Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part One: The Golden Age (1966-1970)

It’s Draft Month. And that means it’s time for Miami Dolphin fans to willfully delude themselves once more into believing that with a few great picks the stench of team failure will finally disappear, replaced with the fragrance of postseason triumphs. As one might expect, the successes and failures of the Miami Dolphins franchise align almost perfectly with the team’s successes and failures in the draft. When the team drafts well they contend for championships (and even win a couple). When the team drafts disastrously, as they have for the past decade and counting, they morph into what they are today: the worst team in football. What did the team once do so right? Where did it all go so horribly wrong? If you want answers to those questions, the first step is to analyze the team’s drafts dating all the way back to that very first one in 1966. Taking advantage of Pro Football Reference’s fantastic new draft pages, for each year I’ll list every player Miami drafted along with the round and overall draft position of each player. Quality players taken will be in bold. There’s no hard and fast rule but generally if a player lasts for at least 5 or 6 years I’ll count him as a quality player. I’ve divided up four decades of drafts into seven somewhat arbitrary eras. The first era, 1966-1970, I shall dub, “The Golden Age”.

The reason? Because these drafts supplied much, if not most, of the key talent for a team that earned five straight playoff berths, four straight division titles, three straight Super Bowl appearances, two straight NFL championships, and a perfect season. Over three decades later, the 1970-1974 stretch still ranks as the best five-year period in team history. And one of the best in NFL history for that matter.

In those first five drafts Miami picked up 17 quality players, 18 if you count Paul Warfield (and why wouldn’t you?) who they traded for with their first-round selection in 1970. That’s a very good total and, counting Warfield, those 18 men included three Hall of Famers, three All-Pro’s, and three Pro Bowlers. Make sure to note the results of the all-important first-round picks. In four consecutive seasons Miami used those picks to obtain three future Hall-of-Famers plus a great All-Pro defensive end in Bill Stanfill. Miami didn’t just nab quality players in those first five drafts, they signed all-star talent, the kind that wins championships. Overall, these five drafts produced all of Miami’s key offensive skill position players and almost all of the best players later known as the No-Name defense. Of course as a Dolphin fan it can be depressing now to realize that the drafts of those earliest years have still never been bettered. And unless you’re in your 50’s you don’t even remember those long-ago days of uncanny draft expertise.

1 1 Jim Grabowski RB
1 2 Rick Norton QB
2 9 Frank Emanuel LB
3 18 Larry Gagner G
4 26 Dick Leftridge FB
5 34 Grady Bolton T
6 42 Ed Weisacosky LB
7 51 Don Hansen LB
8 64 Bob Petrella DB
9 74 Bill Matan DE
10 83 Pat Killorin C
11 92 Sammy Price RB
12 101 Howard Twilley WR
13 110 Kent Kramer TE
14 119 Phil Scoggin K
15 128 Jerry Oliver T
16 137 Don Lorenz DE
17 146 Mike Bender
18 155 Rich Kestner E
19 164 Doug Moreau TE
20 173 John Tooker DB

A very slow start for Miami. The only quality player selected was 12th round selection Howard Twilley who ended up as the longest-lasting Dolphin from the inaugural 1966 team (and he caught Miami's first Super Bowl TD ever). But in the expansion draft of 1966 Miami also snagged a future Pro Bowl offensive tackle in Norm Evans who lasted a decade with the Dolphins. In this last official AFL draft, Miami wasted their top pick on FB Jim Grabowski who spurned the Fish, choosing instead to play for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, probably a wise move as he arrived there in time to win two Super Bowls before his middling career ended. Oddly, Grabowski's yards per carry average declined every single season of his six-year career. No lie.

1 4 Bob Griese HOF QB
2 29 Jim Riley DE
4 84 Bob Greenlee T
5 129 Gary Tucker RB
6 138 Bud Norris TE
7 163 Larry Seiple TE
9 216 John Richardson DT
10 241 Tom Beier DB
11 266 Jack Pyburn T
12 294 Stan Juk LB
12 295 Jim Whitaker DB
14 344 Charles Stikes DB
15 372 Jake Ferro LB
16 397 Maurice Calhoun FB
17 422 Larry Kissam T

Again only two quality players, Bob Griese and long-time punter Larry Seiple, but I suspect most teams would be willing to trade away their entire draft for a Hall of Fame quarterback. The top two QB’s in that year’s draft were Griese and Heisman Trophy Winner Steve Spurrier. When the Niners used the overall #3 pick on the future “Old Ball Coach”, Miami's choice at #4 was easy and the rest is history.

1 8 Larry Csonka HOF RB
1 27 Doug Crusan T
2 35 Jimmy Keyes LB
2 54 Jim Cox TE
3 62 Jim Urbanek DT
3 73 Dick Anderson DB
5 118 Jim Kiick RB
6 142 Kim Hammond QB
6 146 Jimmy Hines WR
7 172 John Boynton T
8 217 Randy Edmunds LB
9 226 Sam McDowell T
9 240 Tom Paciorek DB
10 253 Joe Mirto T
11 280 Cornelius Cooper T
12 307 Paul Paxton T
13 334 Bob Joswick DE
14 362 Ray Blunk TE
15 388 Ken Corbin LB
16 416 Henry Still DT
17 442 Bill Nemeth C

The team’s first great draft. This one featured Hall-of-Famer Csonka, the greatest running back in team history, All-Pro DB Anderson, versatile Pro Bowl RB Kiick, and a long-time contributor in tackle Doug Crusan. Despite many pathetic attempts to do so, Miami's never been able to replace Csonka who was the heart and soul of the Dolphins' championship teams.

1 11 Bill Stanfill DE
2 37 Bob Heinz DT
3 63 Mercury Morris RB
4 89 Norm McBride DE
5 115 Willie Pearson DB
5 128 Karl Kremser K
6 141 Ed Tuck G
7 167 John Egan C
7 174 John Kulka C
8 193 Bruce Weinstein TE
9 219 Jesse Powell LB
10 245 Jim Mertens TE
11 271 Mike Berdis T
12 297 Dale McCullers LB
13 323 Amos Ayres DB
14 349 Glenn Thompson T
15 375 Chick McGeehan FL
16 401 Lloyd Mumphord DB
17 427 Tom Krallman DE

Miami didn’t waste any of their top picks in 1969. Stanfill was a great defensive player, Heinz and Mumphord were solid ones for years, and though his career was cut short by injury, Morris provided the perfect complement to Csonka’s power in Miami’s championship backfield. Forget the drug problems, the prison term, the rap songs, the attitude, the crazed TV appearances when anybody makes a run at an undefeated season. Just know Merc was one of the few players to average over five yards per carry for his career. Pure speed.


2 29 Jim Mandich TE
3 55 Tim Foley DB
4 81 Curtis Johnson DB
6 132 Dave Campbell DE
7 159 Jake Scott DB
8 185 Narvel Chavers RB
9 211 Hubert Ginn RB
10 237 Dick Nittenger G
11 263 Brownie Wheless T
12 289 Mike Kolen LB
13 315 Dave Buddington RB
14 341 Gary Brackett G
15 367 Pat Hauser WR
16 393 Charlie Williams G
17 419 George Myles DT

Though a malcontent, Scott proved to be Miami’s all-time best safety and was a steal in round 7, as was Mike “Captain Crunch” Kolen in round 12. Miami nabbed their starting corners here too. Tim Foley made a Pro Bowl and Curtis Johnson may not have been the greatest cornerback of his day, but the man sported one of the most impressive Afros you are ever going to see. His helmet couldn't begin hold it all. As I mentioned before, the team's number one pick went to Cleveland in exchange for Hall-of-Famer Paul Warfield, arguably the best deep threat in NFL history. Warfield played for the Dolphins for “only” five seasons but the 1970 draft was a terrible one for receivers and Miami's move to trade rather than draft a WR proved to be wise. Of 1970's WR draft class only Ken Burroughs and maybe Rich Castor had good careers but they weren't Warfield and since Miami probably doesn’t win those two Super Bowls without him you'll take the shorter blue-chip contribution anyday. Every bolded player above gave the Dolphins at least eight seasons. I chose not to count Hubert Ginn as a quality player. While he somehow lasted for nine years as an NFL back (six with Miami), he only rushed for 521 yards in his entire career (and don't forget the 49 receiving yards!).

A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part One (1966-1970)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Two (1971-1975)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Three (1976-1983)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Four (1984-1989)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Five (1990-1995)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Six (1996-1999)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Seven (2000-2004)

1 comment:

J.A. Morris said...

Wow, of course I was too young & missed the glory years. I remember buying into the hype when I was younger, getting excited about the Dolphins drafting Lorenzo Hampton and Ron Davenport. I think the last time I was dumb enough to get excited was the year they drafted Terry Kirby & OJ McDuffie. Looking forward to Part Two of this series.