“If you are a coach, you coach; if you are a scout, you scout,” Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill once said. “We believe in a policy of separation.”
More times than not, that policy did not work for the St. Louis Football Cardinals.
After the 1973 NFL draft, the Cards promoted Kentucky native George Boone to the position of director of player personnel. From 1974 to 1987 only the Green Bay Packers had fewer collective Pro Bowl appearances among their draft picks.
And only three teams saw a higher percentage of their number one draft choices fail to develop into quality players.
John Barefield spent only three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, but with all due respect to Conrad Dobler, there may not have been a larger character. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker was the Cards second round draft pick in 1978 out of Texas A&I University where he was known for wearing quarters in his ears, stalking cemeteries at night, writing poetry about his tackles, and going by the name of Doctor Doom.
“I know I’m strange. I’ve got a strange mind,” the flamboyant linebacker said at a rookie workout at Busch Stadium in 1978. “I see visions, vibes and things. I was going to leave my Dr. Doom cap back at college, but I found myself putting it back on.”
Most people are aware of the historic struggles the St. Louis Cardinals had when it came to the NFL draft. There were some very good drafts over the years (1979-1983 for example), but more times than not, the Big Red left their fans scratching their heads (“They drafted a girl!”).
I thought it would be fun to go back and rank the all-time Big Red draft picks by round. Many on this list were no-brainers, but there were a few very competitive rounds. I’m sure everyone will agree that some of the greatest names in Cardinals history are on this list, including four Cardiac Cards offensive lineman, and all four Hall of Famers. But I also learned something about the Cards top 16th and 20th round picks, Jimmy Lee Hunt and Tom Day. Both were released by the Cardinals and both went on to become stars in the AFL. Hope you enjoy!
ALL-TIME ST. LOUIS CARDINAL DRAFT PICKS BY ROUND
ROUND 1 – ROGER WEHRLI (1969)
Wehrli was a consensus All-American at Missouri when the Cards selected him with the 19th pick in the draft. He 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 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team.
Picking eighth in the 1970 NFL draft, the St. Louis Football Cardinals selected running back Larry Stegent out of Texas A&M.
“It’s unbelievable—I’m overwhelmed,” Stegent said in a St. Louis Post Dispatch interview after the draft. “I didn’t feel I’d be picked until much later. I didn’t really think anyone wanted me that much.”
Stegent was an All-American high school halfback and Southwest Conference all-star his sophomore and junior seasons at A&M. The Houston native was slowed by injuries for much of his senior season, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from drafting him ahead of All-American running back Steve Owens from Oklahoma.
“Owens is a straight-ahead type runner,” Big Red head coach Charley Winner said. “We think Stegent can go outside for us, and he’s a good pass receiver.
Unfortunately, Stegent would never “go outside” for the Cards and became yet another Cards first round disappointment.
Nice story on the Packers 1958 draft which included their 6th round pick Ken Gray. Gray was the last player cut by the Packers and would sign as a free agent with the Big Red where he would go on to an All Pro career.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about the greatest draft class the Green Bay Packers ever had in their history.
That would be the 1958 draft class. In the first round, the Packers selected Dan Currie. In the second round, the Packers selected Jim Taylor. In the third round, they selected Ray Nitschke, and in the fourth round Jerry Kramer.
All four of those players had excellent careers in the NFL, with two of them (Taylor and Nitschke) getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In my opinion, Kramer should most definitely be in Canton as well.
Currie was named All-Pro three times and was selected to one Pro Bowl.
Taylor was named All-Pro six times and went to the Pro Bowl five times, plus was named NFL MVP in 1962.
Nitschke was named All-Pro six times and for some reason only went to one Pro Bowl. No…
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. 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.
30. 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.
29. 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 in St. Louis.
28. 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.