The AFL's first draft


On November 22, 1959, not long after the American Football League was founded, the first AFL draft occurred. At the time, no front offices or coaching staffs were complete and no more than half of the eight teams even had any scouts or personnel staff.

Billy Cannon was Houston's leading rusher in 1960 and was named the Outstanding Player in the 1960 AFL Championship game.

This draft certainly was unlike the NFL draft of today in which millions of people watch on television accompanied by large stacks of draft guides. This draft was held in secret and the merits of each player were determined during the selection process.

To begin the draft, each of the eight teams received one territorial/bonus pick to help ensure every team had a regional draw to help the financial success of each franchise. These regional picks did not occur in any order. Instead, they were unanimously agreed upon by the other teams.

Following the territorial picks, a consensus was determined as to who the top eight players at each position were – due to the rules of the time, college players were generally listed by their offensive positions only. The names of each position were then put into a box and drawn for by each club. This process continued until each team had 33 selections, or three offensive units.

A second round of selections occurred two weeks later on December 2. The process was similar to the first selection meeting but consisted of only 20 rounds.

The real interestng thing about this selection process was that one of the original AFL teams, Minneapolis, was offered a franchise in the NFL and on Jan. 27, 1960 withdrew from the AFL. Three days later, Oakland was admitted as the eighth AFL franchise and inherited Minneapolis’ draft picks. The problem was several AFL teams had already signed some of the players drafted by Minneapolis.

To solve this issue the AFL held an allocation draft. Each of the other seven AFL teams froze 11 players on their rosters. The remaining players were then eligible for selection by Oakland, which then stockpiled a total of 24 men.

Oddly enough, no record was kept in terms of the order that any of players were selected in each of the selection meetings.

The real star of that first draft was Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon who was selected by the Houston Oilers with their territorial pick. Cannon, a halfback out of Louisiana State University, just happened to be the number one overall selection of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL draft. He chose to sign with the AFL, giving the league instant credibility. This signing coup began a bidding war for players that eventually was one of the main reasons that led to the merger of the two leagues.

1960 AFL Territorial Picks
Boston – Gerhard Schwedes, HB, Syracuse
Buffalo – Richie Lucas, QB, Penn State
Dallas – Don Meredith, QB, Southern Methodist
Denver – Roger LeClerc, C, Trinity
Houston – Billy Cannon, HB, Louisiana State
Los Angeles – Monty Stickles, E, Notre Dame
Minneapolis – Dale Hackbart, QB, Wisconsin
New York – George Izo, QB, Notre Dame

Number one overall AFL Selections
1960 - AFL had no formal first pick
1961 Buffalo – Ken Rice, G, Auburn
1962 Oakland – Roman Gabriel, QB, North Carolina State
1963 Kansas City – Buck Buchanan, DT, Grambling
1964 Boston – Jack Concannon, QB, Boston College
1965 Houston – Lawrence Elkins, E, Baylor
1966 Miami – Jim Grabowski, RB, Illinois
1967-69 - AFL had a shared draft with the NFL


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