The 53 Greatest Michigan-Born Players in NFL History
According to ProFootballReference.com, approximately 785 players born in the state of Michigan have played in the NFL. Using another tool from Pro Football Reference, 'Weighted Approximate Value', I aim to give you the definitive list of the 53 best players born in the state of Michigan to ever play a snap in the NFL.
A player's Approximate Value (AV) is specific to Pro Football Reference designed to be a "single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year." A player's weighted AV is a method of balancing players out. Each player's AV is calculated with "100% of the player's best season, plus 95% of his 2nd-best season, plus 90% of his 3rd-best season, plus 85% of his 4th-best season, and so on."
That said, it's not a perfect science. As the list nears its top-15 players, you'll likely disagree heavily with the rankings. A player with five elite seasons may have a higher weighted AV than a player that had a steadily great career that landed him in the Hall of Fame.
Many of these players are some of the greatest ever at their positions. The state of Michigan has produced Pro Football Hall of Famers, Super Bowl champions and record holders, some of which are downright unbreakable. Offensive playmakers and defensive superstars from the NFL's entire history make up this list.
Players from all over the map of the Mitten State, many of whom stayed in the state to play their college ball at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University among others compile the list of the greatest Michigan-born NFL players of all-time.
While it would have been nice to see more of these players suit up for the Detroit Lions, 23 players on the list were born in the Motor City.
Ironically, the Lions struggles with the quarterback position relate to the state. Only two quarterbacks make the list and both were career backups that managed to carve out some of the most unlikely success the NFL has ever witnessed at the position.
However, no position is more scarce than tight end as only one makes the entire list.
On the other side of the spectrum, the best position group Michigan gives the NFL is not surprising - offensive tackle. This list has nine offensive tackles and 13 offensive linemen total, far more than any other position grouping.
The list is otherwise split nearly right down the middle: 27 defensive players, 26 offensive players.
Before we get to the list, few notes on defensive stats:
- Tackles weren't recorded until 1994 and remain an unofficial stat. Tackle stats prior to 1994 that may be included are recorded inconsistently.
- Pass Deflections were not recorded until 1999.
- Sacks were not an official stat until 1982, though Pro Football Reference unofficially counted sacks prior to the 1982 season on its own. Sacks counted prior to 1982 are not recognized by the NFL.