1987 NFL Draft: Legacy, Impact, and Unforgettable Moments

The 1987 NFL Draft stands as a pivotal moment in football history, a turning point where legends were made and the fate of franchises was forever altered. It’s a tale of strategic picks and missed opportunities that still sparks debate among fans and analysts alike.

They’ll dive deep into the draft’s most iconic selections, like Hall of Famers Vinny Testaverde and Rod Woodson, and explore the draft-day decisions that shaped the league for years to come. Whether you’re a die-hard football aficionado or a casual fan, the intrigue of the 1987 NFL Draft is undeniable.

So, buckle up for a trip down memory lane as they revisit the highs, the lows, and the what-ifs of this unforgettable draft class. It’s a story that’s as much about the players who became household names as it is about those who quietly shaped the game behind the scenes.

The Significance of the 1987 NFL Draft

The 1987 NFL Draft isn’t just a chapter in sports history; it’s a milestone that redefined team rosters and the overall competitive landscape of the National Football League. That year’s selections were pivotal, providing a rich vein of talent that would shine on the fields of America for over a decade. The draft class contained future Hall of Famers, Super Bowl champions, and perennial all-stars, underscoring the profundity of the event.

Vinny Testaverde, the number one overall pick, was just the beginning of what was to become a star-studded affair. As selections continued, franchises laid the foundations for success. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers secured a promising quarterback, while the Pittsburgh Steelers snagged Rod Woodson, a defensive back who would become a legend in his own right. The importance of astute draft choices was never more apparent, and the decisions made in 1987 would leave indelible marks on the teams and the league.

Looking at the impact that a single draft can have on multiple teams underscores its significance. Strategic picks turned into cornerstone players around whom franchises could build formidable squads. It’s more than just the achievements of these athletes; it’s about the foresight and the scouting that went into unearthing these talents. The 1987 NFL Draft was a showcase of executive insight as much as it was about athletic prowess.

The successes and careers that followed for the draftees require special attention. Not only did this draft produce several individual success stories, but it also reinforced the importance of the draft as a key event in a team’s annual cycle. Teams that had struggled found new hope while successful franchises bolstered their squads further, intensifying the ever-present quest for NFL supremacy.

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By focusing on the breadth and depth of talent this draft brought into the league, one appreciates the long-term planning and vision that is essential for NFL franchises. The ripple effect caused by the 1987 draft choices reached far beyond rookie season performances, shaping the destiny of teams for years to come. It established a blueprint for success through the draft, influencing the strategies of team managers and head coaches.

Exploring the Iconic Selections

The 1987 NFL Draft is renowned for some of the most iconic selections in football history. These players didn’t just make it to the Hall of Fame; they redefined their positions and left indelible marks on the league. Topping the list is cornerback Rod Woodson, selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who became a pinnacle of defensive prowess. Running back Jerome Bettis, another illustrious pick, showcased a blend of speed and power that became a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, picked first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had a mixed career but exhibited longevity, playing for 21 seasons. Wide receiver Cris Carter, chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles, emerged as one of the best pass-catchers of his generation, making the famous proclamation, “All he does is catch touchdowns,” a reality.

The Impact Made by Star Draftees:

  • Rod Woodson:
  • Jerome Bettis:
  • Cris Carter:

These star draftees not only brought immense talent to their respective teams but also fueled a competitive edge that cascaded throughout the NFL. Each game featuring these stalwarts became a masterclass in skill and sportsmanship, attracting fans and inspiring up-and-coming players.

The 1987 draft’s influence on team rosters set the tone for succeeding seasons. For many franchises, the decisions made that year had long-lasting implications, transforming teams into championship contenders and revitalizing stagnant lineups. It wasn’t just about the big names; even those selected in the later rounds contributed significantly to their teams, proving that every round harbored potential game-changers.

The Impact of Draft-Day Decisions

Draft day decisions have a tendency to either make or break a franchise’s future. The 1987 NFL Draft stands as a testament to this statement, with many teams feeling the ripple effect of their choices for years to follow. Selecting the right player can be likened to a masterstroke, leading a team to glory, while a misstep might set a franchise back considerably.

Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted Rod Woodson, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who selected Vinny Testaverde first overall, saw their choices pay dividends on the field. Woodson’s versatility and skill in defense brought a new dimension to the Steelers, while Testaverde’s arm strength added depth to the Buccaneers’ offensive strategy.

The significance of draft selections isn’t limited to first-round picks. It’s in the later rounds where savvy scouts and general managers can find hidden gems that provide immense value. Players who may not have had the spotlight on them coming into the draft often seize the opportunity to prove their mettle. For instance, Cris Carter, taken in the fourth round, went on to have a Hall of Fame career, a striking example of a later-round pick outperforming expectations.

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The draft decisions made in 1987 also highlighted the importance of cohesive team-building. Each selection wasn’t just about the player’s talent but how that individual’s strengths could be harnessed within the team’s existing structure. The Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys made strategic picks that not only addressed immediate needs but also laid the groundwork for their teams’ futures.

Team Notable 1987 Draft Pick Round Impact
Pittsburgh Steelers Rod Woodson 1 Reinforced defense, brought new playmaking capabilities
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Vinny Testaverde 1 Enhanced offensive firepower
Minnesota Vikings Cris Carter Supplemental draft Hall of Fame career, remarkable receiver proficiency

As franchises continue to navigate the complex web of player evaluations and roster management, the lessons from 1987 remain clear. The profound impact of each draft-day decision echoes through seasons, shaping the destinies of teams and the careers of those chosen.

The Legacy of the 1987 Draft Class

When examining the prowess of the 1987 NFL Draft, it’s impossible to ignore the legacy certain players from this class have left on the league. Hall of Famers like Rod Woodson, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers, changed the landscape of defense with his prowess on the field. Cornerback legend Woodson alone had a profound impact, transforming Steelers’ defense into one of the league’s most formidable units.

The draft class didn’t just excel in on-field performance; several players also transitioned seamlessly into coaching and broadcasting roles, carrying the influence of the ’87 class beyond their playing days. Their diverse contributions to the sport have molded football’s culture and have been instrumental in shaping the game as fans know it today.

Hidden gems found in the later rounds, like wide receiver Cris Carter, who went on to have a significant career, demonstrate the depth of talent that emerged from the 1987 Draft. The Minnesota Vikings benefited greatly from Carter’s skills as a receiver, confirming that success in the draft isn’t solely reserved for the early picks.

This class’s legacy extends to the many records and milestones set by its members. They’ve racked up Pro Bowl appearances, MVP awards, and have even left their mark with record-setting performances. Their illustrious careers are frequently cited during the scouting and drafting processes, serving as benchmarks for aspiring athletes and front-office executives alike.

Arguably, the 1987 Draft shaped many team’s destinies for years to come. The discernment of scouts and team managers during that period set a standard for future drafts, underscoring the paramount importance of adept decision-making in the early rounds while also acknowledging the potential of overlooked prospects in the draft’s later stages. As scouting techniques have evolved, the lessons learned from the successes and oversights of the ’87 Draft continue to influence team strategies to this day.

Unforgettable Moments and What-Ifs

The 1987 NFL Draft brims with key moments that not only shaped the teams but also presented intriguing what-ifs. Vinny Testaverde, the first overall pick, is a prime example. Many wonder how his career would’ve panned out had he been drafted by a franchise with a stronger supporting cast. His tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had its ups and downs, but it’s tantalizing to envision what could have happened in a different scenario.

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The San Francisco 49ers also made a significant move by trading up to secure Harris Barton, an offensive lineman who later became a cornerstone in their championship runs. This calculated risk underscored the importance of strategic foresight during the draft. Barton’s addition to the team marked a transformative moment, raising the question of how differently the 49ers’ fate could’ve turned if the trade hadn’t occurred.

Additionally, several hidden gems emerged later in the draft, like Cris Carter, picked in the fourth round. Carter’s Hall of Fame career is a classic example of the unpredictability of the draft process. His journey prompts fans to ponder the what-ifs surrounding many late-round selections who went on to outperform their draft positions significantly.

Moments that seemed minor on draft day unfolded into career-defining opportunities for players and franchises alike. Each round brought its shares of hits and misses, making the 1987 NFL Draft a compelling study in the delicate art of team building. The draft’s lasting legacy is a tapestry of such moments and the tantalizing possibilities they represent.


The 1987 NFL Draft remains a defining moment for the league, shaping the destinies of numerous franchises and players. It’s a testament to the transformative power of strategic drafting, with legends like Rod Woodson and Cris Carter leaving indelible marks on the game. The draft’s influence extends beyond the field, with many players moving into influential roles in coaching and broadcasting. It also serves as a reminder of the draft’s inherent uncertainties and the what-ifs that tantalize fans and analysts alike. Ultimately, the enduring impact of the players selected and the decisions made during that pivotal year continues to be felt across the NFL, affirming the 1987 Draft’s place in football history.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the most notable player from the 1987 NFL Draft?

Rod Woodson is often regarded as the most notable player from the 1987 NFL Draft due to his transformational impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense and his subsequent Hall of Fame career.

Did any players from the 1987 draft go on to have careers in coaching or broadcasting?

Yes, several players from the 1987 NFL Draft later pursued careers in coaching and broadcasting, contributing their knowledge and experience to the sport off the field.

What impact did Cris Carter have as a hidden gem from this draft?

Cris Carter, selected in the 1987 NFL Draft, emerged as a hidden gem and had a remarkable NFL career, setting records and achieving milestones, including his induction into the Hall of Fame.

How might Vinny Testaverde’s career have been different if he was drafted by another team?

The article speculates that Vinny Testaverde’s career trajectory could have been significantly different if he had been drafted by a different team, due to the influence that team fit and coaching have on a player’s development.

What strategic move did the San Francisco 49ers make during the draft?

The San Francisco 49ers made a strategic move by trading up to select Harris Barton, a decision that played a role in their future championship successes.

What does the article say about the unpredictable nature of the draft process?

The article highlights the unpredictable nature of the NFL draft process, underscoring how draft-day decisions can have lasting effects on franchises and the careers of players chosen.

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