The 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington is the biggest off-season event in football, and tens of thousands of fans will be gathered at AT&T Stadium April 26th-28th to see the league’s newest stars.  With so much history and drama associated with the Draft, it’s fun to learn about the history of the event. 

Here are some weird-but-fun facts that will make you sound smart when you’re talking about the Draft with friends & family. 

1. The First Player Ever Drafted in NFL History Never Played Pro Football

In 1936, the Philadelphia Eagles made Jay Berwanger, halfback from University of Chicago, the first overall selection of the very first draft in NFL history.  But the Eagles didn’t want to meet his salary demand of $1,000 per game, so they traded him to the Chicago Bears.  Meanwhile, Berwanger didn’t want to sign with a pro team; he wanted to remain an ‘amateur’ athlete so he could compete in the decathlon in the 1936 Summer Olympics.  Berwanger, however, didn’t make the final cut for the Olympics, so he was ready to play football…for $15,000 a year.  The Bears would only offer $13,500.  

Berwanger never played pro football.  He stayed in the Chicago area and worked at a rubber company.  He also coached part-time at his college alma mater.  He lived to be 88 years old.  He holds a place in NFL history as the first player drafted, but he’s not on any stat sheets because he never played a down of pro ball.

2. When this year’s NFL Draft takes place, there will be 7 rounds: Round 1 on Thursday night; Rounds 2&3 on Friday night; and Rounds 3-7 on Saturday afternoon. 

The number of rounds of the draft has decreased over the years.  In the 1940’s, there were as many as 32 rounds!  By the 1950’s, there were 30 rounds.  In the 1960’s, there were 20 rounds, but the number would decrease to 17 by 1967.  In 1977, the NFL reduced the number of rounds to 12.  In 1993, it was 8 rounds. 

In 1994, the current format of 7 rounds was adopted.  That was the same year in which the Dallas Cowboys selected future Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen in the 2nd round from tiny Sonoma State.  Allen would become a member of the NFL All Decade Team for both the 1990s and 2000s.

3. Who is ‘Mr. Irrelevant’?

A total of 256 players will be selected in this year’s draft.  The last player selected has come to be known as ‘Mr. Irrelevant’.  The tradition of calling the last pick ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ dates back to 1976 and a wide receiver from University of Day named Kelvin Kirk who didn’t make the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, but had a long career in the Canadian Football League.

Sometimes the guys who are drafted dead-last actually make the team.  Ryan Succop has been a kicker in the NFL 9 seasons; he was the final pick of the 2009 Draft.

Quarterback Chad Kelly of Ole Miss was last year’s ‘Mr. Irrelevant’.  You may not know about him, but you’ve probably heard of his famous uncle:  Buffalo Bills’ Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly!

4. The Cowboys hold the 19th overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft.   Only once in team history have the Cowboys selected a player with the 19th overall pick, but it wasn’t in the 1st round. 

In 1965, the 19th pick was in the 2nd round.  That’s because the NFL had only 14 teams.  The Cowboys held the 5th overall pick in the 1st round and selected QB Craig Morton from the University of California.  They held the 5th pick in the 2nd round (#19 overall) and selected Malcolm Walker from Rice University.  Walker played offense (center) and defense (linebacker) in college.  With the Cowboys, he played five seasons at center.  In 1970 he was traded to the Green Bay Packers for Herb Adderley, a Hall of Fame quarterback.

5. Arlington is one of eight cities to ever host the NFL Draft (and definitely the southern-most city to host the event).   

The eight cities (and the years they hosted) include:

1. Philadelphia (1936, 1944, 1949-61, 2017)

2. New York (1937, 1939, 1944-45, 1947, 1952, 1955, 1965-2014)

3. Chicago (1938, 1942-43, 1951, 1962-64, 2015-16)

4. Milwaukee (1940)

5. Washington, DC (1941)

6. Pittsburgh (1948-49)

7. Los Angeles (1956)

8.  Arlington (2018)

This spring’s event in Arlington is also the first time the draft is being held inside an NFL stadium.  Previous venues include hotel ballrooms, public parks, arenas (like Madison Square Garden), and famous theatres (Radio City Music Hall in NYC).