Big Red Draft History: 1979 NFL Draft

With the NFL kicking off its three-day 2023 Draft, the Big Red Zone continues its series looking back on each of the 28 St. Louis Cardinals drafts (1960-87). This installment focuses on the 1979 Draft, which was held May 3-4 in New York.

The Cardinals struck gold—twice—in the 1979 Draft when they selected running back Ottis Anderson of Miami (Fla.) and defensive back Roy Green of Henderson State, who would become two of the most prodigiously productive offensive players in team history.

The team’s top priority was a running back who had the speed and skills to run outside. In 1978, their top three backs were Jim Otis, Wayne Morris and Steve Jones—all inside power runners who accounted for 1,687 of the team’s 1,954 rushing yards (86 percent). Coach Bud Wilkinson wanted someone with breakaway speed.  

Bill Bidwill welcomes Cards top draft pick O.J. Anderson in 1979.

In the weeks leading up to the Draft, the Big Red brass debated who to target with the team’s first-round pick (eighth overall): Anderson, who rushed for 3,333 yards at Miami, or Charles Alexander, who ran for 4,035 yards at LSU. Their choice of Anderson proved to be the right one.

“We feel that he has the great moves that we’ve been hunting for,” Cardinals personnel director George Boone said. “We haven’t had those in quite a while.” At least since 1977, Terry Metcalf’s last season as a Cardinal.

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