After the 2014 NFL draft, despite pleas and caveats that the quality of any team’s draft class cannot be determined until at least 2017, there will be innumerable beat writers and national writers giving each club a grade for its draft haul. These post-draft evaluations are just as much a part of NFL draft coverage as the countless iterations of mock drafts that seem to be created earlier and earlier every year.
Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, however, goes all the way back to the 1974 draft to show how one class of players, one collection of rookies, can have stunning and far-reaching impacts on a team’s fortunes for years, and even decades. In 1974, the Steelers boasted one of the greatest draft classes in NFL history, landing four future Hall of Famers in their first five picks, including Lynn Swann and Jack Lambert.
The Browns, meanwhile, traded their 1974 first-round selection and a 1975 second-rounder to San Diego in exchange for so-so linebacker Bob Babich. They also traded their third-rounder to Denver for backup QB Don Horn, and they traded their fourth-rounder to the Raiders for WR Gloster Richardson. With their one pick that remained in the first four rounds, the Browns selected tackle Billy Corbett, who never played in an NFL game. They did not fare much better in the rest of the draft.
The Browns were therefore unable to supplement their aging roster, and they would not make the playoffs again until 1980. They would not win another playoff game until 1986. Not that the 1974 draft had everything to do with that downward spiral, or the run of futility that followed their brief spurt of success in the mid-1980s, but when considered in conjunction with Pittsburgh’s record of success since that time, it gives one an extra reason to look to the events of this week with increased anticipation (or anxiety).
Now for some AFC North notes:
- In a separate piece, Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes that cornerback is the biggest position of need for the Steelers, but the quality of the cornerback class and the lack of a consensus No. 1 player in that group will make for a tough decision if that’s the direction Pittsburgh chooses with the No. 15 overall pick.
- Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at how the Steelers should utilize their nine draft picks this week to maximize the chances that the class representing the 40th anniversary of the 1974 draft will be just as productive for Pittsburgh as that 1974 collection was.
- Paul Dehner, Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer looks at the machinations of the Bengals scouting department and how that group has turned the Bengals into a consistent winner again.
- ESPN.con’s Jamison Hensley describes how highly the Ravens value small school prospects and the success they have had with such prospects (with Joe Flacco and Lardarius Webb serving as examples).
- Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal writes that the Browns should avoid a QB with their No. 4 overall pick and she goes on to describe how she believes the team should approach this draft.