Analyzing The 1940 NFL Draft By Collegiate Conference

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Tennessee Volunteers left halfback GEORGE CAFEGO (# 72), whom the Chicago Cardinals made the very first player chosen in the first round of the 1940 National Football League Draft, managed just nine yards rushing on eight carries against the USC Trojans in the 1940 Rose Bowl Game. Duke Blue Devils left halfback GEORGE MCAFEE (# 22), whom the Philadelphia Eagles made the second overall player picked in the first round of the 1940 NFL Draft, lost a net total of five yards rushing on two attempts but caught three passes for 45 yards against the USC Trojans in the 1939 Rose Bowl Game. These statistics are posted in comparison to the 40 yards rushing on eighteen carries that UCLA Bruins left halfback Kenny Washington gained against the USC Trojans in what was the de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game at the conclusion of the 1939 NCAA regular season; the dynamic Washington also passed for 72 yards and snatched an interception on defense in the dramatic scoreless draw, as well.
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The various All-America squads traditionally chosen by contemporary sportswriters and other expert observers are certainly very helpful. But analyzing the annual National Football League Draft(s) can also provide useful information when attempting to evaluate the overall strength of any given team and/or conference with respect to any given football season. Looking back at the UCLA Bruins’ noteworthy 1939 NCAA football campaign, it is interesting to review how the professional football teams, themselves, ultimately rated the talent available in the collective senior class of the entire nation.

1940 NFL DRAFT : AVERAGE SENIORS PER TEAM BY CONFERENCE
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3.167 avg … 19 players …… 6 teams …. Big Six Conference
2.875 avg … 23 players …… 8 teams …. Pacific Coast Conference
2.143 avg … 15 players …… 7 teams …. Southwest Conference
2.166 avg … 26 players …. 12 teams …. Southeastern Conference
2.100 avg … 21 players …. 10 teams …. Western Conference (Big Ten)
0.933 avg …. 14 players … 15 teams …. Southern Conference (ACC)

3.444 avg … 31 players ….. 9 teams …. UCLA’s 1939 opponents

As has already been discussed here at this blog in greater detail, All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON and All-Pacific Coast left end WOODY STRODE of the UCLA BRUINS should have both been selected at the 1940 National Football League Draft. That would have give the eight Pacific Coast Conference a total of 25 NFL Draft picks in all. However, this “adjusted” P.C.C. average of 3.125 seniors per team who were picked at the annual NFL Draft still would not have been enough to surpass the 3.167 average of the Bix Six Conference (Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State).

The two collegiate football teams that had the most players chosen at the 1940 NFL Draft were the mighty USC Trojans, who finished with a record of eight wins and two ties after stifling the Tennessee Volunteers 14-0 in the 1940 Rose Bowl, and the perhaps underachieving Oklahoma Sooners, who concluded the 1939 NCAA season with a record of 6-2-1 but lost critical conference games to the Missouri Tigers and Nebraska Cornhuskers; both Oklahoma and USC each had nine players who were drafted by NFL teams. However, the Trojans were the only school in the country to have two players (quarterbacks DOYLE NAVE and GRENVILLE LANSDELL) taken in the first round and were also the only program in the nation to have three players (the third being left end BILL FISK) snapped up in the first three rounds. Furthermore, USC had six players who were selected in the first nine rounds whereas Oklahoma had four players drafted within that same period.

The actual breakdown of Pacific Coast Conference players who were tabbed at the 1940 NFL Draft by individual school went as follows : USC 9, Oregon 6, Oregon State 3, California 2, Stanford 2, Washington 1.

There is absolutely no question that the 1939 UCLA Bruins contested what was easily the toughest schedule in the entire history of the Westwood school’s gridiron program up to that point in time, as evidenced, in part, by the number of their opponents whose professional playing rights were reserved at the 1940 National Football League Draft. In addition to their regular Pacific Coast Conference slate, ambitious UCLA also squared off against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs from the Southwest Conference as well as the Santa Clara Broncos, the so-called “King of West Coast Independents”. As it was, T.C.U. had three returning seniors from its 1938 national championship squad who were ultimately chosen at the 1940 NFL Draft while Santa Clara, who ended up as the # 14 ranked team in the final poll of the Associated Press for the 1939 NCAA season, had no fewer than five players selected at the 1940 NFL Draft.

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USC Trojans left tackle HOWARD STOECKER (# 68), the 215-pounder from Mason City, Iowa, who started 23 games in his collegiate career and was honored as a Second Team All-Pacific Coast selection of the Associated Press in 1939, was an eleventh round (# 98 overall) pick of the Washington Redskins at the 1940 NFL Draft. USC Trojans right end BOB WINSLOW (# 73), the two-year letterwinner from Inglewood who originally transferred from Modesto Junior College and was named Third Team All-Pacific Coast by the Associated Press in 1939, was a seventh round (# 56 overall) choice of the Detroit Lions at the 1940 NFL Draft. Winslow was one of four USC players to be picked by Detroit that term (with the quarterback Nave, the left end Fisk and consensus All-America guard Harry Smith being the others).
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Unlike the state of affairs that prevail in contemporary college football, there was no such thing as underclassmen leaving leaving early for the National Football League in 1939. Thus, while on the subject of the annual NFL Draft with respect to the major collegiate conferences, it is extremely relevant to address the number of juniors and sophomores who would, ultimately, also have their playing rights formally reserved by NFL teams, too. The following chart below attempts to address conference depth with respect to collegiate players selected at the 1940, 1941 & 1942 NFL Drafts :

1939 NCAA : FUTURE NFL DRAFT PICKS PER TEAM BY CONFERENCE
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8.286 avg … 58 players ….. 7 teams … Southwest Conference
7.875 avg … 63 players ….. 8 teams … Pacific Coast Conference
7.333 avg … 44 players ….. 6 teams … Big Six Conference
7.200 avg … 72 players … 10 teams … Western Conference (Big Ten)
6.083 avg … 73 players … 12 teams … Southeastern Conference
2.533 avg … 38 players … 15 teams … Southern Conference (ACC)

8.556 avg … 77 players ….. 9 teams … UCLA’s 1939 opponents

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