Richard Dent: Eighth round to Hall of Fame

Former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent will be inducted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And over at ESPNChicago.com, Melissa Isaacson offers a great read on how Dent rose from a skinny eighth-round draft choice to one of the best pass rushers in NFL history.

The Bears had a second-round grade on Dent, but he was available at the No. 203 overall position in 1983 mostly because he weighed about 215 pounds. He put on another 40 pounds after the Bears helped him identify some dental issues, and he was off to the races.

Isaacson’s piece got me wondering: How rare is it for an eighth-round draft choice to make it to the Hall of Fame?

Thanks to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, we can pass along the answer. Dent will be the lowest-drafted player enshrined whose career began after the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

(Over that time period, there have been three undrafted players elected: Jim Langer, Warren Moon and John Randle.)

Obviously, highly-drafted players are more likely to get extended opportunities to play. But more than anything, I think this information shows that teams get the draft right more often than we might be willing to give them credit for. Below is the breakdown of where the NFL’s post-merger Hall of Famers were drafted:

  • First round: 43 players

  • Second round: 11

  • Third round: 5

  • Fourth round: 3

  • Fifth round: 1

  • Sixth round: 0

  • Seventh round: 1

  • Eighth round: 1

  • Ninth-20th: 0

  • Undrafted: 3

(A complete list of every Hall of Fame player’s draft status can be found here. It should be noted that one of Dent's 2011 classmates, linebacker Chris Hanburger, was drafted in the 18th round in 1965 -- five years before the merger.)

With the draft now limited to seven rounds, I think we can safely say Dent will be the last eighth-round pick to be enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.