The Detroit Lions have found themselves some studs through the NFL Draft over the years. Running back Barry Sanders, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and quarterback Matthew Stafford all come to mind, but even so, the Lions have made some costly decisions by moving on from draft picks too early, leaving them to wonder what might have been.
With that in mind, here are three draft selections that the Lions moved on from prematurely.
3. DE Cliff Avril
Cliff Avril is one of many former Lions defenders to shine on another NFL squad. Avril was a quality edge rusher in Detroit, as he logged 168 tackles, 58 quarterback hits, 39.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, and 13 pass deflections. In 2013, Avril spurned the Lions to sign with the Seattle Seahawks to join their tremendous "Legion of Boom" defense. Avril fit in perfectly, and he simply put up better numbers in the Emerald City than he did in the Motor City. He posted 130 tackles, 88 hits on the signal caller, 34.5 sacks, 16 pass deflections, and 14 forced fumbles. In his five years with the Seahawks, Avril won a Super Bowl and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2016.
2. G Larry Warford
If an NFL team wants its offense to succeed, you have to install some quality protection at the line of scrimmage. To help keep Stafford healthy and upright, the Lions selected Larry Warford in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Warford didn't allow a single sack in his rookie season and only missed six games in his four seasons with the Lions; unfortunately, Detroit let Warford walk in free agency. Right on cue, he signed a four-year deal with the New Orleans Saints and was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons in the Big Easy. Perhpas if the Lions had kept Warford, Stafford wouldn't have been as hobbled by that bad back injury last season. Just some food for thought.
1. TE Eric Ebron
Coming out of college, Eric Ebron was projected to be the next great tight end in the NFL. Once he was selected by the Lions, Ebron failed to live up to expectations, forcing many to call him one of the bigger first-round busts in recent NFL Draft memory. All it took was the Lions releasing Ebron to bring out the best in him. Ebron signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, and had his finest statistical season in his first year. Through 16 games, he caught 66 passes from Andrew Luck for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns, all career highs. It's amazing that the Lions were never able to utilize Ebron to his full potential.