On the eve of the 2019 NFL Draft, let’s take a close look at the 31 St. Louis Football Cardinals first round draft picks.
The Big Red drafted four quarterbacks who combined to start only 5 games for the team. Two Hall of Famers were drafted, but only one actually suited up in St. Louis. Of the 31 top picks, 12 can be considered busts. Many of these picks were made by the late George Boone, who was the team’s long time player personnel director. He may or may not have had incriminating photos of owner Bill Bidwill.
And so, here’s my ranking of the Big Red first round draft picks, worst to first. Let me know what you think!
31. Clyde Duncan WR (1984 – 17th Pick)
The Big Red passed on eventual rookie of the year Louis Lipps and drafted Duncan after one good college season at Tennessee. There was only one problem according to then head coach Jim Hanifan, “He couldn’t play.” Duncan, who was admittedly surprised to be a first round pick, held out of training camp and then suffered a shoulder injury. He caught only four passes in his career and was out of football after two season.
30. Larry Stegent RB (1970 – 8th Pick)
The Big Red drafted the injury prone running back out of John David Crow’s old school Texas A&M. The Cards drafted him despite Stegent playing very little his senior season. He was injured before training camp in the College All-Star game and then tore knee ligaments on his first preseason carry and was out for the year. He caught one pass in 1971 and tore up his other knee and never played another down in the NFL.
29. Kelly Stouffer QB (1987 – 6th Pick)
On the 10th anniversary of the Steve Pisarkiewicz pick, the Big Red reached for the relatively unknown Stouffer out of Colorado State who also admitted he was shocked to be taken that early in the draft. He also held out of training camp and never signed with the Big Red. He was traded a year later to Seattle for three draft picks where he started 16 games in four seasons.
28. Steve Little K (1978 – 15th Pick)
It’s never a good idea to draft a kicker in the first round, but the Big Red were desperate to replace their all-time leading scorer Jim Bakken. They drafted Little out of Arkansas who had a big leg (kicked 67 yard FG), but was never able to transition to kicking FGs without a tee. Little lasted three forgettable seasons. After being released in 1980, Little was paralyzed after crashing his car on a rain slicked highway.
27 Steve Pisarkiewicz QB (1977 – 19th Pick)
In desperate need of defensive help, the Big Red drafted St. Louis native Pisarkiewicz out of Mizzou. Zark was quoted as saying that he didn’t think he would be drafted in the first round, but George Boone said, “If we don’t take Pisarkiewicz when he’s available, we are crazy.” Zark started four games for the Big Red in two seasons completing 44.9% of his passes.
26. Fate Echols DT/OT (1962 – 6th Pick)
The Northwestern product arrived at training camp overweight and was cut before the season started. He was later resigned and played sparingly over the next two seasons before being released.
25. Carl McAdams DT (1966 – 8th Pick)
McAdams was the eighth pick in the draft out of Oklahoma where he was an All-American. He never signed with the Big Red. Instead he signed a $250,000 contract with the New York Jets of the AFL. He started only one game in three injury plagued seasons with the Jets and then was out of football.
24. Ken Rice T (1961 – 8th Pick)
Rice was a two-time All-American at Auburn and signed with the Buffalo Bills of the AFL where he made the Pro Bowl his rookie season. He played seven seasons with the Bills, Raiders and Dolphins.
23. Tim Gray S (1975 – 21st Pick)
Gray was a surprise pick out of Texas A&M where he played cornerback. The Big Red moved him to safety his rookie year, but he rarely played. He was traded the following off season to Kansas City where he played three seasons. He finished up career with the 49ers. Gray is most remembered for running onto the field with the offense his rookie season.
22. Ken Kortas DT (1964 – 9th Pick)
Kortas played college ball at Louisville and started five games for a good Big Red team in 1964. Feeling the team needed a backup QB, Kortas was traded to Pittsburgh for Terry Nofsinger. He played for the Steelers for four seasons and finished his career with Chicago.
21. George Izo QB (1960 – 2nd Pick)
Izo was the Big Red’s first draft pick after leaving Chicago. He was an All-American QB at Notre Dame but only played in 2 games in his injury plagued rookie season. He was traded to Washington for veteran QB Ralph Guglielmi in 1961 and played six seasons with the Redskins, Lions, and Steelers.
20. Anthony Bell LB (1986 – 5th Pick)
The Big Red surprised everyone with their top pick out of Michigan State in 1986 including Anthony Bell. “I was shocked,” Bell told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. But, George Boone disagreed. “It may have been a surprise to some, but it wasn’t a surprise to us.” Bell played six seasons in the NFL with 2 interceptions and 11 sacks.
19. Don Brumm DE (1963 – 13th Pick)
Brumm was a two time All-American at Purdue and played ten seasons in the NFL. He was a solid pass rusher for the Big Red and was named to one Pro Bowl. He is a member of the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame.
18. Dave Williams WR (1967 – 16th Pick)
Williams was an All-American receiver at Washington and was a very good receiver for the Big Red for five seasons. He became Jim Hart’s favorite target in 1968-1969 catching 99 passes for 1384 yards and 13 TDs.
17. Mike Dawson DT (1976 – 22nd Pick)
Dawson was an All-American at Arizona and played seven seasons for the Cardinals, starting 83 of 88 games. He played all over the defensive line and led the team in sacks in 1978 and 1979.
16. Joe Namath QB (1965 – 12th Pick)
I struggled on where to place Namath on this list. The Big Red took the Alabama star with the 12th pick in the draft, but couldn’t match the Jets large contract offer. Another first rounder lost to the AFL. Namath went on to a Hall of Fame career and led the Jets to the biggest victory in Super Bowl History.
15. Dave Butz DT (1973 – 5th Pick)
Butz was an All-American at Purdue and played two seasons for the Cardinals. He immediately held out after being drafted with the 5th pick and didn’t have a very good rookie season. He suffered a season ending injury in the 1974 opener and became a free agent due to technicality in his contract. He signed with the Redskins and went on to very good 14 year career with two Super Bowl Rings.
14. Ken Greene S (1978 – 19th Pick)
Greene was the Cardinals second first round pick in 1978. He played at Washington State and played five seasons in St. Louis with 15 interceptions. His best season was in 1981 when he led the team with 7 interceptions.
13. Leonard Smith S (1983 – 17th Pick)
The hard hitting Smith was a team leader on defense for 6 seasons. He recorded 5 sacks in 1986 and was voted second team All-Pro. He led the team in tackles in 1985 and 1986. Smith later played in two Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills. He was an All-American at McNeese State and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
12. Norm Thompson CB (1971 – 17th Pick)
Thompson was a star corner back at Utah and led the Big Red in interceptions in 1974 and 1975. He had 22 picks in six seasons in St. Louis including one returned for a TD against Joe Namath and the Jets in 1975. He became the first NFL free agent when he signed with the Baltimore Colts in 1977.
11. J.V. Cain TE (1974 – 7th Pick)
Cain would have probably been much higher on this list if it weren’t for his tragic death during during training camp in 1979. He was an All-American out of Colorado and was the Big Red’s rookie of the year in 1974. He played some wide receiver, but took over the starting TE position in 1975 after Jackie Smith’s injury. Averaged 15 yards per catch and scored 5 TDs in 1976.
10. MacArthur Lane RB (1968 – 13th Pick)
Lane didn’t play much his first two seasons, but he had a break out year in 1970 when he had over 1300 yards from scrimmage and led the league with 11 rushing touchdowns. He was traded to Green Bay for Donnie Anderson after he bad-mouthed Bill Bidwill in the locker room near the end of the 1971 season.
9. Bobby Moore (Ahmad Rashad) WR (1972 – 4th Pick)
Moore was a standout running back at Oregon when the Big Red took him with the fourth overall pick in 1972. He averaged 17.2 yards per catch his rookie year and set an NFL record by recording the longest reception without a score (98 yards) against the Rams. Moore changed his name in 1973 and was traded to the Bills for backup QB Dennis Shaw in one of the more head scratching trades in Big Red history.
8. Freddie Joe Nunn LB/DE (1985 – 18th Pick)
Nunn was a first team All-American at Mississippi and was named to the All-Rookie Team in 1985 after recording 84 tackles, 3 sacks and two fumble recoveries in 16 starts. Nunn never made a Pro Bowl, but is the official Cardinals sack leader with 66.5.
7. Irv Goode G (1962 (12th Pick)
Goode was the second first round pick by the Big Red in 1962 and became a two time Pro Bowler and later won a Super Bowl with the Dolphins. He was an All-American at Kentucky and was named the Cardinals rookie of the year after having to learn to play tackle due to injuries. Inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
6. Jerry Stovall S (1963 – 2nd Pick)
Stovall was an All-American half back at LSU and finished runner-up in the Heisman voting in 1962. The Cardinals converted him to safety where played opposite Hall of Famer Larry Wilson his entire career. Stovall earned three Pro Bowl berths and netted 18 interceptions in his 9 year career, all in St. Louis. He also served as the team’s punter from 1963-1966 with a 40.2 yard average.
5. E.J. Junior LB (1981 – 5th overall)
Junior was an All-American linebacker at Alabama when the Big Red made him the 5th overall pick in 1981. He was part of a great pass rush in the early/mid 80s and earned All-Pro honors in 1984 when he led the team in tackles (118) and recorded 9.5 sacks. Had over 500 tackles and 24.5 sacks in eight seasons with the Cardinals.
4. Luis Sharpe T (1982 – 16th Pick)
Sharpe was an All-American at UCLA and named to several all-rookie teams in 1982. He was the “franchise” left tackle for the Cardinals all 13 seasons of his career and earned three Pro Bowls. He started every game he appeared in and started 28 games in 1985 for the Memphis Showboats (USFL) and the Big Red.
3. Curtis Greer DE (1980 – 6th overall)
Greer was an All-American at Michigan and taken 6th overall in the 1980 draft. He is the “unofficial” all-time Cardinals sack leader with 69.5. Greer recorded 30 sacks in 32 games in 1983 and 1984 and had 9 fumble recoveries in his career.
2. Ottis “OJ” Anderson RB (1979 – 8th Pick)
OJ was an All-American at Miami and left there as the Hurricanes all-time leading rusher. He stormed onto the NFL scene with a 193 yard performance against Dallas in the season opener and finished with 1605 yards just behind Walter Payton. Anderson gained over 1000 yards in five of his first six seasons and is still the Big Red’s all-time leading rusher, and it’s not even close. He was traded to the New York Giants in 1986 where he won Super Bowl MVP against the Buffalo Bills in 1991.
1. Roger Wehrli (1968 – 19th Pick)
Wehrli was a consensus All-American at Missouri and went on to a 14 year career in St. Louis that included 3 All-Pro and 7 Pro Bowl selections. He had 40 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries and was the longtime holder for Big Red kickers. He returned a fake FG for a TD in his final NFL game in 1982. Roger Staubach called him the best cornerback he ever played against. Wehrli was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame as well. He was also named to the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team.