Pick By Pick: A Countdown of the NFL’s Best Draft Picks From #441 to #1,
Part II: #373-343
Part two in this series is a perfect example of why i’m updating the entire series. This is only the second article, there’s 14 players added, and this article only spans thirty picks. I already had Jets center Joe Fields, Bills receiver Marlin Briscoe, Redskins kicker Mark Moseley, Rams Pro Bowl defensive tackle Larry Brooks, and legendary return man Bill “White Shoes’ Johnson. Among the new players added, there’s a Broncos linebacker that started on their Orange Crush defense. I also found a former Giants starting linebacker, and a former Buccaneers starter at free safety.
So, for now, here’s the latest list to hold you over until part three. these are best NFL players I could find selected with picks #373-343:
15th round-373rd pick. New Orleans Saints-Larry Cipa, QB, Michigan, 1974
He was forced to start in one game as a rookie when starter Archie Manning and backup Bobby Scott went down. He only stuck around for two seasons before he was traded to the Buccaneers. He was waived by Tampa Bay after failing a physical.
15th round-370th pick. Chicago Bears- Don Rives, LB, Texas Tech, 1973-1978. He made the team as rookie in 1973, and then stuck around for six seasons. He only recorded two interceptions as a pro, but they both came in his last season.
15th round-369th pick. Buffalo Bills- Joe Rizzo, LB, Kings Point, 1974-1980. He didn’t make the team as a rookie, but he had no trouble making it the next season with the Denver Broncos. He got his first starting experience in 1975, and stayed in the lienup until early in 1980. He turned into a star on their famed Orange Crush defense, recording nine interceptions from 1976-1979. He played in & started only four games in 1980, and retired after the season.
15th round-365th pick. Houston Oilers-Billy “White Shoes”Johnson, WR, Widener, 1974
Nicknamed “White Shoes” because he dyed his shoes white after a dare by a teammate in high school. He was one of the most well known kick returners in the 70’s, scorings 5 touchdowns on punt returns and 2 on kickoff returns, all in his first four seasons. He spent seven seasons as an Oiler, then went to Montreal of the CFL for the 1981 season. He returned to the NFL with Atlanta in 1982, and won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1983. He was also named to the Pro Bowl that year after leading the Falcons in receiving. He played with the Falcons through the 1987 season, and then came back for one last game with the Redskins in 1988.
14th round-364th pick. N.Y. Jets-Roger Finnie, G/T/DT, Florida A & M, 1969. He made the team as a rookie, but had to move around to stick around. he was moved to defensive tackle in 1971, then back to offensive line in 1972. He joined the Cardinals in 1973, and started a total of 22 games in his first three seasons with the team. He stuck with the Cardinals through 1978, and played one last season with the Saints before retiring after the 1979 season. Honorable mention: Pittsburgh Steelers-Mike Collier, RB, Morgan State, 1975. He got a Super Bowl ring during his only season with the Steelers.
14th round-361st pick. San Francisco 49ers-Bill Dunstan, DT, Utah State, 1971. He first won a roster spot with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973. He wound up starting 14 games for them in 1975, but lost his starting job when Dick Vermeil took over as head coach in 1976. He moved on to Buffalo in 1977, then joined the Rams for 10 games in 1978 before retiring.
14th round-358th pick. N.Y. Jets-John Little, DT/DE/NT, Oklahoma State, 1970. He made the team in 1970 as a backup, and kept the job for five years. He spent two more seasons (1975-1976) with the Oilers before one last season with the Bills in 1977.
14th round-357th pick. Denver Broncos-Marlin Briscoe, QB/WR, Nebraska-Omaha, 1968. He started out at quarterback as a rookie, and became the first black starting quarterback. He threw for 14 touchdowns as a rookie, but only completed 41.5 percent of his passes. He was released by Denver in 1969 and claimed by the Bills, who moved him to wide receiver. The move went really well, as he led the Bills in touchdowns catches in each of his three seasons there.
They traded him to the Dolphins in 1972 for a first round pick, and that #1 pick turned out to be Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure. He led the undefeated Dolphins team in touchdown catches, and even had more catches than Paul Warfield during the 1973 season. He went on to play for the Chargers (1975), Lions (1975) and Patriots (1976) before retiring with 224 catches, 3,537 yards, and 30 touchdowns.
14th round-356th pick. Dallas Cowboys-Scott Laidlaw, RB, Stanford, 1975
He played five seasons (1975-1979) with the Cowboys, earning a Super Bowl ring on their championship team that won Super Bowl XII. He didn’t play much behind guys like Tony Dorsett, his career high was 424 yards in 1976.
14th round-355th pick. L.A. Rams-Larry Brooks, DT, Virginia State, 1972
He spent his entire 11 year career (1972-1982) with the L.A. Rams. He became a starter midway thru his rookie season. He had 9 sacks in his second year, but their defensive line was so awesome he was still ranked behind Jack Youngblood and Fred Dryer. He was named to 5 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1976 to 1980, so he certainly got the credit he deserved. After retiring from playing football, he became an assistant coach, where he spent more than 20 years as a defensive line coach.
14-353. N.Y. Giants- Brian Kelley, LB, California Lutheran, 1973-1983. He made the team as a rookie, and became a starter at middle linebacker in his second season. He moved over to the right side in 1976, and remained in the starting lineup there for four more seasons. He missed much of the 1980 season due to injury, then moved inside when he returned. He remained in the starting lineup through the 1983 season. By the time he retired, he had totalled 15 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries.
Honorable mention: Philadelphia Eagles- Terry Tautolo, LB, UCLA, 1976-1984. He only started 16 games in his career, but he lasted nine seasons. He spent his first four seasons with the Eagles, then joined the 49ers in 1980. He was traded to Detroit during the 1981 season, then moved on to Miami in 1983. he came back to Detroit in 1984 for one last season before retiring.
14-352. Cleveland Browns- Rick Kingrea, LB, Tulane, 1971-1978. He spent eight years in the league, but once again, it’s hard to find stats on him since sacks weren’t officially recorded until 1981, and tackles weren’t tracked back then either. He made the roster as a rookie with Cleveland, and recorded three fumble recoveries in 1972. He joined Buffalo for four games in 1973, then moved on to New Orleans that season. Although he only started two games in 1975, he recorded one interception and three fumble recoveries. He stuck with the Saints through 1978, then retired.
13-351. L.A. Rams- Dean Halverson, LB, Washington, 1968-1975. he was activated for only one game as rookie, then didn’t play again until he joined the Falcons in 1970. He re-joined the Rams for the 1971 & 1972 seasons, then moved on to Philadelphia. He played in 32 games for them from 1973 through 1975, recording three fumble recoveries and one interception.
14th round-349th pick. N.Y. Jets-Joe Fields, C, Widener, 1975. He played center and guard for the Jets from 1975 thru 1987, and made the Pro Bowl in 1981 and 1982. After his 14 seasons with the Jets, he spent one last year with the Giants in 1988. I have to say, getting 15 years out of a 14th round pick is pretty impressive, but believe it or not, there’s one player down below that lasted a little longer. Honorable mention: L.A. Rams-Gerry Perry, T/DT/DE/K, California, 1952. He spent eight years in the league with the Lions and Cardinals, and actually racked up 188 points as a kicker.
14th round-348th pick. New Orleans Saints-Doug Sutherland, DE, Wisconsin Superior, 1970. He made a name for himself as part of the famed Purple People Eaters defense with the Vikings. He was picked up by Minnesota in 1971 after spending his rookie season with the Saints. He went on to play in Super Bowls VIII, IX, and XI during his ten years (1971-1980) as a Viking. He played one more year with the Seahawks in 1981 before retiring.
Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings-James Hargrove, LB, Howard Payne, 1967. He played three years with the Vikings, and two with the Cardinals, recording an interception as a rookie in 1967, and a fumble recovery in his last season, 1972.
14th round-346th pick. Philadelphia Eagles-Mark Moseley, K, Stephen F. Austin, 1970. Spent his rookie season with the Eagles, then two seasons with the Oilers (1971-1972), before going on to a stellar career with the Redskins. He joined the Redskins in 1974 after spending a year out of football. He went on to be a three time Pro Bowl player, and led the NFL in scoring four times. He was named the NFL MVP in the strike shortened 1982 season, and got a Super Bowl ring that year when they won Super Bowl XVII. He lasted 16 years in the NFL, retiring after finishing the 1986 season with the Browns.
12th round-344th pick. L.A. Rams-Jim Jodat, RB, Carthage, 1976
He played seven seasons in the NFL with the Rams (1977-1979), Seahawks (1980-1981), and Chargers (1982-1983). He had a career high 632 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Seahawks in 1980. He never could duplicate that success, and moved on to San Diego in 1982.
12th round-343rd pick. Oakland Raiders-Cedric Brown, FS, Kent State, 1976. He only played in one game as a rookie, but it didn’t take him wrong to prove the Raiders should have kept him. He started all 14 games in 1977, recording two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He had six interceptions in 1978, and that wasn’t even his career high. He recorded nine interceptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns in 1981. Overall, he started 95 of the 100 games he played in, recording 29 interceptions for 593 yards and two touchdowns, and lasted nine years in the NFL, all with the Buccaneers.
14th round-342nd pick. New England Patriots-Ray Hamilton, NT-DE, Oklahoma, 1973. He became a starter at left defensive end as a rookie, then moved to nose tackle, where he spent the next eight years in the starting lineup. He recovered a total of 14 fumbles in his career, and returned one for a touchdown in 1975. He retired after the 1981 season.