player finished their careers with the Lions, or made a serious impact in the motor city.