Exploring the Legacy: The 1970 NFL Draft Breakdown

The 1970 NFL Draft marked a pivotal moment in football history, setting the stage for a new era of the sport. With a fresh batch of talent entering the league, teams were eager to snag the next superstar that could change the course of their franchise.

As they delve into the intricacies of this significant event, readers will uncover the draft’s impact on the league’s evolution and how it shaped the careers of notable players. They’ll get to know the top picks who became household names and the hidden gems that surprised everyone.

This article offers a retrospective look at the strategies, outcomes, and the enduring legacy of the 1970 NFL Draft. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or new to the gridiron, there’s a fascinating tale of ambition and achievement waiting to be discovered.

The Significance of the 1970 NFL Draft

The 1970 NFL Draft wasn’t just a selection process; it was a pivotal moment that has since reverberated through the corniche of professional football. As the first draft following the NFL-AFL merger, it symbolized a new era of unity and competition within the sport. Teams now faced a level playing field when it came to acquiring talent, sharply intensifying the stakes involved in each selection.

Strategic Choices made by teams during this draft were driven by the realization that the draft was more than a mechanism for player allocation. It was a statement of intent, a reflection of a team’s philosophy, and a plan for building a championship-winning roster. Teams scoured for a mix of experience and raw talent – and the decisions made at the draft table in 1970 would set the course for the subsequent decade’s football narrative.

Notably, the 1970 draft featured a remarkable class of athletes, many of whom would become sterling contributors on the field and eventually inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These players’ careers cemented the draft’s status as one of the most proficient in sourcing football legends. The top picks were not just individuals with exceptional abilities; they were expected to carry the mantle of their franchises and invigorate the team’s fan base with hope and excitement.

The draft also highlighted the burgeoning importance of in-depth scouting and player analysis. Teams that had invested in meticulous pre-draft evaluations were often more successful in identifying the future stars. This emphasis on scouting has since become a cornerstone of NFL team-building strategy, with an entire industry evolving around predicting and assessing the potential of college football players.

Amid the high-profile choices were Hidden Gems—players whose potential was initially underestimated, but who later emerged as some of the most impactful athletes in the league. Their success stories added an element of surprise to the draft’s unfolding saga and underscored the fact that talent could be found in the most unexpected places.

The 1970 NFL Draft set in motion a transformative period in professional football. Both the celebrated top picks and the unsung heroes from later rounds would carry the narrative of a league that was fundamentally reshaped by the events of that year.

Impact on the Evolution of the NFL

The 1970 NFL Draft didn’t just introduce a class of exceptional athletes; it became a cornerstone for how the league would evolve over the coming decades. With the merge of the AFL and NFL now in full effect, the draft’s strategic landscape shifted dramatically. Teams now had access to a broader pool of talent, forcing them to enhance their scouting methods and competitive strategies.

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This event encouraged a more systemic approach to team building. Front offices were now tasked with a complex puzzle: integrating different playing styles and philosophies into a cohesive unit poised for success. As a result, the methods employed in the 1970 draft became blueprints for the modern recruitment process, emphasizing the need for meticulous player analysis and forward-thinking roster construction.

One of the most profound changes was in player selection processes. Teams learned that simply choosing the best player available wasn’t always the optimal strategy. Instead, drafting for need began to take precedence, a philosophy that would become even more pronounced in subsequent drafts. The significance of understanding a team’s weakness and selecting players to address those specific gaps became clear.

Hidden gems found in later rounds of the draft also exemplified how undervalued diversity in skill-set could lead to a team’s long-term success. These players, often overlooked, brought unique attributes that, when nurtured, contributed to some of the most dynamic and unpredictable gameplay the league had seen.

Statistically, the impact of the 1970 draft is evident in the success rates of its players. Table below showcases the noteworthy number of draftees that had significant careers:

Draft Round Pro Bowlers Hall of Famers
1 14 5
2-7 22 2
8+ 10 1

The 1970 NFL Draft’s influence extends beyond mere numbers. It reshaped the league’s competitive dynamic and injected a level of strategic depth that would echo throughout NFL history. It wasn’t solely about the star athletes; it was also about recognizing the value in every round and every pick, setting the stage for future generations of football.

Notable Players from the 1970 Draft

The 1970 NFL Draft not only pioneered new strategies in team building but also introduced some of the most iconic players in football history. This celebrated class included future Pro Football Hall of Famers, each of whom left an indelible mark on the sport.

Quarterback Terry Bradshaw was the first overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers and later led the team to four Super Bowl victories. His resilience and leadership solidified his status as a legend. Mean Joe Greene, another Steelers pick, redefined the defensive tackle position and was central to the team’s “Steel Curtain” defense.

Running back Larry Csonka charged through defensive lines to secure victories for the Miami Dolphins, playing a pivotal role in their perfect season in 1972. Csonka’s rugged playing style embodied the hard-nosed football of the era. Meanwhile, wide receiver Mel Blount, also selected by the Steelers, set high standards for future defensive backs with his aggressive style and rare athletic ability.

Round Player Team Position Pro Bowls
1 Terry Bradshaw Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback 3
1 Mean Joe Greene Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Tackle 10
1 Larry Csonka Miami Dolphins Running Back 5
3 Mel Blount Pittsburgh Steelers Cornerback 5

Additionally, the draft featured standout players like linebacker Bobby Bell and tight end Dave Casper who may not have garnered immediate spotlight but showed remarkable professionalism and performance throughout their careers.

This draft proved to be critical not only for the acclaimed stars but also for the depth it provided to numerous franchises. These athletes helped shape the direction of the league and perpetuated a standard of excellence that influenced generations to come. As teams approach each draft with a sense of optimism and strategy, the success of the 1970 NFL Draft continues to serve as a benchmark for identifying talent that can alter the trajectory of a franchise.

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Surprising Hidden Gems

Beyond household names, the 1970 NFL Draft was peppered with unexpected talents, dubbed hidden gems. These players, snagged in later rounds, etched significant careers, silently outperforming many higher picks.

Jake Scott, selected in the 7th round by the Miami Dolphins, stands out among these late-round picks. Demonstrating his worth, Scott earned Pro Bowl selections and was a pivotal player in the Dolphins’ perfect season culminating in a Super Bowl victory. His stealthy play resulted in 49 career interceptions, a testament to his aptitude for altering the course of a game.

Similarly, Cliff Harris, an undrafted free safety, made a splash with the Dallas Cowboys. Despite his overlooked status in the draft, Harris quickly became a cornerstone of the Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense,” attending six Pro Bowl games and contributing to two Super Bowl victories.

Player Draft Round Pro Bowl Selections Super Bowl Titles
Jake Scott 7th Multiple Yes
Cliff Harris Undrafted Six Two

Harold Jackson, another late-round marvel, was chosen by the Los Angeles Rams in the 12th round. Jackson’s career spanned 16 years, during which he amassed over 10,000 receiving yards and led the league in receiving yards twice. His accomplishments on the field have earned him a spot among the elite receivers of his era, even though he wasn’t initially recognized on draft day.

Their careers affirm a crucial aspect of NFL drafts: success isn’t solely determined by the round a player is picked but by the grit and talent they bring to the field. These players, alongside many others from the 1970 draft, reshaped teams and inspired a new wave of scouting strategies that looked beyond the obvious choices. Scouts and general managers began digging deeper, seeking the next unheralded athlete capable of NFL stardom.

Strategies and Outcomes of the Draft

In the 1970 NFL Draft, teams deployed various strategies to acquire talent that fit their specific needs. The merger of the NFL and AFL necessitated a unified approach to drafting players, with an emphasis on filling key positions and finding the best possible athlete available, regardless of the college tier they hailed from.

Team strategies often hinged on several factors:

  • Immediate versus long-term needs
  • Best player available (BPA) versus need-based selections
  • Scouting reports and collegiate performance
  • Physical attributes and potential for development

Franchises like the Pittsburgh Steelers made decisions that still resonate in NFL history. They selected Terry Bradshaw first overall, recognizing his potential to mold a strong offensive unit around. Similarly, the selection of Mean Joe Greene significantly bolstered their defense, establishing a foundation for what would become the famed “Steel Curtain.”

On the other end of the spectrum, later rounds of the draft witnessed teams taking calculated risks on players who lacked the limelight but possessed undeniable skills. These selections corroborated the notion that diligent scouting could unearth future All-Pros and Hall of Famers well beyond the first few rounds.

The strategic element was also accompanied by a degree of fortuity, exemplified by the draft’s “hidden gems.” Their success is a testament to teams’ scouting accuracy and the unpredictability intrinsic to the draft process. The following table showcases some key draftees and the outcomes of their selections:

Round Player Team Outcome
1 Terry Bradshaw Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame QB
1 Mean Joe Greene Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame DT
5 Harold Jackson Los Angeles Rams Multi-Pro Bowl WR
7 Jake Scott Miami Dolphins Super Bowl MVP, Safety
13 Cliff Harris Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame Safety

The impact of these players revealed that success in the draft doesn’t solely rest on high profile picks but also hinges on the ability to identify and develop talent across all draft rounds. The blend of strategic drafting and the emergence of overlooked athletes played a pivotal role in shaping the teams that dominated the 1970s NFL landscape.

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The Enduring Legacy of the 1970 NFL Draft

The 1970 NFL Draft didn’t just shape the immediate future of the teams but also left an indelible mark on the league’s history. Players like Terry Bradshaw, who became a key figure for the Pittsburgh Steelers, proved to be instrumental in their dynasty of the 1970s. Mean Joe Greene also emerged as a cornerstone of the “Steel Curtain” defense, rendering the Steelers nearly unassailable on the field.

Success Stories Beyond the First Round

Notably, the draft’s legacy is also tied to the success stories beyond the first round. Players such as Mel Blount and Donnie Shell, both selected by Pittsburgh, went on to be Hall of Famers. These selections portrayed a masterclass in talent evaluation by the Steelers’ scouting department. Their ability to identify high-caliber talent in later rounds became a blueprint for success that other NFL teams strove to replicate.

Impact on NFL Strategy

  • The introduction of the combine
  • Emphasis on rigorous scouting
  • The strategic approach to trading draft picks

The 1970 draft influenced pivotal changes in the league’s approach to evaluating and selecting players. The emphasis on a player’s collegiate performance and psychological preparedness took precedence, thereby leading to the establishment of the NFL Scouting Combine. Teams began to invest more heavily in scouting departments and data analysis to gain an edge in future drafts.

Cultural Influence

The draft class of 1970 transcended beyond the gridiron, influencing popular culture and media portrayals of the sport. Bradshaw’s charisma, coupled with the Steelers’ dominance, heightened football’s allure to a broader audience. The era marked by the players of this draft saw the NFL surge in popularity, solidifying its place as a key component of American culture.

This enduring legacy continues to reverberate, with teams relentlessly pursuing the wisdom and foresight exemplified by the 1970 draft architects. The visionary drafting strategies and the unearthing of diamonds in the rough have left a lasting impression, one that is still studied and emulated by current NFL franchises.


The 1970 NFL Draft remains a defining moment in football history. It set the stage for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dominance and reshaped the NFL’s talent acquisition process. With Hall of Famers like Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene leading the charge, their stories are a testament to the draft’s profound impact. As franchises today continue to refine their scouting and selection methods, they’re building on the foundation laid over five decades ago. The draft’s influence on the league’s popularity and cultural relevance is unmistakable, proving its significance extends far beyond the gridiron.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who were the key players from the 1970 NFL Draft?

The 1970 NFL Draft produced several key players, including Terry Bradshaw and “Mean” Joe Greene, who were instrumental in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ success throughout the 1970s.

How did the 1970 NFL Draft impact the Pittsburgh Steelers?

The draft introduced transformative players like Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene to the Steelers, setting the stage for the team’s dominance in the decade, leading them to multiple Super Bowl victories.

Are there any Hall of Famers from the 1970 NFL Draft?

Yes, the 1970 NFL Draft included future Hall of Famers such as Terry Bradshaw, “Mean” Joe Greene, Mel Blount, and Donnie Shell.

How did the draft change the NFL’s approach to player selection?

The 1970 draft led to changes in player evaluation, prompting the introduction of the NFL combine, and stressing the importance of thorough scouting and data analysis.

What cultural impact did the 1970 draft class have?

The draft class of 1970 contributed to a significant rise in the NFL’s popularity, helping to usher in a new era of professional football and impacting the cultural landscape of the time.

How does the legacy of the 1970 NFL Draft shape current NFL practices?

The enduring legacy of the 1970 NFL Draft continues to influence modern NFL franchises by emphasizing the importance of the draft in building a successful team and refining player evaluation and selection processes.

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