The NFL launched the supplemental draft in 1977. Thirty-eight years and more than 40 picks later, it has generated only a very small handful of great NFL players.
The Saints thought they’d found one in 1981, taking quarterback Dave Wilson with a first-round pick. He stayed with New Orleans for eight seasons, generating a career-high 2,353 passing yards in 1986. By 1987, Bobby Hebert had taken over at the position — and the Saints had made it to the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Wilson took a back seat for the rest of his career.
Four years later, the Browns used the supplemental draft to land Bernie Kosar, who gamed the system to avoid being taken by the Vikings in the regular draft and landed in his hand-picked location of Cleveland as a first-round pick.
Two years later, the Seahawks used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on linebacker Brian Bosworth, who ended up being a colossal bust.
Two years after that, the Cowboys used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on quarterback Steve Walsh, despite having invested the first overall pick only three months earlier in quarterback Troy Aikman. It was a confusing move at the time, but a year later coach Jimmy Johnson pulled off a mini-Herschel swindling of the Saints, getting a first-round pick and a third-round pick from New Orleans for Walsh, who never did much of anything at the NFL level.
That same year, the Broncos devoted a first-round selection to running back Bobby Humphrey. After rushing for 1,151 yards as a rookie and making to the Pro Bowl with 1,202 yards in 1990, Humphrey held out deep into the 1991 season, ultimately appeared in four games, gained 33 yards rushing, and was traded to Miami for 1992 for tailback Sammie Smith. Humphrey generated 471 yards rushing in what was his final season of game action.
Also in 1989 — the only year with multiple first-round supplemental draft picks — the Cardinals selected quarterback Timm Rosenbach, who served as full-time starter for only one season (1990) before a knee injury wiped out his 1991 season. He returned to the field in 1992, but he played only three games before his NFL career ended.
In 1990, the Jets used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on receiver Rob Moore, who after four seasons under 1,000 yards cracked four digits (by 10 yards) in 1994, making it to the Pro Bowl. Traded to the Cardinals for a first-round pick (which became Hugh Douglas) and running back Ron Moore, Rob Moore peaked with 97 receptions for 1,584 yards in 1997, earning another Pro Bowl berth.
Two years later, the Giants became the last team to use a first-round supplemental selection, taking quarterback Dave Brown. He became the starter in 1994, yielded to Danny Kanell in 1997, and finished his career as a backup with the Cardinals.
Since Brown was selected 23 years ago, 18 players have been taken in the supplemental draft. Most notably, the Packers acquired guard Mike Wahle with a second-round pick in 1998 (he became a Pro Bowler with the Panthers in 2005), the Chargers selected three-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Jamal Williams with a second-round pick that same year.
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks, taken by the Bengals in round three of the 2006 supplemental draft, later became a Pro Bowler with the 49ers after only two seasons in Cincinnati. The last Pro Bowl player found via the supplemental draft was receiver Josh Gordon, who currently is serving a one-year suspension after serving a 10-game suspension in 2014 for violating the substance-abuse policy.
Of course, the best player ever to come from the supplemental draft was only a fourth-round pick, and the vast majority of his exploits came with a team other than the one who drafted him. Receiver Cris Carter, picked by the Eagles in 1987 and dumped after three seasons, was claimed on waivers by the Vikings and became a perennial Pro Bowler and, ultimately, a Hall of Famer.
This year, the name generating the most buzz in advance of the supplemental draft is Clemson tackle Isaiah Battle. If neither he nor any other player is picked in the process that unfolds with little fanfare and a weird set of rules on Thursday, it’ll run the streak of no players being taken to four years and counting — the longest drought in supplemental draft history.