The mid to late 1970s was an era dominated by teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Minnesota Vikings. 1977 itself saw the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys put up the two best records in the NFL, each finishing 12-2 in the regular season. Those two teams would successfully navigate through the playoffs and meet in the Super Bowl that year with Dallas winning by the score of 27-10.
The NFL Draft for 1977 saw a number of notable and even great players join the league from the college ranks.
The 1977 NFL Draft was not considered a strong year for quarterbacks coming out of college. This was not unusual for the time either as both the 1976 and 1978 drafts were also not quarterback rich. The St. Louis Cardinals chose the first quarterback, using the 19th pick overall to select Steve Pisarkiewicz out of Missouri. Pisarkiewicz would only play three seasons in the league, two with St. Louis and a final season as a backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. The only other quarterback taken in the first round of the 1977 NFL Draft was Rice University’s Tommy Kramer by the Minnesota Vikings. Kramer would have a decent career playing 13 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings as both a starter and a reserve. He would go 54-56 as a starting quarterback, throw for more than 24,000 yards, and throw 159 touchdown passes in his career. In 1986, Kramer would lead the league in the quarterback rating category with a 92.6. The Chicago Bears used their 6th round pick to take quarterback Vince Evans out of USC. Evans would have a long career playing for the Bears and the Oakland Raiders in a mostly backup role. He did get significant time as a starting quarterback for the Bears during the 1980 and 1981 seasons, going 11-15 in games he started. Evans also played in the mid 1980s United States Football League for both the Chicago Blitz and the Denver Gold. The most productive quarterback taken in the 1977 NFL Draft though was picked by Dallas in the 10th round. Out of San Jose State, the Cowboys selected Steve DeBerg. DeBerg wouldn’t see the field with the Cowboys but would put together a 17 year career in the NFL. Over the course of his career he played for the 49ers, Broncos, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Dolphins, and Falcons. He retired following the 1993 season at the age of 39, but amazingly came out of retirement in 1998, five years later at the age of 44, for one season with the Atlanta Falcons and served as their backup quarterback in the Super Bowl.
Other quarterbacks drafted in 1977 that experienced some modest success in the NFL include Vince Ferragamo by the Rams in the 4th round, David Whitehurst by the Packers in the 8th round, and Cliff Stoudt by the Steelers in the 5th round. The rest of the quarterbacks selected that year were Glenn Carano by Dallas in the 2nd round, Fred Besana by Buffalo in the 5th round, Randy Dean by the Giants in the 5th round, Cliff Olander by San Diego in the 5th round, Tom Duniven by the Bengals in the 6th round, Randy Hedberg by the Buccaneers in the 8th round, Matt Robinson by the Jets in the 9th round, Steve Mathieson by Detroit in the 9th round, Sam Adkins by Seattle in the 10th round, Mark Vitali by Kansas City in the 10th round, and Mike Cordova by Philadelphia in the 11th round.
The Running Backs
1977 was thought of to be a very strong year for running backs. In fact, running backs were picked with the first and second overall picks of the draft. Tampa Bay started things off by selecting Ricky Bell out of USC with the first pick and they were followed by the Cowboys selecting future Pro Football Hall of Fame member Tony Dorsett with the second pick. Dorsett would go on to rush for 12,739 yards during his career and be thought of as one of the best running backs of his era. Wilbert Montgomery was selected by the Eagles in the 6th round and ended up being the second most productive running back behind Dorsett. Montgomery would play for eight seasons in Philadelphia and one final year in Detroit and put up 6,789 yards and make two Pro Bowl teams during his nine season career. Wendell Tyler was picked by the Rams in the third round and would play six seasons with the team before moving on for his final four seasons with the 49ers. He would also amass over 6,000 yards rushing in his career and he was also named to the Pro Bowl one time. Longtime NFL assistant coach, with experience as a head coach for both the Redskins and the Browns, Terry Robiskie was selected as a running back by the Oakland Raiders in the 8th round out of LSU.
Other notable running backs selected in the 1977 NFL Draft include Pete Johnson by Cincinnati in the 2nd round, Rob Lytle by Denver in the 2nd round, Terdell Middleton by the Rams in the 3rd round, Rob Carpenter by Houston in the 3rd round, Scott Dierking by the Jets in the 4th round. The rest of the running backs selected that year include Tony Reed, Horace Ivory, George Franklin, Sidney Thornton, Ted McNight, Curtis Brown, Rick Kane, Mike Voight, Mark Bailey, Laverne Smith, Nate Simpson, Leroy Harris, Clarence Williams, Tony Benjamin, Larry Barnes, Art Best Andre Herrera, Charlie White, David Sims, Greg Boykin, Jim Van Wagner, Kevin Long, Cleveland Franklin, Calvin Culliver, Fred Williams, Robert Turner, Mike Northington, glen Capriola, Robert Morgan, Jim Culbreath, James Sykes, Nate Jackson, Dave Farmer, Elmo Simmons, Phil Gargis, Bill Deutsch, Dave Preston, and Jim Kelleher.
The first receiver drafted in the 1977 NFL Draft was in fact a tight end, as Mike Cobb of Michigan State was chosen with the 22nd pick of the first round by the Bengals. Cobb would see little action with Cincinnati and find himself in Chicago the next season where he was used in a very limited way. His five year NFL career was over after 1981. The next receiver, and the first actual wide receiver, chosen in the draft would fare dramatically better. Stanley Morgan was chosen in the first round by the New England Patriots and would go on to excel for 13 seasons for the team. He would play one final season for the Colts before retiring following the 1990 season. For three consecutive seasons, from 1979 to 1981, Morgan led the entire NFL in yards per catch. He would finish his career with 557 receptions, 10,716 yards, and 72 touchdowns. He would also make it to the Pro Bowl four times (1979, 1980, 1986, and 1987). Cobb and Morgan were the only two receivers drafted in the first round in 1977.
Wesley Walker was selected by the Jets in the 2nd round and went on to have a very solid career, finishing with more than 8,000 yards receiving. The Cowboys would use a third round pick on wide receiver Tony Hill who would catch 51 touchdown passes during a career in which he became a fan favorite in Dallas. In the 2nd round, the Patriots selected tight end Don Hasselbeck our of Colorado. His sons, Matt and Tim, would both go on to play quarterback in the NFL. In the 11th round, the 49ers drafted a tight end out of BYU that would go on to coach the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory, Brian Billick. Other notable receivers drafted in 1977 include Johnny Perkins in the 2nd round by the Giants Billy Waddy in the 2nd round by the Rams, Jim Smith in the 3rd round by the Steelers, and Emergy Moorehead at tight end by the Giants in the 6th round.
Other tight ends selected in the 1977 NFL Draft include Robin Earl, Rich Walker, Tony Samuels, Ken Moore, Al Dixon, Reggie Haynes, im Corbett, Roosevelt Kelly, Don Petersen, Bill Helms, Don Wardlow, Jimmy Stephens, Jim Stansik, and Scott Levenhagen.
Other wide receivers selected in the 1977 NFL Draft include Randy Burke, Elmo Boyd, John Kimbrough, Luther Blue, Warren Anderson, Larry Seivers, Perry Griggs, Shelton Diggs, Kenny Randle, Gerald Butler, Rich Martini, Ken Smith, Steve Davis, Eddie Foster, Waddell smith, Phil August, Gene H. Washington, Willie Zachery, Larry Mucker, Mike Jones, Billy Ryckman, John Mastronardo, Oren Middlebrook, Jim LeJay, Maurice Mitchell, Charles Nash, Keith Hartwig, Chip Sheffield, Terry Anderson, Alex Percival, and Al Hunter.
Some great players were taken in the 1977 NFL Draft, and many of them went on to contribute greatly to their teams over the course of their career. Some of the big name players chosen in the early rounds of the 1977 NFL Draft that were not mentioned earlier include Jets offensive lineman Marvin Powell, Giants defensive end Gary Jeter, Chiefs defensive back Gary Green, Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe, Patriots defensive back Raymond Clayborn, Steelers linebacker robin Cole, Rams defensive back Nolan Cromwell, Dolphins nose tackle Bob Baumhower, and offensive lineman Charley Hannah who played for the Buccaneers and Raiders. One of the best parts about looking back at a draft and seeing what kind of great players got picked in the middle to late rounds. Some of the best mid to late round selections in the 1977 NFL Draft not mentioned above were Lester Hayes in the 5th round, Joe Klecko in the 6th round, Louis Breeden in the 7th round, Brad Benson and Scott Studwell in the 9th round, Rafael Septien in the 10th round, and Rod Martin in the 12th round.
Interesting facts about the 1977 NFL Draft
-As of 2009, only one player selected in the 1977 NFL Draft has gone on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Tony Dorsett.
-The player drafted in 1977 to play the longest was quarterback Steve DeBerg, though because he was retired from the end of the 1993 season until his comeback in 1998, the player to play the longest from that draft was quarterback Vince Evans, though his NFL career was also interrupted with a stint in the USFL.
-The players drafted in 1977 who were named as First Team All-Pro selections the most were Marvin Powell and Nolan Cromwell, each being honored three times.
-The player drafted in 1977 to go on to score the most touchdowns in the league was Tony Dorsett, though he is followed closely by the player who scored the most receiving touchdowns, Stanley Morgan.
-No player drafted in 1977 played in more games that New England Patriots defensive back Raymond Clayborn who appeared in 208 games during his career, just two more than Steve DeBerg and seven more than Scott Studwell.
-Oakland Raiders great Lester Hayes caught more interceptions, 37 of them (which was also his jersey number), than any other player drafted in 1977.
-The most rushing yards accumulated by a player drafted in 1977 obviously belongs to Hall of Fame member Tony Dorsett. His 12,739 yards are nearly 6,000 ahead of second place Wilbert Montgomery.
-Steve DeBerg, even though he was drafted in the 10th round, has the most completions, attempts, passing yards, and touchdown passes of any quarterback picked in the 1977 NFL Draft.
-Two running backs selected in 1977 threw touchdown passes during their career, Tony Dorsett for the Cowboys and David Sims for the Seahawks.
-The most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback drafted in 1977 belong to Vince Evans who had 14 during his career.
-The running back who caught more touchdown passes than any other running back selected in 1977 is Wendell Tyler who caught 16 touchdown passes during his career.
-No other defensive player picked in 1977 had more sacks during their career than the 55.5 that Ezra Johnson had while playing for Green Bay, Indianapolis, and Houston.
-The college that had the most players drafted into the NFL in 1977 was the University of Southern California with 13. The Trojans taken in the 1977 NFL Draft include Ricky Bell, Vince Evans, Marvin Powell, Dave R. Lewis, Eric D. Williams, Mike Burns, Donnie Hickman, Shelton Diggs, Dave Farmer, Ron Bush, Clint Strozier, Rod Martin, and Gary Jeter. Second place belongs to Colorado who had nine players chosen.