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Gopher Football and the NFL Draft

A look back at Gophers drafted on day 1 of the NFL Draft

Tonight marks the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Today is only the first round and we do not expect any Gophers to be drafted there will be no Gophers drafted tonight. But how about taking a look back at Gophers taken early in the NFL Draft, as well as a review of Dave Winfield being drafted into 4 different leagues.

I went back to the 60s for this little project and mostly kept this to just first round draft picks, with notable names taken after the first.

  • 1962 - Sandy Stephens - 2nd Round (11) - Cleveland Browns

Never actually played a down in the NFL and spent 2 seasons in the CFL.

  • 1963 - Bobby Bell - 2nd Rnd (2) - Kansas City Chiefs

A 2-time All American as a Gopher and Outland Trophy winner was actually a 2nd round draft choice out of college. As a pro he won a Super Bowl, was Defensive Player of the Year (1969) and ended up being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

  • 1964 - Carl Eller - 1st Rnd (6) - Minnesota Vikings

This was the start of a 15-year professional career where he was a 6x Pro Bowler, Defensive Player of the Year (1971), played in 4 Super Bowls and is also in the Hall of Fame.

  • 1966 - Gale Gillingham - 1st Rnd (13) - Green Bay Packers

Two Super Bowl rings for Gillingham and a member of the Packers Hall of Fame after playing Guard for 10 seasons.

  • 1968 - Jon Williams - 1st Rnd (23) - Baltimore Colts

Played for 10 seasons along the offensive line, appearing in 3 Super Bowls.

  • 1968 - Charlie Sanders - 3rd Rnd - Detroit Lions

“Just” a 3rd round pick but an eventual Hall of Famer and a member of the 70’s All Decade Team.

  • 1973 - Dave Winfield - 17th Rnd - Minnesota Vikings

More on Winfield later.

  • 1981 - Marion Barber - 2nd Rnd (2) - New York Jets

Father of Marion Barber Jr. Played for several seasons and recorded 3 NFL touchdowns.

  • 1983 - Karl Mecklenburg - 12th Rnd (3) - Denver Broncos

6-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Broncos Ring of Fame. Also a key player in Tecmo Super Bowl.

  • 1989 - Brian Williams - 1st Rnd (18) - New York Giants

The first 1st rounder since 1968 and Williams played center for the Giants for 10 seasons. Also the father of Maxx Williams.

  • 1990 - Darrell Thompson - 1st Rnd (19) - Green Bay Packers

After dominating Big Ten defenses as a Gopher, Thompson was a 1st round pick for the Packers but never really got going in the NFL with his best season being 654 yards rushing.

  • 2001 - Willie Middlebrooks - 1st Rnd (24) - Denver Broncos

Believe it or not, Glen Mason did have a defensive player or two. Middlebrooks bounced around his 5 seasons between Denver and San Francisco.

  • 2006 - Laurence Maroney - 1st Rnd (21) - New England Patriots

Maroney played 5 seasons in the NFL, being traded to Denver in his final season.

Dave Winfield

Lastly, how is any review of Gophers drafted complete without a tip of the hat to Dave Winfield. The man who many believe is the only player to be drafted into 4 different leagues.

After dominating college baseball, taking the Gophers to the College World Series and earning the Most Outstanding Player award (while not even making it to the championship game), Winfield was taken 4th overall in the 1st round to the San Diego Padres.

But Winfield was also a great basketball player, leading the Gophers to their first Big Ten Championship ship 53 years. He was subsequently drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA.

And last but not least, the Vikings recognized what a tremendous talent Winfield was and took a flier on Winfield in the 17th round of the NFL Draft. Kinda surprised the North Stars didn’t draft him...just in case.

Gophers in the 2019 Draft

Blake Cashman is the Gopher to be mostly likely drafted and will likely go somewhere in the neighborhood of the 4th round. He had a great combine and wowed scouts there after being highly productive as a Gopher. Donnell Green is also a potential draftee, but if he is drafted it will be a late pick.

Future Gopher Draftees

I think the future looks bright for Gophers to be drafted in the coming seasons. Tyler Johnson, Rodney Smith (if healthy), Carter Coughlin, Rashod Bateman, Daniel Falaale, Curtis Dunlap and others are names to watch in the coming years.