NFL Draft: The Origin of Mr. Irrelevant

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The NFL draft tradition of honoring Mr. Irrelevant began in 1976,

The NFL draft holds a special place for the final pick. After all, that’s the least a player deserves after waiting for days to hear his name called. The honor of becoming Mr. Irrelevant is something few NFL players can boast. And while the salary for the final pick of the NFL draft pales in comparison to first-rounders, that doesn’t mean Mr. Irrelevant selections haven’t gone on to earn millions. Let’s take a look at the origin of the Mr. Irrelevant title and see which players have far outplayed their infamous draft day selection.

The origin of Mr. Irrelevant in the NFL draft

While the NFL draft has existed since 1936, no one celebrated the final pick in such a famous fashion until much later. Considering the early renditions of the draft included 10 rounds before expanding to 20 a few years later. Over the years, the NFL draft lasted so long that the Atlanta Falcons even tried selecting 64-year-old John Wayne with the 431st pick in 1972.

Just four years later, though, the Mr. Irrelevant title finally made its first appearance. So who can we thank for this honor? According to ESPN, the inventor behind Mr. Irrelevant was Paul Salata. The former 10th-round pick in the 1951 NFL draft enjoyed a short NFL career before moving on to the CFL. In 1976, he held a celebration in Newport Beach, Calif., to celebrate the final draft pick.

As for the first honoree to earn the title of Mr. Irrelevant? That distinction fell on Kelvin Kirk. The Dayton product went 487th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though he never played an NFL down, he carved out a seven-year career in the Canadian Football League.

Five Mr. Irrelevant picks have played at least 50 NFL games

As the last pick of an NFL draft class, it’s an uphill battle to make an NFL roster. While many Mr. Irrelevant draft picks have come and gone without making a blip on the radar, a few have managed to far outplay their draft slot. In fact, since the tradition started nearly a half-century ago, five of those final draft picks have played at least 50 NFL games.

Considering their draft status, that’s a highly impressive accomplishment. It did take quite some time to find a Mr. Irrelevant who met that threshold. Matt Elliott went 336th overall in the 1992 NFL draft to the Washington Redskins. The interior offensive lineman started 34 games, mostly for the Carolina Panthers. Two years later, the New England Patriots selected linebacker Marty Moore out of Kentucky. He went on to play 119 games across eight seasons. In his lone season in Cleveland, he racked up 90 tackles and an interception in nine starts.

Interestingly, Jim Finn (1999) and Michael Green (2000) played 106 and 104 games, respectively, despite their Mr. Irrelevant titles. Finn spent seven seasons in the league as a useful pass-catcher and blocker. Green went 254th overall to the Chicago Bears and had two seasons with at least 110 tackles. Kicker Ryan Succop was the final pick in the 2009 draft, and he developed into a reliable weapon for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans.

Caleb Wilson took home the coveted title in 2019

Last year, the Arizona Cardinals made Caleb Wilson the most recent Mr. Irrelevant. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder developed into a star pass-catcher at UCLA. In three years with the Bruins, the tight end racked up 114 catches, 1,675 yards and five touchdowns. He entered the draft after a terrific junior year in which he posted an impressive stat line of 60/965/4.

Wilson did not make the Cardinals’ active roster, but he did spend most of the 2019 season on the team’s practice squad before the Redskins signed him to their active roster in December.

Later today, we will find out who the next Mr. Irrrelevant is during the final day of the 2020 NFL draft.