Cal is unlikely to have a player taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft for the fifth straight year. But Cal has had a lot of players taken high in past NFL drafts, which prompts the question: What years did Cal have the best showings in NFL drafts?
We ranked the Bears’ top 15 “performances” in NFL draft history, combining the number of Golden Bears players drafted in a given year with the round players were taken to compile our subjective list.
Here are the top five, with details on the top 15 below:
1. 1938 (4 players drafted among top 43 picks).
2. 1952 (10 Cal players drafted)
3. 1996 (5 players drafted, 2 first-rounders)
4. 1994 (5 players drafted, 1 first-rounder)
5. 2005 (5 players drafted, 1 first-rounder)
Because the number of teams in the NFL and the rounds of the NFL draft varied considerably over the years, we focused on the overall pick of drafted players and used the benchmark of 259 picks (number of players to be selected in this year’s NFL draft) to determine whether a player would be drafted by today’s parameters.
Although Steve Bartkowski was the No. 1 overall pick in 1975, Sherman White went No. 2 in 1972, and Chuck Muncie went No. 3 in 1976, they were not accompanied by enough teammates that were drafted to justify included those years in our rankings.
Here is the analysis of the top 15 Cal showings in NFL drafts (with the Bears’ record the preceding fall in parentheses).
15. 1965 (3-7 in 1964) – Three players were drafted starting with quarterback Craig Morton, the fifth overall pick.
14. 2011 (5-7 in 2010) – Three of the four Cal players drafted were taken in the first three rounds, with defensive end Cameron Jordan being selected in the first round (24th overall).
13. 2016 (8-5 in 2015) – Quarterback Jared Goff was the No. 1 overall pick and one of four Cal players drafted, although none of the other three was in the first four rounds.
12. 1953 (7-3 in 1952) – Four Cal players drafted, led by Johnny Olszewski, the No. 4 overall pick.
11. 2010 (8-5 in 2009) – Cal had two first-round picks – defensive end Tyson Alualu (10th overall) and running back Jahvid Best (30th) – but the only other Cal player drafted was in the seventh round (Syd’Quan Thompson).
10. 1977 (5-6 in 1976) – Six Cal players drafted, including Ted Albrecht in the first round with the 15th selection.
9. 2007 (10-3 in 2006) – Running back Marshawn Lynch was the 12th overall pick, and three of the four Cal players drafted were taken in the first three rounds.
8. 2008 (7-6 in 2007) – Six Golden Bears players drafted, but none in the first round. The highest pick was wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the second round (49th overall).
7. 2012 (7-6 in 2011) – Six Golden Bears drafted, none in the first round, but two – offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz (37th overall) and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (46th) – were taken in the second round.
6. 2003 (7-5 in 2002) – Four Cal players taken among the top 238 picks, including two first-rounders – quarterback Kyle Boller (19th overall) and defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha (31st).
5. 2005 (10-2 in 2004) – Five Cal players taken in the first six rounds, with Aaron Rodgers going in the first round (24th overall) and running back J.J. Arrington going in the second round (44th). The 2004 Cal team was the one that should have gone to the Rose Bowl after finishing the regular season ranked No. 4. But politicking by Texas coach Mack Brown and the computers ruined it.
4. 1994 (9-4 in 1993) – Six Cal players taken among the first 141 picks, including tackle Todd Steussie in the first round at No. 19 overall and center Eric Mahlum in the second round at No. 32. Doug Brien was taken in the third round, unusually high for a kicker. The Bears’ 1993 season was almost ruined when quarterback Pat Barnes got hurt, but he returned late in the season and Cal beat Iowa 37-3 in the 1993 Alamo Bowl.
3. 1996 (3-8 in 1995) – Five Cal players drafted, all in the first five rounds. Two players – defensive end Regan Upshaw (12th overall) and defensive end Duane Clemons (16th overall) – were first-round picks, and Je’Rod Cherry was drafted with the 40th overall selection. Why were the Bears just 3-8 in 1995, when Cal also featured quarterback Pat Barnes, tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Bobby Shaw? Coach Keith Gilbertson got fired after that season.
2. 1952 (8-2 in 1951) – Ten Cal players were taken in 1952 draft, but there were 30 rounds. Les Richter was the second player drafted overall and five others were among the first 259 drafted, which means they would have been picked by today’s draft standards. The Bears were ranked No. 1 midway through the 1951 season and beat third-ranked and previously unbeaten Stanford in the Big Game.
1. 1938 (10-0-1 in 1937) – Although no Cal player was taken in the first round, there were only 10 teams in the league at the time. All four Cal players drafted in 1938 were among the top 43 picks, which would put them in the top two rounds today, and three of the four would have been first rounders by 2021 rules, led by Sam Chapman, the 24th overall selection. The 1937 Bears were Cal’s last unbeaten team and were ranked No. 1 midway through the season before finishing at No. 2. Cal then beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl that season and has not won the Rose Bowl since.
Cover photo of Sam Chapman courtesy of Cal Athletics
Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53
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