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Lions found a late-round gem in 1995 with Cory Schlesinger

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Cory Schlesinger is the best late-round steal in Lions' history (1:15)

ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein says Cory Schlesinger, who played over a decade in Detroit, including blocking for Barry Sanders, is the best late-round pick in Lions' history. (1:15)

Cory Schlesinger never rushed for more than 154 yards in a season. He never had more than 466 receiving yards in a season, and in his career scored 14 touchdowns rushing and receiving.

Yet the fullback is still one of the best -- if not the best -- late-round picks in Detroit Lions history. That might say something about the drafting acumen of Detroit’s front office over the years, but Schlesinger was incredibly valuable during his 12 seasons with the Lions.

He was a blocker for Barry Sanders through the second half of Sanders' career, including his 2,053-yard season in 1997. It didn’t matter that Schlesinger had seven carries that season for 11 yards. He was one of the players who opened up holes for Sanders to squirt through during one of the most productive seasons in NFL history.

Of course, when the Lions drafted Schlesinger out of Nebraska with the No. 192 pick in the 1995 draft (sixth round), the franchise couldn’t have imagined he would play for more seasons than Sanders and appear in 181 games. Schlesinger played his entire career with the Lions.

Schlesinger played on some bad Lions teams as well, to the point that he had the rare honor of being named Detroit’s offensive MVP in 2003 despite having only nine carries for 16 yards and 34 catches for 247 yards. He only scored twice that season, but on a 5-11 team, he was given the award by his teammates.

Think Schlesinger’s longevity was merely because of his position, which is in decline in the NFL? Not quite. He was one of the more popular players of his era with the Lions, and his jersey can still be spotted on the backs of fans on game days at Ford Field. Not many fullbacks can say that.

He stuck around Detroit after his career, too, and is now a teacher at Allen Park High School -- the same town where the Lions’ practice facility is located.

Honorable mentions:

Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame: The sixth-round pick in 2013 (No. 199 overall) might end up as the best-ever late-round pick by the Lions by the time his career is over. A pass-catching specialist out of the backfield, he set the franchise record for receptions by a running back in 2015 with 80 catches for 697 yards. He’s become an explosive weapon for Detroit.

Rodney Peete, QB, USC: The No. 141 pick in the 1989 draft, Peete played five seasons in Detroit, compiling a 21-26 record with the Lions, completing 641 of 1,125 passes for 8,164 yards, 38 touchdowns and 49 interceptions. He had more success once he left Detroit, eventually playing in 104 games as a pro with a 45-42 record, 16,338 passing yards, 76 touchdowns and 92 interceptions.

Dan Saleaumua, DT, Arizona State: The No. 175 pick in the 1987 draft, Saleaumua played two seasons in Detroit, where he didn’t start a game and was a rotational defensive lineman. When he ended up in Kansas City in 1989, he became a stalwart there for the better part of a decade. Saleaumua played in 125 games for the Chiefs, starting 116 of them and notching 28 sacks. He was also named a Pro Bowler in 1995.

Eddie Murray, K, Tulane: The No. 166 overall pick (seventh round) in 1980, Murray appeared in NFL games for three decades spanning from 1980 to 2000. The majority of his work was with the Lions, the franchise with which he had two Pro Bowl appearances over 12 seasons while playing in 174 games. In his career, Murray played in 250 games, making 352 of 466 field goals between Detroit, Dallas, Washington, Kansas City, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. He’s the rare Lions player to win a Super Bowl as well -- kicking for the 1993 Cowboys.