Draft Day Minus 8: Jackie Slater is the 8th Best Draft Pick Ever

The apprenticeship of Jackie Slater, three seasons and only one start.

It used to be that quarterbacks were drafted, even in the first round, for the purpose of serving a two-or-three year apprenticeship before they were allowed to start. All other position players were expected to step on the field immediately and learn on the job. If an offensive lineman or a linebacker wasn’t good enough to start from the start, either the teams were so talent-laden that the draft pick couldn’t crack the starting lineup, or the team made a mistake. Today, even quarterbacks taken early are expected to walk on the field immediately and be at least decent. In Chicago, the Bears drafted Mitchell Trubisky with the second pick, and I marveled at the number of professional critics and fans who started writing Trubisky off almost immediately. As he enters his third season Trubisky seems to be getting better and growing into the role of great, or at least very good, NFL quarterback. The final judgment has yet to be made, but people already know Trubisky is better than JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf.

Today’s addition to the list of great draft picks, Jackie Slater, started only one game in his first three years. As a third-round pick, Slater joined the Rams as a project, but how often do projects end up in Canton? By the time he retired Slater appeared in two hundred fifty-nine games but started in “only” two hundred fourteen of them. He served a three-year apprenticeship before becoming a dominant offensive tackle. Most all-time greats are great from the get-go, but works-in-progress usually plateau at a level of goodness, but not really greatness. The Bears’ current starting left tackle, Charles Leno, was a seventh-round project who evolved into a damn good left tackle, the natural course of things.

I wonder how many three-year projects rose in performance to the point they were Canton-caliber.  Any names offered would be appreciated.

Rank N/Y Team Last Name First Name P College PTS AY DY AG DG SB1 SB2 SB3 SB4 HOF ADCS
8 8676 Los Angeles Slater Jackie OG Jackson State 5 20 20 259 259 1 0 0 0 50 614
9 1700 Oakland Janikowski Sebastian KK Florida State 1 18 17 284 268 1 0 0 0 0 589
10 185 Buffalo Smith Bruce DE Virginia Tech 1 19 15 279 217 1 1 1 1 50 585
11 688 Los Angeles Brown Tim WR Notre Dame 1 17 16 255 240 1 0 0 0 50 580
12 2696 Baltimore Lewis Ray LB Miami (FL) 2 17 17 228 228 17 17 0 0 50 576
13 2783 Miami Marino Dan QB Pittsburgh 2 17 17 242 242 1 0 0 0 50 571
14 1880 Washington Monk Art WR Syracuse 1 16 14 224 205 16 1 16 16 50 559
15 1790 Dallas Smith Emmitt RB Florida 1 15 13 226 201 15 15 15 0 50 551
16 1278 Cleveland Matthews Clay LB USC 1 19 16 278 232 0 0 0 0 0 546
16 590 San Diego Seau Junior LB USC 1 19 13 261 200 1 1 0 0 50 546
16 1767 Oakland Upshaw Gene OT Texas A & I 1 15 15 217 217 1 15 15 0 50 546
19 8685 Buffalo Reed Andre WR Kutztown State 5 16 15 234 221 1 1 1 1 50 545
19 4093 New York Strahan Michael DE Texas Southern 2 15 15 216 216 1 15 15 0 50 545
21 4169 Atlanta Van Note Jeff OC Kentucky 14 18 18 246 246 0 0 0 0 0 542
22 2895 Tampa Bay Brooks Derrick LB Florida State 2 14 14 224 224 14 0 0 0 50 542
23 198 Indianapolis Manning Peyton QB Tennessee 1 17 14 265 208 17 1 1 17 0 541
24 1397 Kansas City Gonzalez Tony TE California 1 17 12 270 190 0 0 0 0 50 540
25 7093 Denver Elam Jason PT Hawaii 4 16 14 252 220 16 16 0 0 0 538
26 1378 Atlanta Kenn Mike OT Michigan 1 17 17 251 251 0 0 0 0 0 537
26 5370 Pittsburgh Blount Mel DB Southern (LA) 3 14 14 200 200 14 14 14 14 50 537
28 2373 Oakland Guy Ray PT Southern Mississippi 2 14 14 207 207 14 14 14 0 50 536
29 6697 Tampa Bay Barber Ronde DB Virginia 4 16 16 241 241 16 0 0 0 0 534
30 18998 Chicago Mannelly Patrick OT Duke 10 16 16 245 245 1 0 0 0 0 533
31 14200 Oakland Lechler Shane PT Texas A&M 8 18 13 286 206 1 0 0 0 0 532
32 7968 Oakland Shell Art OT Maryland-Eastern Shore 4 15 15 207 207 15 15 0 0 50 528
33 28979 Washington Coleman Monte LB Central Arkansas 15 16 16 215 215 16 1 16 16 0 526
34 5181 New Orleans Jackson Rickey LB Pittsburgh 3 15 13 227 195 15 0 0 0 50 518
35 275 Dallas White Randy DT Maryland 1 14 14 209 209 1 14 1 0 50 513
36 6903 Dallas Witten Jason TE Tennessee 4 15 15 239 239 0 0 0 0 0 512
37 1003 Baltimore Suggs Terrell DE Arizona State 1 16 16 229 229 16 0 0 0 0 507
38 7668 Houston Bethea Elvin OT North Carolina A&T 4 16 16 210 210 0 0 0 0 50 506
39 8379 San Francisco Montana Joe QB Notre Dame 5 15 13 192 167 15 15 15 15 50 502
40 304 Arizona Fitzgerald Larry WR Pittsburgh 1 15 15 234 234 1 0 0 0 0 500
41 174 Dallas Jones Ed DE Tennessee State 1 15 15 224 224 1 15 1 0 0 496
41 9298 Pittsburgh Ward Hines WR Georgia 5 14 14 217 217 14 14 1 0 0 496
43 1104 Pittsburgh Roethlisberger Ben QB Miami (OH) 1 15 15 216 216 15 15 1 0 0 494
44 469 Pittsburgh Greene Joe DT North Texas 1 13 13 181 181 13 13 13 13 50 491
45 168 Minnesota Yary Ron OT USC 1 15 14 207 199 1 1 1 1 50 490
46 10072 Oakland Dalby Dave OC UCLA 5 14 14 205 205 14 14 14 0 0 485
47 2071 Los Angeles Youngblood Jack DE Florida 1 14 14 202 202 1 0 0 0 50 484
48 4694 Dallas Allen Larry OG Sonoma State 3 14 13 203 187 13 0 0 0 50 483
48 16680 Detroit Murray Eddie KK Tulane 9 19 12 250 174 19 0 0 0 0 483
50 3280 Baltimore Donaldson Ray OC Georgia 2 17 12 244 184 17 0 0 0 0 476
51 30267 New York J Rasmussen Randy OG Nebraska-Kearney 16 15 15 207 207 15 0 0 0 0 475
52 685 Detroit Brown Lomas OT Florida 1 18 10 263 164 18 0 0 0 0 474
53 2378 Cleveland Newsome Ozzie TE Alabama 2 13 13 198 198 0 0 0 0 50 474
54 170 Pittsburgh Bradshaw Terry QB Louisiana Tech 1 14 14 168 168 14 14 14 14 50 471
55 475 Chicago Payton Walter RB Jackson State 1 13 13 190 190 13 0 0 0 50 470
56 5001 Detroit Raiola Dominic OC Nebraska 3 14 14 219 219 0 0 0 0 0 469
56 8274 Pittsburgh Stallworth John WR Alabama A&M 5 14 14 165 165 14 14 14 14 50 469

 

Key:

Rank:     Where the player ranks among all draft picks taken in the Super Bowl era.

N/Y:       The draft pick number and year. Jackie Slater was the 86th pick taken in 1976 (8676).

Team:

Player:

Pos:       Position

School:

PTS:       All picks chosen between 1 and 20 gain the team one point if the player makes the team.  Every twenty picks add one more point. Los Angeles earned 5 points because they took Slater 17th.

DY:         All years played for the team that drafted the player.

AG:        All games played in the NFL.

DG:        All games played for the team that drafted the player.

SB1:       Every time a player wins a Super Bowl ring, the team gets one point for every year of that player’s NFL service.  The Rams scored 1 point because Slater played in and lost 1 Super Bowl.  Since Tom Brady played in nine Super Bowls, his chart goes from SB1 to SB9.

HOF:      The team earns 50 points if their pick makes the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

ADCS:    The total points a team earned for choosing a given player. If the draft pick never plays in the NFL, the team scores a zero. 7 other players earned as high or higher scores than Jackie Slater.

 

*The actual draft score belongs to the team that drafted the player. Even though Eli Manning won two Super Bowls with the Giants, he was actually drafted by the Chargers, so the Chargers get the credit for drafting him. If Manning achieved his career in a Chargers’ uniform, San Diego/Los Angeles would have gotten a higher score for drafting him.

The Answer to today’s trivia question. Only 7 players drafted in the Super Bowl era played in fewer than 120 games and still entered the PFHOF. Who are they?

Rank First Name Last Name Games Started
1 Terrell Davis 78 77
2 Kenny Easley 89 87
3 Kellen Winslow 109 94
4 Dwight Stephenson 114 87
5 Earl Campbell 115 102
6 Lynn Swann 116 96
7 Floyd Little 117 105

 

 

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