Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ask Sports Sturm: NFL Draft Edition

We're in an odd position here with this Ask Sports Sturm because it does not include its title personality, but I think the star of this segment is good information. And we've got that.

Bob received an email from p1 George West, Jr.--and forwarded it to me--asking some questions about the acquisitions of Hall of Famers by NFL teams. Since we're in Dallas, it kind of centers around the three straight drafts ('88-'90) where the Cowboys turned their three first-round picks into three Hall of Famers, but it goes other places from there. Let's just go ahead and reproduce the questions from the email and answer each one.

In 1988, 89, and 90 the Cowboys selected three hall of famers in a row and it got me to wondering if this was an NFL record. If it isn't, what team has the most consecutive 1st round picks that went on to be HOFers?

This is kind of an NFL record. No other team has drafted a Hall of Famer in the first round of three consecutive drafts. However, the Chicago Bears drafted three Hall of Famers in the first round using only two drafts. In 1939, they used their pick to select Sid Luckman. Then in 1940, they traded for the Eagles' pick, the second overall, and used it to select George McAfee. With their own first-round pick, they selected Bulldog Turner. So yeah, no one else went three years in a row selecting a Hall of Famer in the first round, but if you ask me, the Bears' accomplishment is more impressive.

Who has the most consecutive drafts in which a team selected a HOFer regardless of round?

The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are tied for this record with four. From 1956 to 1959, the Browns selected seven Hall of Famers (Willie Davis in '56, Jim Brown, Henry Jordan and Gene Hickerson in '57, Bobby Mitchell in '58, and Dick LeBeau in '59). Then from 1969 to 1972, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected five Hall of Famers (Joe Greene in 1969, Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount in 1970, Jack Ham in 1971, and Franco Harris in 1972). 

Tangent: As you can see there, the Browns selected three Hall of Famers. That's pretty impressive, I wonder if that's a record. In fact, it is an impressive feat, but not one that is totally unparalleled. In fact, the 1957 Browns' draft wasn't even the first in team history to net three Hall of Famers in one year. They had already done it in 1946 when the team started and acquired Frank Gatski, Bill Willis and Lou Groza. The Cowboys also pulled the draft hat trick, selecting Mel Renfro, Bob Hayes and Roger Staubach in 1964. All of these accomplishments, however, are bested by the Pittsburgh Steelers' 1974 draft when the team selected a full four Hall of Fame players: Lynn Sawnn, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. So the team was very close to having six consecutive drafts where they selected a Hall of Famer. Also, the Steelers from 1969 to 1974 is decidedly the best run of drafting that an NFL team has ever had in terms of the players selected going on to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

And this whole Steelers thing brings up an interesting element. Of course, those Steelers went on to win four Super Bowls. It's not something exclusive to those Steelers either. Teams who scored two or more Hall of Famers in one draft or scored at least a Hall of Famer in three consecutive drafts went on to win championships, often more than one, in all but two cases (the '64 Redskins draft and the '65 Bears). Did they win those championships because they had those great players? Or did those players have their reputations elevated by being associated with championships? There's probably some of both, and I don't have any way of truly determining the balance. It's just something interesting to think about. 

Finally, what is the break down of HOFer by round.  I would suspect that most come from the 1st round but is this necessarily the case?

Overwhelmingly yes. 92 of the 195 Hall of Famers drafted went in the first round. To expand things a little, 140 of the 195 Hall of Famers were selected in the first three rounds of the draft. So there are guys who go undrafted then go on to great things. But there's a lot more guys who people expect to do great things who go on to do great things.

As a final note, I think there are a lot more Hall of Famers than I would have thought. Before I started this, I would have thought there was one Hall of Famer in every two drafts or so. In reality, the average is about three and a half Hall of Famers per draft. The single-draft high is the 10 Hall of Famers selected in 1964, while in 1943 and 1986, there were no Hall of Famers selected. So when Mel Kiper has three guys every year who he tells you are going to be in Canton one day, it's a more reasonable assertion than you would think. Though he's probably still wrong about which three. So we still have that.


TSY said...

Good job, TC. Very interesting information. I wonder how the war affected the 1943 draft in terms of producing HOFers. 1986 would likely just be a bum year.

Dan said...

Hey TC. There's one draft every year and one Hall of Fame induction every year where multiple players are inducted. Where did you think those other guys came from?