Pro Football Draft History: The 1940s


The 1940'sThe procedure that began in 1938 of allowing only the five lowest teams to make selections in the second and fourth rounds continued through 1944. A year earlier, the rules allowed the five teams with the best records to draft alone in the final rounds, thus giving each team the opportunity to select 30 players.

In 1947, the NFL instituted a bonus selection to the draft whereby one team would receive the first pick. This bonus pick, which continued through 1958, was selected by lottery and each team was eligible for the pick only once.

The NFL received competition in the second half of the 1940s when the rival All-America Football Conference also held a college draft. Secrecy became a new element to the annual player draft as clubs from both leagues battled to sign the college stars.

Select among the years below to see more in-depth coverage of that year's draft:

1940Ray “Scooter” McLean was taken in the 21st round, 192nd overall, by the Chicago Bears. McLean holds the distinction of being the last player to successfully drop kick for a score in an NFL game until Doug Flutie in 2006. He booted an extra point late in the 1941 NFL Championship Game, which the Bears won 37-9.
1941The Bears selected three players in the first round. Unfortunately for the team, none of the three – Tom Harmon, Norm Standlee, and Don Scott – ever played for Chicago.
1942Pittsburgh selected future Hall of Famer “Bullet” Bill Dudley as the first player in the draft. The dividends were huge as the rookie halfback led the league in rushing and guided the Steelers to their first-ever winning season.
1943This marked the only year through 1983, except 1959, that no member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was drafted. Number one pick Frank Sinkwich threw 19 touchdowns to go with his 40 interceptions in two seasons with the Lions. He finished his career in the All-America Football Conference.
1944The Eagles secured their running attack by selecting future Hall of Fame back Steve Van Buren with the fifth pick of the first round. Van Buren, who won four rushing titles, was the game’s all-time leading rusher at the time of his retirement.
1945The Rams drafted a pair of Hall of Fame receivers – Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch in the first round and Tom Fears in the 11th round. The pair hauled in a combined 743 catches for the Rams and became one of the most famed pass-catching tandems in NFL history
1946Originally drafted by the New York Giants, George Connor was traded twice before becoming a member of the Chicago Bears. Connor earned All-NFL honors at three different positions – offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and linebacker.
1947The NFL made the first pick of the draft a bonus pick. Through a lottery, the defending champion Chicago Bears, were awarded the pick.
1948The Chicago Bears drafted quarterback Bobby Layne with a pick originally owned by Pittsburgh. Ten years later the deal went full circle as Layne was traded to the Steelers with whom he played the last four-plus seasons of his Hall of Fame career.
1949The Philadelphia Eagles took Chuck Bednarik with the bonus pick. One of the last of the true NFL “Iron-Men”, the two-way performer made an instant impact with the Eagles and starred for 14 seasons. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1967.

1940's Draft Notes

 The Chicago Bears received the first Bonus Pick in 1947, which they used to select Bob Fenimore. The 6’1”, 195-pound back from Oklahoma State played just one season in the NFL.

 In 1946, the Washington Redskins chose UCLA back Cal Rossi as their first round pick, 9th overall, in the NFL draft. Inexplicably, what the Redskins failed to realize was that Rossi was just a junior and not eligible for the annual draft. As if once were not enough, the next year, Washington again selected Rossi as their first pick. Unfortunately, the Redskins again went away empty-handed when they learned that Rossi had no intentions of playing pro ball.