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Memorable moments in the history of the NFL draft

Attention-getting names may be missing in favor of tackles in early picks in Thursday's first round. Years past have seen other unusual happenings.

April 25, 2013|By Sam Farmer
  • Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, left, gestures as he discusses the signing of quarterback Terry Bradshaw, as his son, Dan, looks on in Pittsburgh, in this January 27, 1970 photo.
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, left, gestures as he discusses the… (Harry Cabluck / Associated…)

NEW YORK — There's no Andrew Luck, no Robert Griffin III, no headline-grabbing talent who unquestionably belongs at the top of this year's NFL draft.

This year, the most likely scenario at Radio City Music Hall involves the Kansas City Chiefs using their No. 1 overall pick on one of two offensive tackles, the guys who are having a good game if their name isn't mentioned.

Could this be the least sexy draft on record?

"I think that's the best way to put it," Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher said Wednesday with a laugh. He and Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel are the most likely candidates to be chosen first. "This will probably be the most exposure we get in our lives, so we're looking forward to it."

Fisher, Joeckel and 22 other top prospects will be in New York at least through Thursday night's first round. It's conceivable — though somewhat unlikely — that the first round could pass without a quarterback being selected, something that hasn't happened since 1996, when the first quarterback chosen was Tony Banks by the St. Louis Rams in the second round.

Las Vegas oddsmakers are predicting a 12% chance that no quarterbacks will be selected in the first round and a 38% chance that only one will go in the opening round, according to R.J. Bell of In each of the last two years, four quarterbacks were among the first 32 picks.

Only twice since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 have tackles gone first overall — Orlando Pace to St. Louis in 1997, and Jake Long to Miami in 2008 — and never have the first two teams used consecutive picks on tackles. Jacksonville might use this year's No. 2 pick on a tackle too.

This draft figures to be weird in that the "regular" guys — albeit most north of 300 pounds — are the stars. But there have been strange and memorable moments throughout the history of the draft.

Here are five:

A can-miss pick

In 2003, the Minnesota Vikings were unable to complete a proposed trade with Baltimore within the allotted 15 minutes and had to take a rare pass on their No. 7 pick. The Vikings didn't lose the pick, but their choice was delayed enough so that Jacksonville (quarterback Byron Leftwich) and Carolina (tackle Jordan Gross) slipped in their picks before Minnesota.

The Vikings finally made their pick at No. 9, taking defensive tackle Kevin Williams, the player they wanted all along. They didn't get the pick or picks they would have gotten for trading down though.

Then-Vikings coach Mike Tice said he was ticked. "There's no other way I can put it."

No! No! No! Yes!

For years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn't get many things right. In 1982, they wanted to use their first-round pick on Booker Reese, a defensive end from Bethune-Cookman. Instead, they turned in the wrong card and mistakenly selected Penn State guard Sean Farrell.

The team complained that the league had grabbed the card too soon and that it should have gotten Reese. Commissioner Pete Rozelle ruled against the Buccaneers, however, and stuck them with Farrell. The Buccaneers grudgingly traded their next year's first-round pick to get Reese too.

Turned out, Farrell was a good player, and Reese was a bust.

Tails never fails

It was a coin flip that enabled Pittsburgh to draft quarterback Terry Bradshaw with the first overall pick in 1970. The Steelers and Chicago Bears had identical 1-13 records in 1969, so it was up to Rozelle to break the tie by flipping a silver dollar. Both teams wanted Bradshaw.

The Bears called heads, the coin showed tails, and Bradshaw went on to lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories over the next decade. The Bears traded the No. 2 pick to Green Bay, which took Notre Dame defensive tackle Mike McCoy. He played eight seasons with the Packers, Raiders and New York Giants.

City that never sleeps

Thirty years ago — the year eventual Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were selected in the opening round — the then-12-round draft began one morning and ended the next.

"I think we started at 10 in the morning, and we went all the way through the night with all the picks," recalled Jim Steeg, a young NFL executive at the time. "We got done at 8 in the morning. It wasn't confirmed, but the feeling was that if we waited a day to finish it, the other league [the upstart United States Football League] would turn around and pick off the guys that were in the second half of the draft."

The result? Everyone put on weight.

"We must have eaten about six times that day," Steeg said. "Every time we turned around, we gave somebody a snack."

Name game

With the 33rd pick of the 1991 draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected "Brett Favor, quarterback, Southern Mississippi."

Could that be Brett Favre? Well, yes, but league executive Don Weiss famously mispronounced his name in making the announcement. That happens from time to time, although most of those players don't go on to become household names.

Steeg says that for unusual names, the NFL typically has a phonetic pronunciation written on the draft card. Evidently, there wasn't one on Favre's card.

"I remember times at the end of the draft where you'd get some names and you'd try to do the best you could do," said Steeg, who for years was assigned to announce picks after the commissioner worked the first round. "There was one guy I had problems pronouncing, and the fans started to chant."

Their sing-song chant?

"Hooked on phon-ics!"

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