Looking back at the 1996 NFL Draft, 25 years later


Each NFL draft has some drama. Stars are born on that day, and everyone seems to be looking for that large sleeper and keep away from deciding on a bust. And we’ve Mel Kiper Jr. available to inform us who did it proper and who does not know what the draft is for.

So it’s at all times enjoyable to return into the archives and see what a previous draft night time was like. With the 1996 draft hitting its twenty fifth anniversary, it looks as if a superb time to look again at one attention-grabbing night time. The ’96 draft was completely different however produced a number of of the best gamers to ever play their positions. A brand new franchise hit the jackpot through the draft, whereas one other group drafted one of many greatest busts in draft historical past and adopted it up by instantly buying and selling away a future Corridor of Famer.

So let’s look again on the 1996 draft.


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Keyshawn Johnson goes No. 1

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USC’s Keyshawn Johnson was the highest total decide within the 1996 Draft, turning into the primary extensive receiver to go primary total because the Patriots took Nebraska’s Irving Fryer in 1984. It could even be the final time a receiver was picked with the highest choice. Johnson’s rookie season did not go properly because the Jets went 1-15 and held the NFL’s worst file for the second straight yr. His experiences throughout his rookie season can be became the ebook, Simply Give Me The Rattling Ball. Keyshawn would go on to play in three Professional Bowls and received Tremendous Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


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Ozzie Newsome nails Ravens’ first ever draft

Ozzie Newsome nails Ravens' first ever draft

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The NFL’s “latest” franchise in 1996 was the Baltimore Ravens. Although the whole group left Cleveland for Baltimore, the NFL saved the Browns’ historical past for a brand new Cleveland franchise (they even fired their coach, a man named Invoice Belichick). The Ravens had two first-round picks of their preliminary draft and made historical past by turning into the one franchise to draft two Corridor of Famers within the first spherical. With the 4th total decide, GM Ozzie Newsome chosen UCLA sort out, Jonathan Ogden. Ogden can be chosen to 11 Professional Bowls throughout his 12 NFL seasons and is considered among the finest offensive tackles to ever play the sport.

Talking of best to ever play the sport, with the twenty sixth decide within the first spherical, Newsome drafted linebacker Ray Lewis from Miami. Lewis is likely one of the greatest linebackers ever, going to 13 Professional Bowls, successful two Tremendous Bowls, a Tremendous Bowl MVP award, and was a frontrunner for one of many best defenses in league historical past. 


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5 Corridor of Famers chosen

Five Hall of Famers selected

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Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis weren’t the one Corridor of Famers that heard their identify on draft night time. Marvin Harrison, Brian Dawkins, and Terrell Owens additionally discovered their option to Canton. Harrison went nineteenth total to the Colts, and he can be paired with 1998 total No. 1 decide Peyton Manning to kind among the finest quarterback-receiver duos in NFL historical past. Dawkins was chosen with the ultimate decide of the second spherical and would earn 9 Professional Bowl bids with the Eagles and Broncos. The 49ers chosen Chattanooga’s Terrell Owens within the third spherical (89th total). T.O. would end his profession — which is thought extra for the drama that surrounded him — third in receiving yards and touchdowns


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Adam Vinatieri went undrafted

Adam Vinatieri went undrafted

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One other sure-fire Corridor of Famer from the category of ’96 is kicker Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri, who performed school at South Dakota State, wasn’t drafted however signed as a free agent by the New England Patriots. There he would play for ten seasons, successful three Tremendous Bowls and coming via with a few of the most clutch kicks in NFL historical past. He would win one other Tremendous Bowl with the Colts and would retire because the league’s all-time main scorer in each the common season and postseason. At his retirement on the age of 48, he was the third-oldest participant in league historical past.


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Lawrence Phillips’ troubled life

Lawrence Phillips' troubled life

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Phillips was a rare expertise at Nebraska however had lots of off-field and character points that fearful lots of NFL groups. It did not fear the St. Louis Rams, who used the sixth total decide within the 1996 draft to pick Phillips, regardless of the working again place not being a urgent want for St. Louis (extra on that in a bit). In his 25 video games as a Ram, Phillips carried out (1,265 yards, 12 TDs), however had points on and off the sector that led to the group out of the blue releasing him mid-season. The Dolphins and 49ers gave him an opportunity, however work ethic, substance abuse points, and run-ins with coaches and the regulation compelled him out of the league.

Phillips can be sentenced to 31 years in jail attributable to numerous assaults and theft offenses. Whereas in his jail, he can be charged with the homicide of his cellmate, Damion Soward. A number of months later, Phillips can be present in his cell hung to dying with a “Do Not Resuscitate” word on his chest. 


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Jerome Bettis traded to the Steelers

Jerome Bettis traded to the Steelers

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As soon as the Rams drafted Lawrence Phillips with the No. 6 decide, they traded their present beginning working again … Jerome Bettis … to the Pittsburgh Steelers in one of many worst draft day trades in historical past. Bettis had rushed for two,454 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the 12 months in 1993, however by 1995, Bettis did not match into the model of offense the Rams (who moved to St. Louis) wished to run. The Steelers gave up a second-round and fourth-round decide within the 1997 Draft for Bettis and a third-round decide in 1996. He would rush for over 1,000 yards in his first six seasons with the Steelers and scored 78 touchdowns throughout his time in Pittsburgh. The ultimate sport of his profession was a Tremendous Bowl XL win over the Seahawks in 2006 and can be elected to the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame.

In Bettis’ first season with the Steelers, he rushed for 1,431 yards. Phillips would rush for 1,453 yards for his whole NFL profession.


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Mel Kiper and Joe Theismann get into it

Mel Kiper and Joe Theismann get into it

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ESPN’s draft protection featured Chris Berman as host and Mel Kiper Jr. and Joe Theismann as analysts. One of many clear disagreements that Kiper and Theismann had was over the Rams deciding on Lawrence Phillips with the No. 6 decide. Theismann spent the whole present as much as that time defending Phillips and projecting him to be a particular participant within the NFL. Mel was turned off by his off-field habits and felt that the Rams (who have been overtly looking for a option to commerce as much as draft Phillips) had larger wants than working again and higher gamers have been on the board. After the decide was made, the 2 argued how a lot Phillips’ pink flags would have an effect on his professional profession. This wasn’t as biting as a few of these two different beefs, nevertheless it was very energetic throughout what could be a drawn-out telecast.

Mel closes out the dialogue by saying, “In three years, we’ll look again and see what’s occurred”. Nicely, three years later and it was clear that Theismann was incorrect. 


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Houston Oilers draft a Heisman winner that ended the jinx

Houston Oilers draft a Heisman winner that ended the jinx

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From 1989 to 1994, the Heisman Trophy winner did not precisely tear up the NFL. After 1988 Heisman winner Barry Sanders was drafted in 1989, six consecutive winners — Andre Ware, Ty Detmer, Desmond Howard, Gino Toretta, Charlie Ward, and Rashaan Salaam — did not make a major dent of their NFL careers (Howard would win a Tremendous Bowl MVP whereas Ward went undrafted). That streak ended when the Houston Oilers drafted Ohio State working again Eddie George with the 14th total choice.

George began 128 consecutive video games for the Oilers/Titans (solely Walter Payton began extra consecutive video games at working again), speeding for 10,441 yards and 68 touchdowns in his profession (he additionally caught 10 TD passes). He turned the inspiration for a franchise that was going via a significant — and prolonged — transition. George’s rookie yr was with the Houston Oilers. The subsequent season, they performed in Memphis because the Tennessee Oilers. The next yr, the Oilers performed in Nashville’s Vanderbilt Stadium earlier than lastly settling into their new stadium in Nashville because the Tennessee Titans. 


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Leeland McElroy waited … and waited … and waited

Leeland McElroy waited ... and waited ... and waited

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Operating again Leeland McElroy left Texas A&M after his junior season the place he rushed for 1,122 yards and totaled 16 touchdowns on the yr. McElroy attended the draft in particular person as he was projected to be a first-round draft decide. Nonetheless, damage issues scared some groups and he spent draft night time ready within the inexperienced room. All the first spherical glided by and McElroy nonetheless hadn’t been chosen, marking one of many longest waits for a participant in attendance. Not for much longer, the Arizona Cardinals used the thirty second total decide (which was a second-round decide again then) on McElroy.

There was good purpose he saved getting handed over. McElroy’s profession would final simply two seasons, speeding for simply 729 yards and three touchdowns. The Cardinals would launch him after the 1997 season, and after being minimize in coaching camp by the Buccaneers previous to the 1998 season, he would not play within the NFL once more.

His draft story served as a warning for future gamers who have been trying to be on the draft ready for his or her identify to be known as.


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Joe Horn’s (and his son’s) path to the draft

Joe Horn's (and his son's) path to the draft

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After not being academically eligible to attend South Carolina, Joe Horn performed two seasons at Itawamba Group Faculty, the place he caught simply 54 passes for 878 yards in his profession. Unable to be eligible for a Division I spot when his JUCO profession ended, he went again to his hometown of Fayetteville, NC the place he labored quick meals and manufacturing unit jobs for a few years. He would submit a exercise tape to skilled soccer groups throughout North America and would finally get picked up by the CFL’s Memphis Mad Canine. After a profitable season, Horn can be chosen by the Chiefs within the fifth spherical of the 1996 draft and spent 4 years as a backup receiver.

In 2000, his profession soared when he signed with the Saints. He would grow to be one of many prime receivers within the league, incomes 4 Professional Bowl picks, and was one of many leaders of the franchise and neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina decimated town. His cellular phone celebration in 2003 was a tipping level within the debate over landing celebrations.

Horn is related on this yr’s draft as properly. His son, South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, will possible be a first-round decide within the 2021 draft.  


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One of many worst quarterback courses ever

One of the worst quarterback classes ever

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The 2021 NFL Draft may see 4 quarterbacks chosen with the primary 4 picks, and it’s close to certainty {that a} QB would be the prime total decide for the sixth time within the final seven drafts. Within the 1996 draft, no quarterback was picked within the first spherical — the final time that has occurred. Michigan State’s Tony Banks was the primary QB off the board, going to the Rams with the forty second total decide. Ohio State’s Bobby Hoying can be picked by the Eagles within the third spherical. Northern Arizona’s Jeff Lewis (Broncos) and Florida State’s Danny Kanell (Giants), would go within the 4th spherical whereas Duke’s Spence Fisher (Steelers) and James Madison’s Mike Cawley (Colts) went within the sixth. The ultimate signal-callers to be chosen have been Trinity Worldwide’s Jon Stark (Ravens) and USC’s Kyle Wachholtz (Packers) within the seventh spherical.

Fisher, Cawley, Stark, and Wachholtz would by no means throw an NFL cross. Lewis threw simply 54 passes in his profession. Banks was by far probably the most profitable QB on this draft class (15,315 yds, 77 TDs). Nonetheless, probably the most profitable quarterback wasn’t drafted in any respect. Central Washington’s Jon Kitna would go on to a 17-year NFL profession, the place he began 124 video games (enjoying in 141 complete) and passing for 29,745 yards and 169 touchdowns. 


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However one of many higher extensive receiver courses

But one of the better wide receiver classes

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1996 had a pleasant crop of pass-catchers. We have touched on Keyshawn Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and Joe Horn, however there have been a number of extra strong wideouts that got here from that draft. Terry Glenn, Eric Moulds, Muhsin Muhammad, Amani Toomer, and Eddie Kennison had productive NFL careers with every of them catching over 500 passes.

There was additionally Alex Van Dyke, the Nevada receiver who was picked with the primary decide within the second spherical by the Jets. The decide was soundly booed by Jets followers in attendance since they already used their first decide on a receiver. Van Dyke would solely catch 26 passes in his profession.


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Linebackers have been fairly good, too

Linebackers were pretty good, too

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Ray Lewis is likely one of the greatest linebackers to have ever performed the sport. Zach Thomas made seven Professional Bowl appearances throughout his profession. Tedy Bruschi received three Tremendous Bowl titles with the Patriots. Kevin Hardy, Donnie Edwards, Randall Godfrey, and John Mobley had very profitable careers as properly.


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Late spherical diamonds

Late round diamonds

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Each draft has these late-round sleepers who turn into long-time gamers within the league. Probably the most notable late-round decide within the 1996 draft was the Dolphins’ Zach Thomas. The 154th total decide (fifth spherical) would play 12 seasons for Miami earlier than his closing season in Dallas. The linebacker from Texas Tech was named to the 2000s all-decade group and was the 1996 AFC’s Defensive Rookie of the 12 months.

Stephen Davis can be one of many prime backs for the Redskins and Panthers. Jon Runyan was a long-time beginning sort out for the Oilers and Eagles. Jermaine Lewis’ kickoff return for a landing successfully ended Tremendous Bowl XXXV and giving the Ravens (once more, what a draft by Baltimore) their first championship. La’Roi Glover, Marco Rivera, Fred Miller, and Orpheus Roye additionally performed for a very long time within the league.


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49ers draft twins in the identical spherical

49ers draft twins in the same round

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Typically there’s the sensation that groups aren’t taking the late rounds of the draft very severely. Prospects drafted within the seventh spherical have an extended shot to make the group, so organizations are extra apt to take a flyer on a man in an try to search out the largest diamond within the tough.

The 49ers did that within the seventh spherical of the 1996 draft … twice! With the 239th total decide (thirtieth decide in that spherical), San Francisco drafted tight finish, Sean Manuel, from New Mexico State. Fifteen picks later, the Niners chosen Sam Manuel, a linebacker from New Mexico State. Because of him being the ultimate decide within the draft, Sam turned the most recent particular person to grow to be Mr. Irrelevant. Sean and Sam are twins and have become the primary set of brothers to be drafted by the identical group in the identical draft.

Sean would play 11 video games for the Niners in 1996, catching three passes. Sam was minimize earlier than the season started. 


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The NFL was altering

The NFL was changing

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The NFL in 1996 was a league that was going via lots of adjustments, particularly amongst its membership. The Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars simply accomplished their inaugural seasons and have been trying to construct within the draft (Carolina drafted 4 working backs that yr). The Rams and Raiders performed their first seasons in St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, after each left Los Angeles. The Ravens have been a brand new franchise after Artwork Modell moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and leaving the group’s data and historical past behind. The 1996 season would even be the final for the Houston Oilers, who would transfer to Tennessee the next season.

Unbeknownst on the time, however the NFL would even have a altering of the guard. For the final eight seasons, the 49ers or Cowboys performed within the NFC championship all however as soon as. Additionally, each NFC championship sport had both the 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, or Rams enjoying as much as that time. Within the 25 years since solely 8 occasions had a type of groups performed within the NFC title sport … and the Cowboys and Redskins (now Washington Soccer Group) have not superior that far.

On the flip aspect, the New England Patriots had performed in just one AFC championship sport within the first 26 years of the occasion. Within the 25 years since they have been in 14 title video games and reached 10 Tremendous Bowls.

There was additionally a change in media. In 1994, FOX started broadcasting the NFC video games … knocking CBS out of soccer for the primary time in 38 years. CBS would get again in by out-bidding NBC for the rights to AFC video games in 1998.

Longtime Dolphins head coach Don Shula retired after the 1995 season and was changed with Jimmy Johnson. Johnson had beforehand changed Tom Landry, who was a longtime head coach for the Cowboys. 


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