Days of Futures Past

For over a decade, the NFL draft has been open to college juniors who formally declare their eligibility for it. However, there was another period when underclassmen were eligible to be drafted as “Futures” even if they still had college eligibility as long as their original college class had graduated. These were players who either were “redshirted” in college or had interrupted their college careers for military service. From 1949 through 1966, future picks were a regular part of the NFL draft and even were used in the first round at least twice (Dick Bass by the Rams in 1959 and Donny Anderson by the Packers in 1965). The American Football League also engaged in futures picks, and even conducted separate Redshirt Drafts in 1965 and 1966. The practice of futures picks was discontinued when the NFL-AFL merger brought about the combined draft in 1967.

Using the wonderful Packers History web site linked on the right column of this blog, I compiled a list of the 70 underclassmen selected by the Packers in that time period. I also included Stan Heath, who was drafted in the 25th round of the 1948 draft and then again in the first round the following year by Curly Lambeau. The 1948 selection was voided by the league because Heath was not eligible for the draft.

Green Bay began selecting futures in 1953, and Packers’ futures picks were made by Jack Vainisi from 1953-59 and by Vince Lombardi from 1960-66. Vainisi used 32 of his 219 picks in those drafts (14.6%) on futures. By far, his first futures’ choice, versatile back Joe Johnson of Boston College, was his best. The only other futures pick to make the team in Vainisi’s tenure was tackle Bill Lucky, but Lucky’s selection was voided by the league because his class had not graduate. Lucky was then selected by the Browns the following year and dealt to Green Bay in 1955.

Jack even selected three sophomores in 1958. One of those players, Dave Crowell, had interrupted his college years to serve in the military; presumably the situation was similar with the other two as well. Only two other of Vainisi’s futures ever played pro ball, Mike Hudock in the AFL and Ed Sullivan in the CFL. Vainisi, though, never picked a future higher than 110, and his average futures pick was 227.

Vince Lombardi made greater use of the futures system in his time. 37 of Vince’s 156 picks from 1960-66 were futures (23.7%). Moreover, Lombardi used futures much earlier in the draft than Vainisi. Lombardi chose 15 futures higher than Vainisi’s high point of pick 110. Futures picks allowed Lombardi to get a jump on some players who would not be available when the late-picking Packers turns came. Of Vince’s 37 futures picks, seven played for Green Bay, two made the Packers’ taxi squad, eight played elsewhere in the NFL or AFL and two played in Canada.

Lombardi’s best two futures picks were consecutive Packer picks. Bill Curry was Green Bay’s 20th round pick in 1964 and Donny Anderson was the team’s first round pick in 1965. Lombardi was also competing with the AFL in those years, so he missed out on a couple of good players like Paul Costa and Jim Harvey who signed instead with the rival league. Vince also missed out on Buck Buchanan, who he mistakenly selected as a future in 1962 only to have the pick voided by the league.

The following table lists the Packers’ futures picks and the relevant information about them:

Drafted Round Pick # Player Pos. College As Pro AFL Draft Notes
1948 25 231 Stan Heath QB Nevada-Reno GB voided
1953 11 127 Joe Johnson HB Boston College GB
1953 13 151 Bob Orders C West Virginia
1953 12 139 Dick Curran HB Arizona State
1953 14 163 Charles Wrenn T TCU
1953 19 223 Bill Lucky T Baylor GB voided
1953 26 307 George  Bozanic HB USC
1954 26 303 Ralph Baierl T Maryland
1955 10 113 George Rogers T Michigan
1955 17 197 Ed Beightol QB Maryland
1955 21 245 Lavell Isbell T Houston
1955 22 257 Bill Brunner FB Arkansas Tech
1955 23 269 Elton Shaw T LSU
1955 30 352 Bob Saia FB Tulane
1956 11 128 Mike Hudock C Miami AFL
1956 19 224 Ken Vakey E Texas Tech
1956 20 236 Clyde Letbetter G Baylor
1956 23 272 Jesse Birchfield G Duke
1957 12 135 Ed Sullivan C Notre Dame CFL
1957 17 196 Don Boudreaux T Houston
1957 25 292 Jerry Johnson T St. Norbert
1957 28 327 Dave Herbold G Minnesota
1957 29 340 Howard Dare HB Maryland
1958 10 110 Carl Johnson T Illinois
1958 15 171 Tom Newell HB Drake
1958 16 186 Arley Finley T Georgia Tech
1958 23 267 Jack Ashton G South Carolina Soph
1958 24 278 John Jereck T Detroit Soph
1958 28 326 Dave Crowell G Washington State Soph
1959 13 145 Jim Hurd FB Albion
1959 20 229 Chuck Sample FB Arkansas
1959 23 265 Orville Lawyer T Lewis & Clark
1959 26 301 Ken Higginbotham E Trinity
1960 9 101 Frank Brixius T Minnesota Chargers
1960 16 185 John Littlejohn HB Kansas State
1961 4 54 Paul Dudley HB Arkansas NFL Chargers
1961 12 166 John Denvir T Colorado AFL Chargers
1961 15 208 Ray Lardani T Miami Patriots
1962 5 65 Chuck Morris HB Mississippi Titans
1962 8 112 James Tulis HB Florida A&M Patriots
1962 11 154 Jim Thrush E Xavier Texans
1962 16 224 James Field DB LSU
1962 17 238 Buck Buchanan QB Grambling voided
1963 3 29 Dennis Claridge G Nebraska GB Raiders
1963 5 63 Jack Cvercko E Northwestern Chargers
1963 6 76 John Simmons LB Tulsa CFL Bills
1963 7 98 Turnley Todd T Virginia Chiefs
1963 9 126 Bill Freeman T Missouri Southern
1963 13 182 Bill Kellam LB Tulane
1963 15 210 Gene Breen HB Virginia Tech GB Chargers
1963 19 266 Herman Hamp E Fresno State Chargers
1964 4 55 Paul Costa T Notre Dame AFL Chiefs
1964 7 97 Dick Herzing FB Drake Broncos
1964 10 139 Allen Jacobs T Utah GB Bills
1964 15 209 Alex Zenko HB Kent State Oilers
1964 16 233 Andrew Ireland C Utah
1964 20 279 Bill Curry HB Georgia Tech GB Raiders
1965 1 7 Donny Anderson G Texas Tech GB Oilers
1965 5 59 Jim Harvey E Mississippi AFL Raiders
1965 8 108 Mike Shinn DT Kansas Oilers
1965 11 150 Jim Weatherwax G Cal State – LA GB Chargers
1965 13 178 Roy Schmidt LB Long Beach State NFL Patriots GB taxi
1965 16 220 Phil Vandersea E Massachusetts GB Broncos
1965 18 248 Jeff White T Texas Tech Chargers GB taxi
1965 19 262 Len Sears T South Carolina Oilers
1966 2 30 Tom Cichowski T Maryland AFL Raiders
1966 4 62 John Roderick E SMU AFL Dolphins
1966 7 108 Roy Miller E Idaho CFL Jets
1966 12 184 Jim Mankins FB Flroida State NFL Dolphins
1966 13 198 Ed King LB USC Bills

1954bjjohnson3  1962tpdudley

1964ppcosta  1965pjharvey

1966pjwhite2  1966prschmidt2

Dudley, Harvey and Schmidt custom cards are colorized.

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