Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; General view of the NFL logo on the goal post pad before the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL Draft is a guessing game for anyone except those in the war rooms of the 32 teams making up the National Football League.
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Roughly 224 players coming out of college will be drafted this weekend through seven rounds of the process. For that man that is drafted very last in the seventh round, he becomes infamously known as “Mr. Irrelevant.”
If you are unfamiliar with the award bestowed on the last man standing in the NFL draft, Mr. Irrelevant began in 1976 when a former NFL player named Paul Salata who came to the league from the University of Southern California created the event in Newport Beach, California.
Since its inception that year, Salata has been the announcer proclaiming the last pick in the draft for every year since. Salata has missed only one year and that was at last year’s draft.
Being the very last selection in the process has its perks. The player is invited for a week-long celebration in Newport Beach that includes a golf tournament, a regatta, a roast, and the presentation of what is called the “Lowsman Trophy.” The statue is of a football player fumbling away a football. While some players and teams enjoy the notoriety surrounding Mr. Irrelevant, others do not find it so humorous.
The very first man to be honored and picked last in 1976 was Kelvin Kirk ironically by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, three years later, the Los Angeles Rams attempted to hand off their final pick of the draft to Pittsburgh who was selecting just before them. But Pittsburgh refused to make the league’s final pick and deferred back to the Rams.
Los Angeles wanted no part of that and the attempt went back and forth until Commissioner Pete Rozelle stepped in and forced the Steelers to make the last pick. He also created a subsequent ruling which is now known as the “Salata Rule” preventing teams from deferring the league’s final pick in the draft.
Pittsburgh made the final pick that year and chose Mike Almond, a wide receiver from Northwestern State. Almond never made it past his rookie training camp as Pittsburgh released him before the season began and he never played a down in the NFL.
For the record, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had the league’s final pick five times including 1979 and the other four were: Mort Landsberg (1941), Stan Hegener (1975), Kelvin Kirk (1976), and Tyrone McGriff (1980).
Focusing on just who the Steelers will pick in the first round on April 30, some of the experts provide their opinion on just who that will be for the Steelers.
NFL.com – (Daniel Jermiah, Charles Davis, Charley Casserly, Lance Zierlein, Bucky Brooks, Brian Baldinger): Jeremiah and Casserly are the odd men out when reaching a consensus. All the other experts believe Marcus Peters, a cornerback from the University of Washington will be Pittsburgh’s first overall selection.
The two standouts are predicting a first round pick of Byron Jones, cornerback from the University of Connecticut (Jeremiah) and Kevin Johnson, same position from Wake Forest.
Peter King, SI.com: Kevin Johnson.
Todd McShay, ESPN: Outside linebacker Bud Dupree, Kentucky.
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Kevin Johnson
CBS Sports – (Rob Rang, Dane Brugler, Pete Prisco, Will Brinson): Rang says it will be Eric Rowe, cornerback from Utah with the Steelers first pick while Brugler and Prisco are predicting Marcus Peters as the selection. Brinson likes Kevin Johnson as the choice.
Walter Report.com – (Walter Cherepinsky): Randy Gregory, defensive end/outside linebacker-Nebraska.
SBNation.com – These prognosticators see the Steelers taking Trae Waynes, cornerback from Michigan State.
Who’s mock will be the most accurate? The Steelers have always let it be known that while they have players they target, if those men aren’t available when it comes time for Pittsburgh to be on the clock, they will go with the “best available athlete.”
It’s a theory that has worked well for them as evident with some of the success they’ve found in picks made after the first round. How about Lambert as an example? The great Mel Blount lasted until the third round. John Stallworth was waiting for a phone call until the fourth round of the 1974 draft. A round later that year the Steelers found Mike Webster.
More recently, Antonio Brown who has evolved into one of the best wide receivers in the league was bypassed by teams until the Steelers selected him in the sixth round. Then there are the failures:
Jamain Stephens, offensive lineman (round one/1996)
Huey Richardson, linebacker/defensive lineman (round one/1991)
Tim Worley, running back (round one/1989)
Limas Sweed, wide receiver (round two/2008)