6. Lem Barney (cornerback) – Billy Sims was great for a short time, Barry Sanders was one of the greatest Lions ever, but Lem Barney was without a doubt the best (defensive) player to don the #20 jersey for the Detroit Lions.
Barney was drafted by the Lions in the 2nd round of the 1967 NFL draft (34th overall), and he would go on to play his entire 11 year career with Detroit, from 1967-1977.
Barney didn’t necessarily revolutionize the way corner-backs were viewed, he just excelled at the position more than most in the entire history of the NFL.
His impressive stats and list of accolades are staggering. He finished his career with 56 interceptions (including 10 picks for 232 return yards and 3 touchdowns in his rookie season). He had over 1000 interception return yards, and he scored 7 touchdowns via interception returns.
Additionally, Barney was used as a kick returner and punt returner, where he had three total return touchdowns. In 1967 and 1969 Barney even handled the punting duties for the team.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
The Lions haven’t always had the best defenses during their long history as a NFL franchise, but they definitely had one of the greatest corner-backs in NFL history in Lem Barney.
Next: Number 5