Mountaineers And The NFL Draft
This year’s NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday and runs through Saturday with safety Kyzir White predicted to be the highest West Virginia player drafted this season, perhaps as high as in the third round.
In fact, it isn’t certain that any others will be drafted, although among the most likely to go if any are drafted are wide receiver Ka’Raun White, brother to Kyzir and former Chicago Bears’ first-round pick wide receiver Kevin White, and middle linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton.
Running back Justin Crawford and offensive lineman Kyle Bosch are expected to sign free agent contracts.
With this in mind, we thought we’d offer a capsulized look into the history of WVU and the NFL Draft:
Number of players drafted in a professional draft: 207
Number of players drafted by round:
1 – 12;
2 – 18;
3 – 22;
4 – 12;
5 – 14;
6 – 15;
7 – 13;
8 – 12;
9 – 7;
10 – 6;
11 – 11;
12 – 7;
13 – 6;
14 – 4;
15 – 5;
16 – 5;
17 – 5;
18 – 2;
19 – 6;
20 – 0;
22 – 1;
23 – 1;
24 – 3;
25 – 0;
26 – 2;
27 – 1;
28 – 2;
29 – 2;
Territorial picks (USFL) 12.
First pick: “Jumbo Joe” Stydahar, Chicago Bears, 1936. Pretty good pick, a tackle who went from the No. 6 overall pick in the first NFL draft to become a four-time All-Pro and Hall of Famer. It was 20 years before another Mountaineer (Joe Marconi) was picked in the first round.
Most recent pick: Wide receiver Shelton Gibson, picked in the fifth round with the 166th pick by the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
Best No. 1 pick: Stydahar. Hard to top a Hall of Famer.
Lowest picks: In 1954, Jack Stone, a halfback from Mount Hope, W.Va., who was drafted in the 29th round by the Eagles. In 1957, Bill Trozzo was drafted in the 29th round by the Browns.
Most recent No. 1 pick: Karl Joseph, 2016, Oakland Raiders.
Worst No. 1 pick: Ironically, it was the highest-drafted WVU player ever, Dick Leftridge, a fullback who gained more than 1,700 yards at WVU, who was drafted by the Steelers in 1966 with the third overall pick in the first round of the draft.
Leftridge, from Hinton, W.Va., was a trailblazer, the first African-American to play at WVU. With the Steelers, though, he played only four games, rushing eight times for 17 yards … but he did score two touchdowns.
Best value picks: We are going to include a few picks here, beginning with quarterback Marc Bulger. When he came to WVU many questioned Don Nehlen’s judgment bringing in the tall, thin kid with a troublesome back, but he became the all-time leading passer at WVU when he graduated.
Bulger didn’t impress the NFL, though, being picked in the sixth round, 168th overall, by New Orleans. Released, he wound up signing with St. Louis and played eight years, starting 95 games while completing 62.1 percent of his 3,171 passes and played in the Pro Bowl.
Another candidate is punter Pat McAfee, who was drafted by Indianapolis with the 177th overall pick in the seventh round in 2009 and went on to make the All-Rookie team in the NFL, two Pro Bowls and was once named All-Pro, compiling a 46.4 yard punting average, seventh all-time.
You can make a strong case for Harry Clarke, a halfback and defensive back who was a 13th round selection, the 177th overall pick, in 1940 by the Chicago Bears, later jumping to the All-America Football Conference after serving a stint in the Navy during World War II.
Clarke played in two Pro Bowls, once was an All-Pro, rushed for 1,711 yards, had 13 interceptions, returned 26 punts and 37 kickoffs. He also threw four passes, although he didn’t brag much about that, having three intercepted.
What he did have bragging rights to was scoring two touchdowns for the Bears in their record 73-0 victory over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.
A couple of third-round picks went on to have long careers, offensive linemen Rich Braham and Mike Compton. Compton was the 68th pick of the Lions in 1993 and played 12 years, starting 119 games, while a year later Braham was picked by Arizona with the 76th pick and played 12 years, starting 142 games.
Most famous draft pick: Can be none other than Sam Huff, who was drafted in the third round of the 1956 draft, by the New York Giants. You can expect a starter in the third round but Huff became a legend, the first NFL player to grace the cover of Time Magazine, the subject of the Walter Cronkite special “The Violent World of Sam Huff” that glorified the position of middle linebacker in the NFL and the No. 1 nemesis to his one-time college rival from Syracuse, the great Jim Brown.
Super Bowl glory: Go no further than Chuck Howley, a linebacker from Wheeling, W.Va. Howley was the seventh overall selection in the first round of the 1958 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.
He played two seasons for the Bears and then retired due to a knee injury, fully believing his career was over. In 1961 he decided to try to make a comeback after playing in a WVU alumni game and was traded by the Bears to the Dallas Cowboys for two players.
Howley went on to become one of the centerpiece players in Dallas’ “Doomsday Defense” and the MVP of Super Bowl V, the only losing player to be so honored and also the first non-quarterback.
The next year there were many who believed he should have won the MVP award again, recovering a fumble and returning an interception for 41 yards, but the honor went to quarterback Roger Staubach in the Cowboys’ 21-3 victory.
Super Bowl Glory II: In 1984 quarterback Jeff Hostetler was a third-round selection of the New York Giants, but did not play much as he was behind Phil Simms.
By 1990 Hostetler was frustrated, is said to have volunteered to play other positions and was ready to retire at season’s end when Simms suffered a foot injury against Buffalo.
Hostetler replaced him, won the final two games of the regular season and beat the Chicago Bears in the first game of the playoffs. In the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, he suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter but stayed on and led two late scoring drives to set up a 15-13 victory.
Then, in Super Bowl XXV, he completed 20 of 21 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown as the Giants upset the Bills, 20-19, earning him MVP honors.
Most unlucky draft pick: Has to go to Charles Fisher, who was a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1999. He won the starting spot out of training camp.
His career would last 12 plays, though, with Fisher tearing all three major ligaments in his knee while covering Tennessee’s Kevin Dyson. He never played in another NFL game.
Longest draft day: In 2013 WVU was sending a dynamic draft class to the NFL in Tavon Austin, who would be drafted in the first round, Stedman Bailey, who would be drafted in the second round, and Geno Smith, the quarterback who many felt would be a first-round pick.
Smith opted to go the draft ceremony and sat there through the first round as his stock seemed to fall, being overlooked with each pick. E.J. Manuel of Florida State was the only QB picked in the first round, going 16th.
Television kept looking in on Smith. He finally left early when he saw there were no teams left in need of QB and was picked on the second day by the New York Jets with the 39th pick.
Biggest disappointment: Major Harris may have been the greatest quarterback ever at WVU, but he was ahead of his time and when he came out of school a year early in 1990 to enter the draft, the league wasn’t ready for him.
As it turned out, Harris was selected in the 12th round by the Oakland Raiders, but he opted to play in the CFL instead and never played in an NFL game.
That’s no way to treat a College Football Hall of Famer.
Best draft group: Have to go back more than half a century now to Huff’s 1956 team.
How could this not be the best class ever when Huff, considered one of the game’s all-time greats, was the third player from WVU drafted?
Joe Marconi was a first-round pick of the L.A. Rams and played 11 years there and with the Bears, making the Pro Bowl.
Then lineman Bruce Bosley was a second round pick of the San Francisco 49ers and put together a 14-year career that led him to four All-Pro honors.
Quarterback Fred Wyant of that team went just six picks behind Huff in the third round to the Washington Redskins but would go on to gain his football fame as longtime referee.
An all-time All-NFL draft team:
WR: Jerry Porter, Danny Buggs, James Jett
TE: Anthony Becht
OL: Joe Stydahar, Bruce Bosley, Mike Compton, Rich Braham, Al Baisi, Solomon Page
QB: Marc Bulger, Jeff Hostetler
RB: Adrian Murrell, Joe Marconi
FB: Jim Braxton
DE: Renaldo Turnbull, Jeff Merrow
DT: John Thornton, John Browning
LB: Sam Huff, Darryl Talley, Chuck Howley
DB: Adam “Pac-Man” Jones, Tom Pridemore, Bo Orlando, Tom Keane, Mike Logan, Aaron Beasley
P: Todd Sauerbrun
PK: Mike Vanderjagt
KR: Adam “Pac-Man” Jones, Fulton Walker, Willie Drewery