3 Greatest Running Backs in Lions History

Zach Brunner
Three greatest running backs in Lions history.
Three greatest running backs in Lions history. / Damian Strohmeyer/Getty Images
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There are certain positions that teams struggle to get right. Recently, that has been the running back position for the Detroit Lions. However, this has not always been the case for the struggling franchise.

These are the three greatest running backs in Lions history.

Best Lions RBs of All-Time

3. Billy Sims (1980-84)

Billy Sims is a former first overall selection.
Billy Sims is a former first overall selection. / Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Despite playing only five seasons for the team, Billy Sims is second on the Lions all-time rushing list, with 5,106 yards and 42 touchdowns. The Lions selected Sims as the No. 1 overall NFL Draft in 1980, and he did not disappoint, totaling more than 200 yards in his first game as a rookie. Along with his rushing success, Sims added another 2,072 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver. He had over 900 total yards in every season of his NFL career, resulting in three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro selections.

2. Doak Walker (1950-55)

You may recognize the name Doak Walker as the name on the award for college football's best running back. Walker was the ultimate Swiss Army Knife for the Lions. Over his six NFL seasons with the team, he totaled 1,520 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, 2,539 yards, and 21 touchdowns as a receiver and one more touchdown as a punt returner. Walker was also the kicker, making 95.8 percent of his extra points and 56.3 percent of his field goals, with a 47-yard career-long make. Not bad for a player that entered the league with a 5-foot-11-inch frame at 178 pounds.

1. Barry Sanders (1989-98)

Barry Sanders is the all-time Lions rushing leader.
Barry Sanders is the all-time Lions rushing leader. / Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Barry Sanders is the poster child for players that retired too soon, but who could blame him, since he was forced to do pretty much everything himself during his time in Detroit. Not only is Sanders arguably the best player in Lions franchise history, he is firmly in the conversation for the best running back of all time. He is the franchise's rushing leader, with 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns. Sanders averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 99.8 rushing yards per game over his career. He was a six-time First-Team All-Pro selection and made the Pro Bowl every year of his 10-season NFL career, and he was also the 1997 NFL MVP.


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