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1979 Draft

By Patrick Mondout

The pre-Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers made a huge mistake by trading five draft picks for aging tailback O.J. Simpson prior to the 1978 season. That set in motion a chain of events that led to Buffalo ending up with a quarterback that would lead them to four Super Bowls.

The draft picks the Bills obtained included what became the number one pick overall in the 1979 draft and a second rounder was used on future Pro Bowl running back Joe Cribbs.

Happy with Joe Ferguson at quarterback, the Bill passed on Jack Thompson and took Ohio State linebacker Tom Cousineau. He was unhappy with the contract the Bills were offering and became the only number one overall selection to bolt for the Canadian Football League, where he played for three seasons for the Montreal Alouettes before his rights were traded to Cleveland.* The constant contract squabbles between the Bills and their players (including Joe Cribbs) finally became too much for Bills coach Chuck Knox and he resigned.

The Bills got the last laugh, however. The trade with Cleveland netted them the number 13 pick overall in the 1983 draft and they selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. Cousineau never lived up to his potential and finished his career with the 49ers - the team that originally owned the first pick in the '79 draft.

Lest you feel sorry for Bill Walsh and the 49ers, note that he too got a quarterback that took him to four Super Bowls (and he was 4-0 in those games) in third rounder Joe Montana from Notre Dame.

The Chicago Bears traded defensive lineman Wally Chambers to the Buccaneers prior to the 1978 season for a 1979 first round pick. Chambers was on the downside of his career and played two unremarkable seasons before retiring. The Bears replaced Chambers with future Hall of Famer Dan Hampton with the pick it received from the Bucs - number four overall.

The Saints shocked the draft experts by taking a kicker with the 11th pick overall - and incredible blunder regardless of how he turned out. Two picks later the San Diego Chargers picked up future Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow with a pick they obtained from Cleveland (who already had a future Hall member in Ozzie Newsome at TE). Placekicker Erxleben, who hit four of eight field goals over five seasons was also asked to punt. He was lousy at both and was soon out of the league.**

Hampton, Winslow and Montana are the only member of the Hall from the 1979 draft class.

Below is the first round of the 1979 NFL draft. We also have the entire 12 round draft.

# Team Player Pos School
1 Buffalo Bills1 Tom Cousineau LB Ohio State
2 Kansas City Chiefs Mike Bell DE Colorado State
3 Cincinnati Bengals Jack Thompson QB Washington State
4 Chicago Bears2 Dan Hampton DT Arkansas
5 Buffalo Bills Jerry Butler WR Clemson
6 Baltimore Colts Barry Krauss LB Alabama
7 New York Giants Phil Simms QB Morehead State
8 St. Louis Cardinals Ottis Anderson RB Miami
9 Chicago Bears Al Harris DE Arizona State
10 Detroit Lions Keith Dorney OL Penn State
11 New Orleans Saints Russell Erxleben K Texas
12 Cincinnati Bengals3 Charles Alexander RB LSU
13 San Diego Chargers4 Kellen Winslow TE Missouri
14 New York Jets Marty Lyons DE Alabama
15 Green Bay Packers Eddie Lee Ivory RB Georgia Tech
16 Minnesota Vikings Ted Brown RB North Carolina State
17 Atlanta Falcons Don Smith DE Miami
18 Seattle Seahawks Manu Tuiasosopo DT UCLA
19 Los Angeles Rams5 George Andrews LB Nebraska
20 Cleveland Browns6 Willis Adams WR Houston
21 Philadelphia Eagles Jerry Robinson LB UCLA
22 Denver Broncos Kelvin Clark OL Nebraska
23 Kansas City Chiefs7 Steve Fuller QB Clemson
24 Miami Dolphins Jon Giesler OL Michigan
25 New England Patriots Rick Sanford DB South Carolina
26 Los Angeles Rams Kent Hill OL Georgia Tech
27 Dallas Cowboys Robert Shaw C Tennessee
28 Pittsburgh Steelers Greg Hawthorne RB Baylor

1 - Acquired from San Francisco 49ers
2 - Acquired from Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3 - Acquired from Washington Redskins
4 - Acquired from Cleveland Browns
5 - Acquired from Oakland Raiders
6 - Acquired from San Diego Chargers
7 - Acquired from Houston Oilers

* Technically the Houston Oilers signed him to an offer sheet which the Bills matched and then he was traded to Cleveland.

**But it wasn't the last we heard of him. As a currency trader for Austin Forex International in Texas, Erxleben received a seven year prison sentence and was ordered to pay $28 million in restitution plus a $1 million fine in 2000 for his involvement in a fraud case.



1979 DRAFT

Held: May 3-4, 1979

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