FIRST AFL-NFL COMMON DRAFT IN 1967

 On March 14, 1967, a first happened among two rival football leagues. It was on this day that the NFL and AFL held the first ever Common Draft between the two of them. It was the beginning of a new era in NFL Drafts as it became a phenomenon that is aired on television every year now.

In the previous seven drafts from 1960-66, a bidding war between the two leagues during their Drafts had escalated which turned out to be a big factor in the merger of the NFL-AFL.

One of the most famous bidding wars between the two sides happened in 1965 when Kansas running back Gale Sayers was drafted by Chicago Bears in the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL. Sayers decided to sign with the Chicago Bears and continued his legacy as one of the great running backs on both levels.

One of the common misconceptions is the AFL achieved a win in drafts as the New York Jets defeated the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl. However, the Jets had established stars from the early 60s on their team that year from when they played in the AFL.

As with draft rules, the team with the worst record picked first, second worst picked second overall, etc. The teams that won the Super Bowl and the runner-up picked last and second to last, respectively.

The New Orleans Saints were an expansion team that year, and were to have the first pick in the NFL Draft. But they traded the No. 1 pick away to the Baltimore Colts in which four draft picks and three players were involved.

So with the first pick in that draft, the Colts selected Michigan State All-American lineman Charles “Bubba” Smith. Smith went on to be named All-Pro once and he helped the team win Super Bowl V in a nine-year career.

The second pick of the draft had also been traded away as future Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was traded to the New York Giants from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for four draft picks. This included the 1967 first and second picks.

The Vikings selected running back Clint Jones who also played at Michigan State. Young played six seasons with the Vikings and one in San Diego.

San Francisco acquired the rights for the No. 3 overall selection from the Atlanta Falcons and took Florida Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Steve Spurrier. Spurrier became more well-known for his coaching career at Florida and is currently the head coach at South Carolina.

Finally, after the NFL had the first three selections, the AFL’s Miami Dolphins selected Purdue quarterback Bob Griese at No. 4 overall. Griese played in three Super Bowls winning two of them while eventually earning Hall of Fame honors in 1990.

Linebacker George Webster and receiver Gene Washington, both from Michigan State, were drafted at No. 5 and No. 8, respectively, which gave the university four of the first eight picks in the NFL Draft. Webster was taken by the AFL’s Houston Oilers and Washington was taken by Minnesota Vikings.

The Denver Broncos were up next at No. 6 and selected Syracuse running back Floyd Little. Little played all nine of his seasons with the Broncos and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010.

The Vikings traded with the Rams for the No. 15 overall selection in which they used it to select defensive tackle Alan Page out of Notre Dame. Page played a very important role in the rise of the team as the defense became known as the “Purple People Eaters”. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.

The Oakland Raiders selected one of the best lineman in NFL history when they took Texas A&I’s Gene Upshaw with the No. 17 overall selection. Upshaw was a key component as the Raiders became one of the strongest teams in the league in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Other Hall of Famers that came out of this 1967 Common Draft:

-Round 2, Pick No. 34 by Detroit Lions- Defensive back Lem Barney from Jackson State, who was selected to seven Pro Bowls in his career.

-Round 2, Pick No. 50 by Kansas City Chiefs- Linebacker Willie Lanier from Morgan State, who was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection.

-Round 7, Pick No. 182 by Dallas Cowboys- Tackle Rayfield Wright from Fort Valley State, who was voted on NFL’s Decade Team of the 1970s.

-Round 9, Pick No. 214 by Houston Oilers- Defensive back Ken Houston from Prairie View, who was voted on NFL’s Decade Team of the 1970s while also playing in seven straight Pro Bowls for the Washington Redskins to end his career.

**Eight Hall of Fame Players came out of the 1967 AFL-NFL Draft.

There were two other significant names that went on to successful careers in the NBA.

The Dallas Cowboys used their No. 285th overall selection in Round 11 to select Pat Riley of Kentucky despite the fact he never played college football. Riley was also selected in the NBA Draft at No. 7 overall by the San Diego Rockets and chose that route instead. He was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972 and was a reserve off the bench that helped them win a championship that year. But Riley’s lack of success as a player didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest head coaches in NBA history. He won five NBA Championships as head coach, three NBA Coach of the Year awards, and was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

The New Orleans Saints had the last pick in the entire draft which is now known as “Mr Irrevelant”. Despite never playing a college game in his career, the Saints selected Providence basketball player Jimmy Walker. Coincidentally enough, Walker was the No. 1 overall selection in that year’s NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Walker wisely chose that route. He was a two-time All-Star in nine seasons for three teams.

Overall, 445 picks were made in the first ever Common Draft. The NFL recognizes the next two years as part of the Common Draft era until the merger was completed in 1970. Since 1970, it is now referred to as the NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft went onto garner national attention after airing on television — in particular when ESPN launched its network in 1979. These days, the NFL Draft is by far the biggest off-season event in American sports with the coverage it receives.

The Common Draft was crucial in the merger of the two leagues as the NFL has now become the most popular and financially lucrative sport in the United States. The two sides no longer had to have bidding wars for player services. It proved to be a very successful move by both leagues.

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