Some of the NFL Draft’s best moments don’t become Best Moments until much later, after it’s established how good/bad the players are and how well/poorly teams evaluated them. That’s what this post is about: those instances when two guys at the same position are picked back to back, and it turns out there’s a gigantic gap between them. Basically, the first guy has a forgettable career (if he has one at all), and the second goes on to the Hall of Fame (or close to it).
Here are a dozen examples I dug up, just for the sake of conversation. Call them . . .
THE ALL-TIME WOULDA, COULDA, SHOULDA TEAM
|Year||Team||Drafted (Pick)||Could Have Had,Team (Pick)|
|2003||Lions||WR Charles Rogers (2)||WR Andre Johnson, Texans (3)|
|1999||Browns||QB Tim Couch (1)||QB Donovan McNabb, Eagles (2)|
|1985||Vikings||WR Buster Rhymes (85)||WR Andre Reed*, Bills (86)|
|1974||Chargers||WR Harrison Davis (81)||WR John Stallworth*, Steelers (82)|
|1967||49ers||QB Steve Spurrier (3)||QB Bob Griese*, Dolphins (4)|
|1967||Chargers||DT Ron Billingsley (14)||DT Alan Page*, Vikings (15)|
|1967||Bills||OT George Gaiser (181)||OT Rayfield Wright*, Cowboys (182)|
|1961||Vikings||OG Ken Peterson (183)||OG Billy Shaw*, Cowboys (184)|
|1958||Lions||RB Ralph Pfeifer (83)||RB Bobby Mitchell*, Browns (84)|
|1956||Packers||RB Jack Losch (8)||RB Lenny Moore*, Colts (9)|
|1945||Yanks||E Ben Jones (102)||E Tom Fears*, Rams (103)|
|1936||Lions||B Chuck Cheshire (17)||B Tuffy Leemans*, Giants (18)|
*Hall of Fame
(Note: Shaw signed with the Bills of the rival AFL.)
Talk about screwing the pooch. After deciding to draft a particular player at a particular position, the teams on the left took The Wrong Guy — a mistake which became infinitely worse when the next club on the clock took The Right Guy. You can click on the names to look at their stats . . . and see how huge a gap there was in each case. It ain’t pretty. Cheshire, Jones and Pfeifer never played in the league, and Rogers, for one, was a drug-plagued disaster (36 catches and 4 touchdowns, compared to Reed’s 1,012 and 64 — and counting).
Would the first decade of the expansion Browns have been a little less miserable if they’d opted for McNabb over Couch? You’d think so. You’ve also gotta believe the ’70s (pre-Coryell) Chargers would have won a lot more games if they’d had Stallworth catching passes and Page chasing down quarterbacks — or am I underestimating how lousy the Bolts were in those days?
This kind of puts it all in perspective, though: Spurrier wound up quarterbacking the only 0-14 team in NFL history (the ’76 Bucs), and Griese wound up quarterbacking the only 17-0 team (the ’72 Dolphins).