By John Turney
|Bob Mann with the Lions|
We hear a lot about NFL draft busts, first- or maybe second-round draftee that yield nothing for the team that drafted them and also we read about low round players or free agents that far exceed their draft status and we celebrate them.
But sometimes there is something in between that goes unnoticed because the player changes teams and becomes forgotten in time.
One such player is Bob Mann.
Mann was signed by the Detroit Lions as a free agent in 1948 (and was the first African-American player the Lions ever signed) and had a fine rookie season, catching 33 passes for 560 yards and three touchdowns. Then, in 1949, he had a huge second-year leap to lead the NFL in reception yards with 1014 on 66 catches. The NFL didn't have a Pro Bowl that year but had there been one he surely would have gone to it but he did gain honorable mention All-Pro honors for his efforts.
So, he became a perennial All-Pro for the Lions after than, right?
But he had built up his value enough to be valued equal to that of Bobby Layne. What was Layne's value? Just a year earlier the Bulldogs sent two #1 picks to the Bears for him.
|Bobby Layne with Bulldogs|
First, there were some oddities with Mann who refused to report to the Bulldogs and was released then was claimed by the Lions on waivers but also lost to the Packers on waivers and ended the season with them, playing the last three games. He played his last four seasons with Green Bay.
|Layne with Lions|
|Layne with Steelers|
He also had to cover the flat and know, to the extent any person could, what Night train lane was doing on that said, so he could cover any gaps left by the freelancing all-time great left corner. Brettschneider was a solid, unsung type, an "All-Joe" if you will.
The last pick in the 1958 trade was Roger Brown, the dominant right defensive tackle who gave the Lions seven years of stellar All-pro service. He could have been the NFL's Defensive Player of the year in 1962 had such an award been available—The NEA didn't start giving one until 1966. He was, at his peak, better than Hall of Famer Alex Karras, but Karras likely had a longer, more steady career and got the nod to Canton.
|Brown with the Rams in 1967|
In 1965 Earl Morrall was traded to the Lions in a three-way deal that netted the Lions Mike Lucci and a draft pick. Lucci was the starting middle linebacker for eight years and received post-season honors in 1969, 70, and 1971.
|Mike Lucci (52) with the Browns|
Darrell Dess a 30-year old guard who never played for the Lions. Instead, he was sent to Washington for guard Ted Karras and quarterback George Izo. The Lions got a year out of each including a year od starts out of Karras (Alex's brother) and a 2-1 record as a backup out of Izo.
|George Izo with the Lions in 1965|
The first-rounder was Earl McCullouch in 1968. He has to be classified as a first-round bust. His best season was hist first, he was All-Rookie but he kept getting hurt and his production kept going down. He played six seasons and was finally cut.
The second-rounder was in 1969—tackle Jim Yarbrough out of Florida. He was decent, but out of nine seasons got only six starting seasons from him. He was "just a guy". Perhaps this is where Van Horn could have fit in. With him at a tackle spot maybe this 1969 second-round pick could have been a more productive player. Who knows?
Charlie Sanders, the Hall of Fame tight end, was the third-rounder, taken in 1968. He was a three-time All-Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowler and played ten years for the Lions. Not a bad way to end the draft/trade string.
Her it is—
Bob Mann—2 Years
Bobby Layne —8 years, 2 titles, 2 All-Pros, 3 Pro Bowls, Hall of Fame
Earl Morrall—7 years
Mike Rabold—1 year
Carl Brettschneider—4 years
Roger Brown—7 years, 2 All-Pro, 5 Pro Bowls
Darrell Dess—0 years
George Izo—1 year
Ted Karras—1 Year
Doug Van Horn—1 year, plus cash
Mike Lucci—8 Years, 3 post-season honors
Earl McCullouch—6 years
Jim Yarbrough—9 years
Charlie Sanders—10 Years, 3 All-Pro, 7 Pro Bowls, Hall of Fame
Total—65 years, 2 HOFers
All from one free agent signing.
Talk about good value.