College football teams are built by a simple resolution: Coaching staffs make offers to a list of players they have earmarked as who they want on their football team. Those players then make the decision of which scholarship offer to accept. In the end, it is the athlete who makes the definitive decision.
Quite the opposite with professional football with the method in which every franchise’s roster is built. Some players are traded for draft picks, other players, cash, or a combination thereof. Some sign as free agents while others are inked to a reserves/futures contract. But the majority of players are selected in the college football disbursement draft, officially called the “Player Selection Meeting”, more commonly known as the NFL draft.
The draft was the brainchild of Philadelphia Eagles owner Bert Bell who was tired of a handful of teams always getting the best college players because they had the crowds and the money to pay those guys more.
Every year the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Bell felt that the current system was broken.
By virtue of the worst team picking first going down to the Championship club taking the final selection in each round, this allowed each NFL club to claim the “rights” to each drafted player. Next would be the process of signing those players to an exact amount of years and thus competing for a roster spot each season under that contract.
In that first draft of 1936, 81 players were selected. Over the years this one occurrence has insured that the weaker clubs were able to build with good, young talent who would eventually become more competitive which then drew exceptional crowds on game day.
Continuing our thoughts with the final part of bringing you a baker’s dozen of things that perhaps you never heard of concerning the NFL draft.
7. Never had the first overall pick
Since the merger in 1970 which combined 16 NFL teams with 10 American Football League (AFL) clubs, the league has since grown to 32 clubs. One would surmise that at some point every team would finish dead last in the standings and therefore own the first overall pick.
But that is just not the case. There are three.
The oldest franchise of the three on this list, in the AFL, the Broncos were pretty bad, but still never had the first overall selection. Since the merger, they have dodged this distinction as well.
In the AFL they did own the second overall pick once, and post-1970 have had five picks in slots 2-5, but never the top slot.
They did end up with a first-overall selection, however. In the 1983 NFL draft, the Baltimore Colts took QB John Elway with the top pick. But after not being able to sign him, his rights were traded to Denver.
An expansion team in 1976, the Seahawks have played a ton of football, but so far have managed to never finish dead last. Even in their early years when traditionally expansion clubs will tank. They came very close on numerous occasions drafting second twice and third after three different seasons, but never held the first overall pick.
Yes, they moved from Cleveland to Baltimore so at first they were a longtime existing club in a new city. Which has happened quite a bit over the history of the league. Then the uproar from the citizens of Cleveland happened, and suddenly the 50-year old Cleveland-now-Baltimore franchise was thrust into infancy with no history whatsoever.
But the highest the Ravens have selected was the fourth overall pick in both the 1996 and 1997 drafts, ironically their first years in their new digs.
8. Some teams have forfeited their pick
It is a rare occasion when an NFL team breaks a rule or two or is caught cheating. When this occurs, the league office will take away something very valuable: draft picks. In the draft order, the pick will be marked “forfeit.”
The first was in 1980. The team that invented the draft, the Eagles, held an illegal tryout and was forced to forfeit their third-round pick. Then before the draft had commenced, the Oakland Raiders had to forfeit their fourth-round selection because they had too many players signed to their roster.
Since those first infractions, a total of 26 draft picks have been forfeited.
Which club has had the most forfeitures? The New England Patriots with five. A total of five other clubs have been penalized twice which include the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Broncos, and Raiders. Seven teams have had one forfeited draft pick.
The Saints were the only franchise to have a draft pick forfeited during the pandemic as they were repeat offenders with COVID protocol violations during the 2020 season.
9. Colleges with the most draft selections - All-Time
It is said that NFL teams build through the college draft. So, which institutions have had the most players taken every round since the inception of the draft process?
Fighting Irish remain on top of the NCAA for All-Time Highest Winning Percentage. #4for40 pic.twitter.com/T5mlm66OrS— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 17, 2015
#1 - Notre Dame Fighting Irish: 522. Since this list began in 1936, Notre Dame ruled the college football landscape for most of the time before the calendar flipped over to the year 2000.
#2 – USC Trojans: 519. The 1950s-1980s were all very good years for USC and subsequently built this number to new heights.
#3 – Ohio State Buckeyes: 479. The Buckeyes have been a constant as far as a national powerhouse for many decades.
#4 – Oklahoma Sooners: 409. Six Sooners have been taken with the first overall pick.
#5 – Michigan Wolverines: 392. There was a time when Michigan ruled the college game and sent a ton of players into the NFL. Now, they are back with 19 draft picks in the past two years.
10. After the draft went to today’s standard of seven rounds, which year selected the most quarterbacks?
The 1983 draft saw six quarterbacks taken in the first round with Elway in the top spot, Jim Kelly taken with the 14th pick, and Dan Marino waiting until the second to last slot at #27. It has since been referred to as “The quarterback class of 1983.” In all, 16 signalcallers were taken which is quite a lot, just not the most.
The following year, not a single quarterback was taken in Round 1.
1999 was a famous year for drafting quarterbacks when the first three picks were all QBs: Tim Couch – Cleveland Browns, Donovan McNabb – Eagles, and Akili Smith - Cincinnati Bengals. In all, 13 were taken.
Then in the following draft of 2000, pick #199 became infamous when Michigan alum Tom Brady was taken in Round 6 after six other quarterbacks were chosen ahead of him. This has since become known as the “Brady 6.”
And then there’s the draft which featured the most future Hall of Fame players that followed the selection of first-round quarterbacks. In 1994, QB Heath Shuler from Tennessee was taken third overall followed by Tampa Bay choosing Fresno State QB Trent Dilfer with the sixth overall pick. Meanwhile, four future Hall of Famers were taken shortly afterward: DT Bryant Young, WR Isaac Bruce, C Kevin Mawae, and OG Larry Allen.
But the most quarterbacks taken in a single draft?
Mark that down as the year 2004.
Even though Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning had instructed the San Diego Chargers that he would never play for them, they took him anyways with the top slot. After a trade with the New York Football Giants, they took Phillip Rivers of North Carolina State in order to package picks for Manning. Ben Roethlisberger, assumed as the fourth overall pick, then fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
at selection #11 while the Buffalo Bills took J.P. Losman with the 22nd spot to close out Round 1.
In all, 17 quarterbacks were selected. Highlights include Matt Schaub (Round 3), Luke McCown (Round 4), and Jim Sorgi (Round 6).
11. Who in the draft is labeled “Mr. Irrelevant”?
This is a humorous nickname given to the very last player selected in each year’s NFL draft. The recipient is called Mr. Irrelevant.
This is the brainchild of Paul Salata who was once a receiver with USC, Baltimore Colts and later as an All-Star in the Canadian Football League. His idea was the celebrate the last player taken in the NFL draft.
So since 1976, the last player chosen in the draft is the guest of honor at a week-long celebration in Newport Beach, California. The University of Dayton WR Kelvin Kirk became the first to be officially celebrated taken by Pittsburgh with pick #487 in Round 17. The week-long celebration includes a trip to Disneyland, a golf tournament, lots of California celebrities, and various beach parties. This is a really big event.
A friendly reminder that the final pick in the #NFLDraft is “Mr. Irrelevant,” which is one of my favorite titles. The player is honored during “Irrelevant Week” in Newport Beach and awarded the Lowsman Trophy, which mimics the Heisman but depicts a player fumbling a football. pic.twitter.com/MeUte9jVAj— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 25, 2020
The current Mr. Irrelevant is given a trophy called “The Lowsman Trophy” which is a farce of the Heisman Award which depicts a player fumbling the ball. Now, every year another big week of festivities is planned for the current Mr. Irrelevant.
12. Only one club has ever held four first-round picks. Which team, and did they use them all?
In the 2000 draft, the New York Jets ended up with four first-round picks. One would imagine that if the Jets hit on all four, then shortly they would contend for the division. Fittingly enough, the draft was held in front of the home crowd at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Jets had their own selection at #18 but had acquired #12 which originally was Carolina’s, then Washington, San Francisco, and finally New York’s. The Jets also had picks #13 and 27. Leading up to the final moments of the draft, there was speculation of New York trading down, and then up again, and collecting draft picks in all rounds.
With two picks back-to-back, the Jets selected University of Tennessee DE Shaun Ellis at 12 followed by DE John Abraham at 13. Needing an offensive tackle, they passed on the second and third-best at that position and instead grabbed QB Chad Pennington from Marshall University with their own pick at 18.
As the first down was winding down, every pick had the Jets mentioned as a possible trade partner for a club that wanted a second first-round player, but at pick #27 they chose TE Anthony Becht from West Virginia.
Only Abraham became a good player for New York as he went to five Pro Bowls and was twice named First Team All-Pro. Pennington did have his moments before becoming injured with shoulder and ankle issues. He was twice named NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
With those four first-round picks, the Jets had passed on RB Shaun Alexander, TE Bubba Franks, LB Keith Bullock, OT Chad Clifton, P Shane Lechler plus Brady. Their third-round pick of WR Laveranues Coles outshined any of the first-round guys.
And here it is, the free loaf. It is tasty, too.
13. The draft’s “Salata Rule”
As the Mr. Irrelevant designation became a hit among fans and was a big media event. In 1979 the final three picks were the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, and Pittsburgh once again had the final pick of that year’s draft in what was now a 12-round event.
The Rams wanted the distinction of having selected Mr. Irrelevant, and when their pick came at #328, they passed. Dallas then chose a linebacker which put LA back on the clock, who passed again. Pittsburgh also wanted the publicity. They passed their pick. Back to the Rams who passed with the Steelers again passing. Each team refused to take the next-to-last pick.
It’s only the beginning— Irrelevant Week (@irrelevantweek) January 30, 2023
Congratulations on an incredible rookie season, Brock! We’re so proud of all that you have accomplished this year and we look for what is yet to come. #MrIrrelevant pic.twitter.com/Lm64zJFxZn
NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle instituted a new rule he called the “Salata Rule” named after the event’s inventor. The new rule stated that the last team in the draft must be the only one taking the final pick.
LA then chose their player while Pittsburgh took WR Mike Almond. Salata passed away in 2021 at the age of 94. He was featured in the 1950 Bowman football card set on card #70. In 1990, USC honored him as their annual Spirit Award winner.
Irrelevant Week’s Twitter account is @irrelevantweek.