With the NFL draft having just occurred last week, and me being an obsessive fan, I thought I’d toss out some draft trivia. (In a few examples player were picked by or played in the AAFC or AFL, but I’m including them, since the NFL does for Hall of Fame inclusion, etc.)
1) In the early days of pro football and the NFL, players could sign with whoever they chose. Not surprisingly, they often picked the teams who offered them the highest salaries. Philadelphia Eagles co-owner Bert Bell (later NFL Commissioner) proposed a fairer system of a draft in 1935. By 1936, they instituted his suggestion. Each team submitted a list of college seniors, and all of these names were put on a draft board list, and teams could pick in reverse order of success (the worst teams from the previous year picked first, and the best teams last, just like today). After a few years they ditched the submitted list idea, so teams could draft some surprise and obscure players from smaller schools, etc.
2) The first ever NFL draft pick, Jay Berwanger, a halfback from
, refused to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles and so his rights were traded to the Chicago Bears. (This was actually pretty common—only 24 of 81 drafted players that year did sign.) They also declined to meet his then high demand of $1000 per game. Rumor had it that he didn’t want to sign, as he wanted to retain his amateur status and compete in the 1936 Olympics in the Decathlon. However, he didn’t make the Olympic team, and still couldn’t agree on a contract with Bears owner George Halas, and so never played in the NFL. Incidentally, in a college game versus Chicago University , Berwanger reportedly gave future U.S. President Gerald Ford a distinctive facial scar. He also was the first Heisman Trophy winner, although it was then called the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy. Michigan
3) Staying with the early days, halfback Byron “Whizzer” White was the first pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates (later Steelers) in 1938, and was given the then huge salary of $15,000 a year (the other owners were pissed at Art Rooney for paying White so much!). He proved to be worth it, however, as he led the NFL in rushing in his rookie year. He repeated this feat with the Detroit Lions in 1940. He’s most famous, though, as being a Supreme Court Justice from 1962-93.
4) In 1972 the Atlanta Falcons wanted to add some levity with the 17th round pick, and chose John Wayne from “Ft. Apache State” (fans will recognize this school as being in the Fictitious West Conference). Commissioner Pete Rozelle didn’t find this humorous, though, and disallowed the pick. Actually, before he injured himself bodysurfing, Wayne (nee Marion Morrison) did play football at USC, although in 1972 he was in his sixties.
5) The title of Worst Overall #1 Pick Ever is, of course, a matter of opinion. Here’s a list of some good candidates, though, in chronological order. I invite you to look up their statistics and see why I chose them.
A. Frank Dancewicz, QB, first pick in 1946 by the Boston Yanks.
B. Bobby Garrett, QB, 1954, by the
Browns. A tragic story, he evidently had all the physical skills, but his severe stutter prevented him from calling the signals in time, so he was cut and his overall NFL career was only nine games. Too bad the guy from “The King’s Speech” or someone like him wasn’t available. Cleveland
C. King Hill, QB, 1958, by the
D. Randy Duncan, QB, 1959, by the
Packers. Green Bay
E. Terry Baker, QB, 1963, by the
Rams. Los Angeles
F. Walt Patulski, DE, 1972, by the
G. Kenneth Sims, LB, 1982, by the
New England Patriots.
H. Aundray Bruce, LB, 1988, by the
I. David Carr, QB, 2002, by the
J. JaMarcus Russell, QB, 2007, by the
6) Since 1977 the NFL has an annual Supplemental Draft for players who didn’t file the proper papers on time, or had disciplinary problems, etc. A bigger one was held in 1984 for former USFL/CFL players. Four of these men made the Hall of Fame.
A. Cris Carter, WR, 1987, by the Philadelphia Eagles (he signed with an agent
B. Steve Young, QB, 1984, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (USFL player).
C. Gary Zimmerman, T, 1984, by the Minnesota Vikings (USFL player).
, 1984, by the Philadelphia Eagles (USFL player). Reggie White, DE
7) Three men have been chosen in three different sports drafts. There's Mickey McCarty, who played one forgettable season as a tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs while being drafted by the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and the other pro basketball league, the
. Then there's Dave Logan, (NFL, MLB, and the NBA) who had a decent nine year career as a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. Finally, there’s Dave Winfield, who like McCarty was drafted by the ABA , NBA, MLB, and the NFL, and had a Hall of Fame career as an outfielder with the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, California Angels, Minnesota Twins, and Cleveland Indians. ABA
8) ESPN has been airing the NFL draft live since 1980. Allegedly when they first asked Commissioner Pete Rozelle if they could do this, he responded with, “Why would you want to do that?” I’m sure his doubts about the idea were pretty short-lived.
9) On at least two occasions, teams haven’t gotten in their pick on time, meaning the next team can jump ahead and potentially steal their choice (they don’t lose the pick overall, just have to wait if other teams can go). The 2003 Minnesota Vikings let two teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers go before them. Then in 2011, the Baltimore Ravens took too long negotiating a trade, and the Kansas City Chiefs beat them to it.
10) In 1976 Paul Salata, an ex-NFL wide receiver, started the Irrelevant Week, when the last player chosen in the draft is dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant,” and feted at a golf tournament, regatta, and a roast in Newport Beach, California, and given a Heisman Trophy satire of a guy fumbling the ball. Some of these men have gone on to productive careers, however. Marty
(1994) was mostly a special teams player for the New England Patriots, and the first Mr. Irrelevant to play in a Super Bowl (31). Jim Finn (1999) was a starting fullback for the New York Giants. David Vobora (2008) was a starting linebacker for the St. Louis Rams. The unfortunately-named Ryan Succop (2009) is the current Kansas City Chiefs kicker. Fullback/tight end Jacque MacKinnon (1961) was an AFL all star in 1966 and 1968 for the San Diego Chargers. Finally, Jimmy Walker had the weird experience of being the first overall pick in the 1967 NBA Draft (Detroit Pistons), and Mr. Irrelevant in the NFL in the same year (New Orleans Saints). He had a good career in nine NBA seasons, and is the father of ex-NBAer Jalen Rose. Finally, after the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers waged a bizarre battle to chose Mr. Irrelevant in the 1979 draft (the Rams, and then the Steelers kept passing on the pick, wanting to be last) Pete Rozelle instituted the “Salata Rule” and now the last team to pick in order gets it no matter what the previous teams do. Moore
11) Here’s some examples where the scouts and general managers, etc., got it wrong. The following are NFL Hall of Famers who weren’t drafted. (This obviously doesn’t include players who joined the league before 1936, or who were chosen for the Hall as coaches, league officials, etc.)
A. Willie Brown, CB, undrafted in 1963, played with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.
B. Jack Butler, CB, undrafted in 1950, played with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
C. Frank Gatski, C/LB, rookie year in 1946, played with the Cleveland Browns.
D. Lou Groza, K/OT, rookie year in 1946, played with the Cleveland Browns.
E. Dick “Night Train” Lane, CB, rookie year in 1952, played with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. Not only was Lane undrafted, he only played one year of junior college, and made the team as a walk on. His season record of 14 interceptions (in only 12 games, set in his rookie season!) still stands.
F. Jim Langer, C/OG, undrafted in 1970, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings.
G. Dante Lavelli, E, rookie year in 1946, played with the Cleveland Browns.
H. Larry Little, undrafted in 1967, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins.
I. Warren Moon, QB, undrafted in 1978, played with Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Kansas City Chiefs. Probably would have been drafted if not for racist views about black quarterbacks.
J. Jim Otto, C, undrafted in 1960, Oakland Raiders.
K. Joe Perry, FB, rookie year in 1948, played with the
49ers. Also an apparent victim of racial views. San Francisco
L. John Randle, DT, not drafted in 1990, played with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
M. Jan Stenerud, K, rookie year in 1967, played with the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.
N. Emmitt Thomas, CB, not drafted in 1966,
Chiefs. Kansas City
O. Emlen Tunnell, DB, rookie year in 1948, played with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. Same situation as Moon and Perry.
P. Bill Willis, G, rookie year in 1946, played with the Cleveland Browns. Presumed racial issues once again.
Q. Willie Wood, S, undrafted in 1960, played with the Green Bay Packers.
12) Finally, here’s some examples of times when the scouts, general manager, etc., got the picks right. The following are all overall #1 picks of their draft who are Hall of Famers.
A. Troy Aikman, QB, first pick of 1989 draft, played with the Dallas Cowboys.
B. Chuck Bednarik, C/LB, 1949, played with the Philadelphia Eagles.
C. Terry Bradshaw, QB, 1970, played with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
D. Earl Campbell, RB, 1978, played with the Houston Oiler and New Orleans Saints.
E. Bill Dudley, HB/DB/P/K, 1942, played with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, and Washington Redskins.
F. John Elway, QB, 1983, picked and traded by the Baltimore Colts, played with the Denver Broncos.
G. Paul Hornung, HB/S/K, 1957, played with the Green Bay Packers.
H. Lee Roy Selmon, DE, 1976, played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I. O.J. Simpson, RB, 1969, played with the Buffalo Bills,
49ers. San Francisco
, 1985, played with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. Bruce Smith, DE
K. Charley Trippi, HB/QB, 1945, played with the Chicago Cardinals.
L. Ron Yary, T, 1968, played with the Minnesota Vikings. Also first offensive lineman chosen #1 overall.