1978: Packers' top picks yielded big names

Some of the worst drafts in Packer history happened in the mid-70s. Not even a half-dozen players emerged from the 1973-76 drafts who had a long-term impact on the team.<p> Things started to get better with the Class of '77, and then, in 1978 there was a breakthrough. The Packer draft class from 25 years ago includes names that will long be remembered, and now can claim a Hall of Famer, too.<P>

The Packers had two first-round picks that year. They selected 6th overall, thanks to a dismal 4-10 season in 1977. The second pick of the first round, No. 26, was netted from Oakland in the Mike McCoy trade.

Green Bay and head coach/GM Bart Starr spent the first pick on Stanford wide receiver James Lofton. Fast forward 25 years, and Lofton is part of the latest NFL Hall of Fame Class, to be inducted this August in Canton.

Before running into a few legal "snags" and moving on to the Raiders and Buffalo, Lofton began his road to the Hall with 9 impressive seasons in Green Bay. As a rookie he led the team in receptions, as he did all but one of the next 8 seasons. While TE Paul Coffmann had more actual catches in 1979, Lofton still led the team in yards, giving him 9 consecutive seasons with that honor which ranks second (behind Don Hutson) on the team's all-time list.

That's just one page of the Lofton story, which began with that '78 draft.

The second pick of the first round that year began a story that lastest even longer. Fans may have been reluctant to see the Pack trade away McCoy, a beloved defensive tackle from Notre Dame, but what they got was even better. With the 26th pick Green Bay selected linebacker John Anderson out of Michigan.

Anderson played 12 seasons in Green Bay and holds the team recrod for career total tackles with 1020 and most unassisted tackles in a career 783. He was the model of consistency, because he accomplished those records without ever once leading the team in a single season. Anderson was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in March 1996, along with famed Packer Executive Director of Public Relations, Lee Remmel.

The rest of the top five picks: 2. LB Mike Hunt, Minnesota (34); 3. DB Estus Hood, Illinois State (62); 5. LB MIke Douglass, San Diego State (116).

"Mad Dog" Douglass played 8 seasons for the Packers, while Hood played 7. Douglass led the team in tackles three seasons.

In later rounds, the Packers selected guard Leotis Harris from Arkansas (6th round, 161st overall). He played five seasons with the Pack and was a starter for four.

One curious note from the 1978 draft: The Packers forfeited their fourth round pick. It is the only forfeit listed in their draft annals.


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