Pro Football Draft History: The 1960s

The 1960'sThe NFL and AFL battled each other throughout much of the 1960's. Helping to fuel the war was stiff competition to sign key players from the college draft. Starting in 1960, the NFL held a secret early draft to beat the AFL in signing players. Secrecy served as the norm throughout the first half of the decade, highlighted by the common practice of “kidnapping” prospects. Often times, teams would hold players in hotels until they were drafted, thereby increasing the chance that their league would sign them.

As a result of the formation of the AFL and the expansion that followed in both leagues, more drafted players found their way onto active rosters in professional football. The NFL began the decade with 12 teams, when the two leagues merged after the 1966 season, it had 26.

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

1960The AFL had a lot of catching up to do for their first draft. None of the clubs had front offices or coaching staffs, and only half of the teams had scouts. Teams relied heavily on scouting reports from a group comprised of management from the Texans, Broncos, and Chargers, and Oilers.
1961As an expansion team, the Minnesota Vikings received the first pick, and selected Tulane halfback Tommy Mason. Four future Hall of Famers were taken in the first round that year: Mike Ditka (Chicago), Bob Lilly (Dallas), Herb Adderley (Green Bay), and Jimmy Johnson (San Francisco).
1962The Cleveland Browns used their 7th-round pick on an end from Ohio State by the name of John Havlicek. Needless to say, he never played pro football but earned Hall of Fame status with the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association.
1963The AFL’s Buffalo Bills drafted quarterback Daryle Lamonica in the 24th round. After playing for the Bills for four seasons, Lamonica was traded to the Raiders where he quarterbacked for another eight years.
1964Defensive lineman Carl Eller was picked fifth overall in the AFL draft by Buffalo and sixth overall by the Vikings in the NFL. He opted for Minnesota where he played for 15 seasons before wrapping up his career with Seattle.
1965One could say that the Chicago Bears didn’t have too bad of draft in 1965. With back-to-back picks in the 1st round, the team selected two future Hall of Famers: linebacker Dick Butkus and halfback Gale Sayers.
1966With their 6th-round pick, the New York Jets drafted running back Emerson Boozer from Maryland-Eastern Shore. Boozer would retire as the Jets’ all-time leading rusher, a mark since surpassed by Freeman McNeil.
1967The Oakland Raiders selected defensive tackle Richard Sligh in the 10th round. Although his pro career lasted just eight games, the 7’0” Sligh holds the distinction of being the tallest person ever to play pro football.
1968The Miami Dolphins added some offensive power through the draft by taking Syracuse fullback Larry Csonka in the 1st round and running back Jim Kiick in the 5th.
1969The Baltimore Colts used their 2nd round pick on Ted Hendricks. The future Hall of Fame linebacker played five seasons with the Colts and one with the Packers before reaching his greatest stardom with the Oakland Raiders.

1960s Draft Notes

 In 1965, the New York Jets were competing with the St. Louis Cardinals to sign 1st round pick Joe Namath. The Jets managed to sign the Alabama quarterback to a reported $400,000 contract. This small victory for the AFL would lead to an even bigger one several years later when "Broadway" Joe took the Jets to victory in Super Bowl III.

 Ernie Davis became the first African-American selected first overall in an NFL draft. The Washington Redskins drafted him in 1962 and traded his rights to the Cleveland Browns. Tragically, Davis died of leukemia before ever getting to showcase his talents in the NFL.

 Part of the merger agreement that saw the NFL and AFL become one league in 1970 was that the two leagues would hold a joint draft beginning in 1967. The first pick overall was awarded to the expansion New Orleans Saints. The Saints traded the pick to the Baltimore Colts in return for QB Gary Cuozzo, OL Butch Allison, and a 17th-round pick in that year’s draft. The Colts promptly tapped Michigan State defensive tackle Charles “Bubba” Smith as the number one pick overall.