Ranking the greatest Detroit Lions of all time is an easy task to accomplish. From Chris Spielman to Night Train Lane and even Dick LeBeau, there are plenty of legends to have suited up in Detroit blue and silver. However, trying to rank the greatest Lions players by solely the numbers on their jerseys is an even more daunting task. From the No. 1 all the way up to No. 99, I will attempt to rank the greatest Lions players based on their jersey number. For the most part, these players are graded based on their careers as Lions rather than their overall body of work. This list now continues with my selection for the best at No. 4.
One of the only consistent pieces for the Lions during the Matt Millen era, kicker Jason Hanson was arguably Detroit’s best offensive player from the retirement of Barry Sanders in 1999 to the drafting of Calvin Johnson in 2007. As much as people scoff at selecting kickers with early-round picks, the Lions drafting of Hanson in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft turned out to be a great pick. Hanson’s many accomplishments with Detroit include playing the most games with one team in NFL history (327), the record for most 50+ yard field goals made (52) and tied for the most game-winning field goals made in overtime (9).
For a player with such noteworthy statistics and importance to the Lions, Hanson did not get to enjoy much team success in Detroit. Hanson was drafted by the Lions the year after they defeated the Dallas Cowboys in their only playoff win since 1957. Despite reaching the postseason six times in his 21-year career, none of these appearances resulted in victories. Hanson also has the unfortunate label of being a part of the only 0-16 team in NFL history in 2008. As good as Hanson was, he only made the Pro Bowl two times in his career in 1997 and 1999.
Hanson to most Lions fans was a player they would have loved to see become a champion in Detroit. With his clutch kicks and longevity with the team, Hanson is not just one of the greatest kickers in NFL history — he is also one of the greatest Lions in team history.
Other nominees: None
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