Everyone is feeling pretty good about the prospects picked. We’re in that afterglow period where we can imagine all the good things that our team can do without being pestered by the reality of games played, injuries suffered, potentials not reached.
As Homer Simpson would say, “that Bart is a little miracle … he reminds me of me before the weight of the world crushed my spirit.” Not that our spirits will get crushed, but eventually the post-draft honeymoon of potential will be replaced by the facts we learn of the new players on and off the field.
Each year as the draft approaches there are numerous pieces written about the best and worst draft picks in the history of the league and for each team. For the Packers, Tony Mandarich usually gets first mention for the worst. Terrell Buckley might get mentioned. Jamal Reynolds is certainly in there.
These are bad picks due to their level of productivity relative to their draft number. jsonline gives the standard list here: http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/the-10-biggest-busts-in-packer-history-v99k9fc-204399381.html
But if we change the criteria a bit for ‘bad pick,’ we might get a different result. If we made a list of guys chosen in the draft that we wish had never worn the uniform, Mandarich would still be on it. He was arrogant, he held out, he was full of steroids in college, he was full of opiates in the NFL. He was supposed to be a sure thing. No one blames the GM, but he was a bad pick. We didn’t know, but we wished we knew.
The guy the Packers picked in the 17th round in 1974 was a pretty bad pick, too.
He was a 17th rounder, and expectations couldn’t have been that high, so maybe it wasn’t that big a of deal that he was cut before the start of the season.
But drafting a serial killer almost makes the round in which he was drafted irrelevant. That’s a pretty bad pick.
Though it couldn’t have been known at the time, the choice of a serial killer at the end of the ’74 draft was pretty representative for the Packers’ brass at the time. Wide receiver Randy Woodfield, who had already had at least a few run-ins with the law prior to the draft, was chosen by Dan Devine, the Packers GM and head coach at the time with the 428th pick.
Even aside from that, Dan Devine orchestrated a pretty miserable draft in 1974. He chose running backs in the first, sixth, and 11th rounds, even though the Packers already had John Brockington and McArthur Lane on the roster. They also had Larry Krause and Les Goodman on the team, and would end up with Charlie Leigh from Miami and Pete Van Valkenburg from the Bills. Two of the three running backs drafted would stick, which gave the team eight backs during the season. That’s an awful lot of running backs. And most of the lot was awful, at least in terms of productivity.
The highlight of the draft was fifth round returner/wide receiver Steve Odom, who went to the pro bowl the next year as a returner. First-rounder Barty Smith stuck around until 1980, but wasn’t special in terms of production (3.6 yards per carry, 1,942 yards over seven years).
The 6th round running back didn’t make the team. The sixth round wide receiver, Ken Payne, lasted four years in the league, and had 116 total receptions (not awful). The 7th round offensive tackle didn’t make the team. The 8th round linebacker didn’t make the team. Nor did the 8th round DB. The 9th round guard didn’t either. Same with the 10th round defensive tackle.
Running Back Eric Torkelson averaged 3.7 yards a carry over seven seasons, and never murdered anybody. Not bad for an 11th round pick. The punter from the 12th lasted a year and was cut. The 13th, 14th, and 15th picks didn’t make it (two linebackers and an offensive tackle).
The tackle, by the way, was Dave Wannstedt, who would go on to coach the Bears and Dolphins, and wear a mustache (but not as good as Ditka).
The 16th round linebacker lasted a year.
Notice there were no 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round picks for the Packers, helping to make this a terrible draft for not having picks as well as making terrible picks.
There isn’t a smooth way of transitioning to this bit of data, but the Steelers wound up with four hall of famers this year. Not pro bowlers. Hall of Famers. Four.
And with the 428th pick, the Packers selected Randy Woodfield, wide receiver from Portland State, who would get cut from the team in part due to an apparent series of indecent exposure incidents, and in 1981 would go on to be sentenced to life in prison plus 125 years for murder and sex crimes. It is estimated that he could be responsible for the murders of as many as 40 or more people and rapes of 60 or more.
It is macabre to make comparisons, but think of how many of us have thought: “glad OJ wasn’t on my team.” Can you imagine if Woodfield had made the team and stayed in Green Bay?
First, there is the issue with the horrific crimes that probably would have happened in Wisconsin instead of the Pacific Northwest. And Wisconsin needs another serial killer like we need another hole in the head (drilled into it by a serial killer). Woodfield would have been about the midpoint between Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer. But from a football standpoint, which isn’t all that important given the subject matter, for fans it would be too much like a family association to evil.
Dan Devine is an historically reviled general manager. Midseason that year he would trade two first round picks, two second round picks, and a third rounder to the Rams for John Hadl, a 34-year-old QB who despite some bright spots in his 17-year career never completed 55 percent of his passes. He was with the Packers a year and a half, throwing nine touchdowns and 29 interceptions.
Devine hamstrung the team for years with this trade. Much has been written about it. Oh, and before the season, out of 16 picks, with weakness at the position, he chose zero quarterbacks.
It would appear Devine made only one genuinely good decision in 1974. He cut the serial killer he had drafted before the guy ever played for real. Maybe that one good decision makes up for ruining the team for years to come.
For the record, Devine was successful in college football before he was with the Packers, and he was successful after the Packers, winning a national championship with Notre Dame. But his tenure in Green Bay reminds me of something once said by the great philosopher, Bender Bending Rodriguez: “Ask not for whom the bone bones. It bones for thee.” He sure boned us.
But on the other hand, it’s nice that when draft day roles around we talk about Tony Mandarich. He boned us, too. But he’s not the worst guy the Packers ever drafted.