Every draft has its star players, hot prospects, and can’t miss athletes. This happens in every sport. The thing that is different about the MLB draft is that there are 40 rounds, so teams draft players for reasons that don’t always involve making the team better. This involves drafting players from other sports who were once good at baseball or have athletic ability that could possibly translate to the baseball diamond.
Football players are probably the most common among non-baseball players drafted. Kyle Parker, who was the starting quarterback for the Clemson Tigers, was a 1st round draftee who actually was as good at baseball as he was at football. He projected even better at baseball, which is why he now with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Colorado Rockies farm system.
Parker is one of the few athletes who were successful in two sports in college, but he would never have been in consideration as the top overall pick in the draft for either baseball or football. His former minor league teammate, Russell Wilson, was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft and a fourth round pick in the 2010 MLB draft.
Is there any athlete who was ever worthy, or ever will be worthy of being the number one pick in BOTH sports? The easy answer is no. It takes too much time and practice to develop the skills needed and required by scouts and general managers to warrant making any player a top pick in a draft. The time spent honing one’s skills in baseball can only take away from the time needed to become that much better at football and vice versa.
However, one player who maybe, just maybe, could justify being the top draft choice of both a baseball and football franchise is Bo Jackson. Jackson was a fourth round selection in the 1986 MLB draft and the first overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft. He ultimately did not sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later was drafted in the seventh round of the 1987 draft by the Los Angeles Raiders.
Bo did not sign with the Buccaneers because he felt slighted by the team once he was ruled ineligible for the rest of his college baseball season that year at Auburn. He took a trip to visit the NFL franchise during the season and did not know it was in violation of NCAA amateur status rules.
First overall baseball pick
Instead of playing football, Jackson elected to sign with the Royals and had an outstanding shortened career. He might have been the biggest steal of the draft that season. Had teams known he would choose definitely play baseball, Jackson could have been a first round pick and possibly the first overall. Hindsight is 20-20, but teams would like to get more production than four seasons from a first round pick. Ironically, Jackson had a better career than most of the rest of the first-rounders that year.
Only five players chosen in the first round of the 1986 baseball draft went on to become all-stars (Greg Swindell, Matt Williams, Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Roberto Hernandez). Jackson was an all-star in 1989 and finished 10th in MVP voting. While many players had longer and more successful careers than Jackson, his athletic ability and potential back then was just as high as any other player. Getting a player like Bo Jackson, and there was only one, was phenomenal for Kansas City in round four.
Bo Jackson was the first overall pick in football. He has an argument that he could have been the first overall pick in baseball as well. Are there any other athletes who have, have had, or will have that kind of talent and potential? Not in my mind. The days of elite two-sport athletes are behind us as even kids either choose to or are forced to play one sport all year long.
Jameis Winston is a two-sport star at Florida State. He could very well be the top NFL pick next year with a good 2014 season, but he is far from being a first round choice in baseball. He will more than likely be drafted by a some team, but it will not end with him going to a podium to shake the baseball commissioner’s hand.
Professional athletes’ careers are too short and general managers jobs are too risky to take a chance on a two-sport athlete. Bo Jackson probably had the best shot of anybody and that was almost 30 years ago.