As we move closer to the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27-29), The Big Red Zone is looking back on each of the 28 St. Louis Cardinals drafts (1960-87). This installment focuses on the 1974 Draft, which was held January 29-30 in New York.
With the exception of first-round pick J.V. Cain and fourth-round choice Ike Harris, the Cardinals didn’t get much help from this draft. And both of those players had short careers in St. Louis.
A tight end from Colorado, Cain was a backup in his first two seasons in St. Louis. He became a full-time starter in 1976, and caught a combined 51 passes for 728 yards and nine touchdowns in ’76 and ’77. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon in training camp in 1978 and missed that entire season.
A year later, on July 22—his 28th birthday—tragedy struck. Cain collapsed on the field at Lindenwood College while running a pass pattern during a non-contact training camp practice. While coaches and teammates watched in shock, medical personnel gave Cain CPR. He was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital and died shortly thereafter. An autopsy showed that his death was due to a rare congenital heart problem.
The Cardinals retired his number (88).
Harris, a wide receiver from Iowa State, also was drafted by the World Football League and played for the WFL’s Southern California Sun in 1974. He joined the Big Red in 1975 and was a productive receiver for three seasons before being traded to New Orleans, along with guard Conrad Dobler, for defensive end Bob Pollard and guard Terry Stieve on January 31, 1978.
1974 St. Louis Cardinals Draft
|2-33||Greg Kindle||G||Tennessee St.|
|4-91||Ike Harris||WR||Iowa St.|
|8-189||Sergio Albert||K||U.S. International|
|12-293||Roger Wallace||WR||Bowling Green|
|15-371||Vincent Ancell||DB||Arkansas St.|
|16-397||Alonzo Emery||RB||Arizona St.|
*J.V. Cain played in all 28 games, 10 as a starter, in his first two seasons with the Cardinals. He was selected as the team’s rookie of the year in 1974, when he caught 13 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown. He became a full-time starter in ’76 and, over the ’76 and ’77 seasons, had 51 catches for 1,014 yards and seven TDs. During the ’77 season, he made two spectacular, one-handed catches for touchdowns. His four-year career stats: 76 receptions, 1,014 yards and nine TDs.
*In 40 games (31 starts) with the Cardinals, Ike Harris caught 107 passes for 1,595 yards and four touchdowns. His number of touches fell from 52 in 1976 to 40 in 1977, when he often was used as a wingback. After the ’77 season, Harris planned to test the open market but less than 24 hours before he could become a free agent, he was dealt to New Orleans. In four seasons with the Saints, he had 104 receptions for 1,710 yards and 12 TDs.
*In seven seasons with the Big Red, Steve Neils played in 88 games and made 47 starts—all from 1977-80. Neils had 13.5 sacks, one interception (for 18 yards), and seven fumble recoveries—one of which he returned 72 yards for a touchdown in a 1979 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
What a tragedy JV Cain. Most football fans today think that one handed catches were invented just a short time ago. How wrong they are!! That 1974 draft really was disappointing. Especially if you consider that the Steelers drafted four future HOF’s.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Indeed. The ’75 draft was even worse and the ’77-78 drafts no good either. Easy to figure out why the team fell apart in the late 70s/early 80s.