Pick By Pick: A Countdown of the NFL’s best Draft picks, from #441 to #1, Part I (REVISED)
Okay, I know some of you already saw this list start back in January, so you’re probably thinking i’m just doing reruns. That’s not quite accurate, I simply found a huge pool of players that weren’t on my master list. I kept digging and found more and more, and it took me three months to sift through it all. The master list was 78 pages long before I found an additional talent pool to add to it.
For those who missed it the first time, this list is a comprehensive list of the best NFL players ever drafted with each individual pick. There’s some incredible steals found in the early articles here, including the likes of Rocky Bleier, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Brian Sipe, Karl Mecklenburg, Marques Colston, and even Tom Brady!
It’s going to take a long time to get through all of these, but it’s only going to get better as it goes on. So, here is the first installment of the best NFL players drafted with each individual pick:
17th round, 441st pick. Baltimore Colts-Don Nottingham, RB, Kent State, 1971. He spent his first two full seasons with the Colts before being traded to the Dolphins during the 1973 season. He played a combined 7 seasons, and even got a Super Bowl ring with the Dolphins in Super Bowl VIII. He spent most of his time serving as a backup to Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, but he still scored a total of 20 rushing touchdowns from 1974 to 1975.
Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings QB Bob Lee, Pacific, 1968. He had two stints with the Vikings during his 12 year career. He was a backup with the Vikings from 1969 thru 1972. He spent the next two years with the Falcons before going back to Minnesota , where he held his backup role from 1975 thru 1978. He joined the Rams for two more seasons before calling it quits.
17th round-439th pick. Kansas City Chiefs-Ted Washington, LB, Mississippi Valley State,1972. He played ten seasons for the Houston Oilers , from 1973 to 1982. He made a total of 7 interceptions in his career, but most of them came in 1975 and 1977 (3 interceptions each season). He’s probably better known now as the father of former nose tackle Ted Washington, a first round pick of the San Francisco 49ers who played for 17 years.
Honorable mention: Cleveland Browns-Ben Davis, DB, Defiance, 1967. Played ten years, 7 with the Browns, and 3 with the Lions. Had 8 interceptions in his second year with the Browns, and ran one back for a touchdown in 1975 with the Lions.
17th round-438th pick. Baltimore Colts-Stan White, LB, Ohio State, 1972. Judging by his career statistics, Stan was probably one of the best coverage linebackers of his time. He played 11 seasons, 8 with the Colts, and 3 with the Lions. During his 11 seasons he racked up 34 interceptions. To help put that number in perspective, Ray Lewis has played 14 seasons and has 30 interceptions so far.
17th round-437th pick. Philadelphia Eagles-George Catavolos, DB, Purdue, 1967. Although he didn’t make the Eagles roster, it helped him start his coaching career at an early age. He began coaching at Purdue in 1967, and spent 17 years coaching at the collegiate level. He has spent 26 years as an assistant in the NFL, and is currently the defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills.
16th round-428th pick. Dallas Cowboys-Larry Cole, DT, Hawaii, 1968. Although he never became a starter, he played 13 seasons with the Cowboys, from 1968 thru 1980. First he got stuck behind one great group of defensive linemen, then the next one through the the Cowboys dominant years in the 1970’s. First he was stuck behind Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh, and George Andrie, then later wound up behind Too Tall Jones, Harvey Martin and Randy White.
17th Round-426th pick. New Orleans Saints-Doug Wyatt, CB/S, Tulsa, 1970. He made 4 interceptions in each of his first two seasons with the Saints, returning one for a touchdown in 1971. He played his first three seasons with New Orleans, then went on to Detroit in 1972. He retired after the 1974 season.
17th round-422nd pick. New Orleans Saints-Greg Westbrooks, LB, Colorado, 1975. He started a total of 22 games in 7 years in the NFL. He played for three years with the Saints (1975-77), Oakland Raiders (1978), St. Louis Cardinals (1978), L.A. Rams (1979), Oakland Raiders (1979), L.A. Rams (1980), and back to the Raiders for 1980-81.
17th round-420th pick. New Orleans Saints-Dan Abramowicz, RB, Xavier, 1967. One of the bigger surprises in draft history, Abramowicz caught 50 passes for 721 yards and 6 touchdowns as a rookie. He was among their receiving leaders for 6 seasons as a Saint. He was traded to the 49ers early in 1973 and spent two seasons there before going to Buffalo in 1975. At the time he retired he held the NFL record for consecutive games with a catch (105).
Honorable mention: Chicago Bears-Roland Harper, RB, Louisiana Tech, 1975
He spent seven seasons as an apprentice behind Walter Payton. He missed the 1979 season, but still racked up over 3,000 yards, all with the Bears, from 1975 to 1982.
St. Louis Cardinals-Lee Nelson, CB/SS, Florida State, 1976
He started a total of 65 games from 1975 to 1984 for the Cardinals. He had a career high 4 interceptions as a cornerback in 1977, but earned more playing time after moving to safety. He started a total of 52 games at strong safety from 1980-1984. He retired after the 1985 season.
17th round-418th pick. San Diego Chargers-Charles DeJurnett, NT/DT, San Jose St., 1974. Although he didn’t make the Chargers active roster in 1974, DeJurnett went to the World Football League in 1975, and earned All-WFL honors. He then returned to the Chargers in 1976, and wound up starting 14 games from 1977-1980. After sitting out the 1981 season, he joined the Rams in 1981. He lasted for five seasons, and even started a career high 14 games in 1985. He started six of the first seven games in 1986, but retired after the season.
16th round-417th pick. Pittsburgh Steelers-Rocky Bleier, RB, Notre Dame, 1968
Rocky had one of the most amazing comeback stories the NFL has seen. He played during his rookie season with the Steelers, but then got drafted to go join in the combat in the Vietnam war. He wound up being shot in the left thigh, and got shrapnel in his lower right leg from a grenade. He came home to the Steelers after his injury, but he only weighed 180 pounds, and couldn’t walk without being in pain.
He finally bulked back up to 212 pounds in 1974, and got back into the starting lineup. He and Franco Harris both ran for over 1,000 yards in 1976, becoming only the second tandem to do it in a single season with the same team. He retired after the 1980, and was the Steelers 4th all time leading rusher when he retired.
16th round-404th pick. Denver Broncos-Darrell Austin, G/C, South Carolina, 1974. He didn’t make it in Denver in 1975, but earned a roster spot with the Jets in 1976. He started a total of 18 games from 1976 to 1977. He spent a total of four seasons with the Jets, and two with the Buccaneers. He started two games in 1980, but retired after the season.
16th round-401st pick. Miami Dolphins-Lloyd Mumphord, DB, Texas Southern, 1969 He had 14 interceptions in 6 seasons with the Dolphins, and collected two Super Bowl rings along the way. He added another 7 interceptions in his last 4 seasons as a Colt.
14th round-398th pick. Cincinnati Bengals-Greg Coleman, P, Florida A&M, 1976. He spent his rookie season as the Browns punter, then the next ten years as the Vikings punter before one last season with the Redskins.
15th round-388th pick. L. A. Rams-Bob Thomas, K, Notre Dame, 1974
He was the Bears regular kicker from 1975 thru 1980. He played 2 games with the Bears in 1981, then Detroit for 2 games in 1982. He came back to Chicago for 2 games in 1982, then stuck around for the 1983 and 1984 seasons, before being replaced by rookie Kevin Butler in 1985. He signed with San Diego in 1985 and played in 15 games, then spent one game with the Giants in 1986.
Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings-Jeff Wright, S, Minnesota, 1971
He played seven seasons with the Vikings, and had 12 interceptions during his career. He had a career high four interceptions in 1974.
15th round-387th pick. Kansas City Chiefs-Larry Marshall, DB/PR/KR, Maryland, 1972. He won a roster spot as a return man as a rookie. He averaged 28.3 yards per kick returned in 1972, and 27.9 yards in 1973. He changed teams twice in 1974, going to Minnesota and Philadelphia, but spent the next three seasons as the Eagles primary punt returner. He spent 1978 with the Rams and the Chiefs, and retired after the season.
15th round-384th pick. Washington Redskins-Art Kuehn, C, San Jose State, 1975. He spent his rookie season in WFL rather than join the Redskins. The Seahawks wound up selecting him in the expansion draft in 1976. He stuck around from 1976 to 1982, playing in 97 games and starting 33. He spent one last season with the Patriots in 1983 before retiring.
15th round-380th pick. N.Y. Jets-Brison Manor, DE, Arkansas, 1975
He spent most of his 8 seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, from 1977 thru 1984, with 6 games spent with the Buccaneers in his last season.
14th round-377th pick. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Carl Roaches, WR, Texas A&M, 1976. He didn’t make an active roster until 1980, but he made the Pro Bowl in 1981 as the kickoff return specialist. He played six seasons, five with the Houston Oilers (1980-1984), and one with Saints (1985).
14th round-375th pick. Kansas City Chiefs-Robert Holmes, RB, Southern University, 1968. He played seven years with the Chiefs, Oilers and Chargers. He was an AFL All Star in 1969, and even contributed to their Super Bowl victory over the Vikings in the final AFL-NFL Championship game before the two leagues officially merged.