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Ranking Lions' All-Time Best Defensive Ends

SI All Lions provides its rankings of the Detroit Lions' all-time best defensive ends.

Being the second overall draft pick carries significant expectations.

This is the case for Aidan Hutchinson, whom the Detroit Lions made their choice with the second pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

By taking the Michigan product, Detroit general manager Brad Holmes and the Lions’ front-office brass are hoping that he’ll be remembered as a franchise cornerstone.

Detroit has had several defensive ends who have turned out as franchise greats. However, as of now, the team does not have a Hall of Fame inductee at the position.

Here’s a ranking of the Lions’ top five all-time defensive ends, as well as a summation of how they fared during their respective careers. 

5.) Tracy Scroggins

Scroggins spent time with the Lions playing both outside linebacker and defensive end. Sports Reference lists him as a linebacker for the first three seasons in his career, before he transitioned to defensive end.

A second-round pick in 1992, Scroggins spent 10 years with the Lions. He never had a season in which he produced double-digit sacks, but he averaged 6.5 and had a career-best 9.5 in 1995.

His career total of 60.5 sacks ranks seventh in team history. He also forced eight fumbles in his career. 

Though unspectacular, Scroggins was a reliable piece of the Lions’ defense for a decade.

4.) Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah

This may be a surprise, but the stats match up to the ranking for Ansah. Picked fifth overall in the 2013 draft, Ansah was expected to be an important part of the Lions' defense.

He was just that early on in his career, notching a total of 30 sacks in his first three seasons. His best year was in 2015, when he was a second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection after recording 14.5 sacks and 47 tackles.

Currently, Ansah’s total of 48 sacks with the Lions ranks 10th in franchise history, per Sports Reference. After a slow 2016 campaign in which he notched just two sacks in 13 games, he bounced back with 12 in 2017.

Ultimately, the BYU alum would leave Detroit after a 2018 season in which he recorded four sacks. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks, where he would spend a year before heading to the San Francisco 49ers.

Ansah last played in 2020 with the 49ers, and remains a free agent.

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3.) Cliff Avril

Though his time in Detroit was short, Avril left a solid impact. In five years with the Lions, he totaled 39.5 sacks, and forced 16 fumbles. Both rank among the best in franchise history, with his forced fumble count ranking second to only Robert Porcher.

Avril was a third-round selection by the Lions in 2008. He saw significant action right away, playing in 15 games, with four starts, in his rookie season. 

The Florida native’s breakout year came in 2011, when he had 11 sacks while forcing six fumbles.

Despite his production, Avril was never a Pro Bowl selection during his time in Detroit. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks following the 2012 season, and went on to win a Super Bowl in 2014.

2.) Al "Bubba" Baker

Baker made an instant impact after being chosen in the second round of the 1978 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he set an unofficial league record with 23 sacks. That number still stands, although Michael Strahan is recognized as the official all-time single-season leader with 22.5.

Baker’s performance earned him Rookie of the Year honors in 1978, as well as a spot on the Associated Press’ All-Pro team. He would notch 16 and 17.5 sacks, respectively, in his next two seasons.

Baker’s production dwindled over the next two seasons, and he finished his tenure with the Lions with a total of 74 sacks. He departed Detroit after the 1982 season, signing with the now-Los Angeles Rams.

Overall, Baker’s career lasted 13 seasons. He retired after the 1990 season.

1.)  Robert Porcher

Porcher ranks near the top in several categories when it comes to Detroit defenders. He spent all 12 seasons of his career with the Lions, after being drafted No. 26 overall in 1992.

Though he totaled just one sack as a rookie, Porcher spent two years growing his production before breaking out in 1996 with 10 sacks. This set off a stretch of four consecutive years in which he totaled double-digit sacks.

The three-time Pro Bowler totaled 95.5 sacks during his career, a number that ranks second in franchise history behind only defensive tackle Alex Karras, per Sports Reference. Football Database, however, ranks him as the Lions' all-time leader in sacks.