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 1966 Draft, which was held on November 27, 1965, in New York.
Since 1966 was the last year the NFL Draft had 20 rounds, this seems like a good point to stop and evaluate the Cardinals’ drafts from 1960 (their first season in St. Louis) to 1966. In those seven drafts, the Big Red selected 151 players. According to our player ratings, based on what those players contributed to the Cardinals, this is the breakdown:
To say the Cardinals underachieved in those seven drafts would be generous.
In 1966—just like the year before, when they selected quarterback Joe Namath—the Cardinals lost their No. 1 pick in a bidding war with the AFL’s New York Jets. St. Louis chose Oklahoma linebacker Carl McAdams with the eighth overall pick.
While the Big Red offensive line of the 1970s gets all the glory, the front five of the 1960s Cardinals was just as good and may have been better. Bob DeMarco, Irv Goode, Ken Gray, Ernie McMillan, and Bob Reynolds combined for 19 Pro Bowls from 1961-1970.
The 6′-6, 265-pound Reynolds was the Cards second round draft choice in 1963 out of Bowling Green where he was a two-time all-conference selection. He started his first training camp on defense, but was moved to left tackle after a string of injuries on the offensive line.
Big Red line coach Ray Prochaska believed Reynolds had the tools to succeed on the offensive line.
“He seems to know what pass protection is about. He knows the footwork pretty well and knowing this is three-fourths of the task.”
Reynolds had another reason for the move to offense
“I didn’t feel I was good enough to be a defensive tackle,” he told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1970. “All the way up to pro ball I was always bigger than most players. I may have loafed. I had the tendency to take it easy. In college all I knew about defense was to overpower everybody.”
Reynolds told Meyers that he became convinced that mental preparation was the most important factor of playing on the offensive line.
“That is how you beat your opponent,” he said. “Better shape? No, you beat him because you’ve prepared yourself more than he has. Strength? No, you beat him because you prepared yourself more.”
Bill Bidwill called him “one of the great defensive players we had.”
Dale Meinert was a three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker with the Cardinals from 1958-1967. He was a college star at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1955. But instead of playing in the NFL, the Lone Wolf, Oklahoma native decided to play in the CFL for Frank “Pop” Ivy and the Edmonton Eskimos, where he won a Grey Cup Championship.
In1958, after spending a couple of years in the Air Force, Meinert rejoined Pop Ivy with the NFL Chicago Cardinals. He played offensive line his first two seasons, but defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis converted him to linebacker in 1960.
“I guess they figured I wasn’t big enough to play guard,” the 215 pound Meinert said in Bob Burnes book Big Red, “and I sort of agreed with them because those defensive tackles kept looking bigger and bigger.”
It was a decision the Cardinals and Meinert would not regret. The tall rangy linebacker intercepted a pass in his first start against the Rams in 1960 and quickly developed into an aggressive tackler and pass defender. He was named team MVP in 1961 and earned Pro Bowl selections in 1963, 1965, and 1967. He did a brilliant job quarterbacking the Big Red defense and calling all the plays.