Redskisns, Cowboys shuffle their draft cards With no Ismail, Dallas settles for Miami's Maryland

April 22, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

HERNDON,VA. — HERNDON, Va. -- Raghib "Rocket" Ismail took the money and ran to Canada, leaving the first round of the annual collegiate draft so scrambled that it took the National Football League teams almost five hours to plod through it yesterday.

The Dallas Cowboys, who seemed to pull off a coup Friday when they got the No. 1 pick in the draft from the New England Patriots, were left without Ismail when he signed a record, four-year, $26.2 million deal with the Toronto Argonauts late Saturday night in Los Angeles.

The Cowboys wound up taking defensive tackle Russell Maryland, who played for Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson at the University of Miami, with the first pick in the draft yesterday, even though he wasn't rated as the best player on many draft boards.

The Cowboys said Maryland was the player they wanted all along, although they had negotiated with Ismail's agents.

"We 100 percent traded up to get Russell Maryland," Johnso said.

Meanwhile, the Patriots, who were second-guessed Friday for trading the first pick, wound up being vindicated. With the 11th pick they got from the Cowboys, they took offensive lineman Pat Harlow, a player the Cowboys had coveted.

Ismail's defection forced the teams to make many last-minute evaluations, resulting in a 4-hour, 55-minute first round, breaking the record of 4:16 set in 1967, the first year of the common draft with the American Football League. The first rounds the past two years took 3:24 and 3:13.

Without Ismail, it was a defensive draft. The first six players selected were defensive players for the first time in the history of the draft. Five defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs were selected in the first round.

There were six trades -- three involving the Cowboys -- in the first round and a series of surprising moves. The 17th pick in the draft originally belonged to the Houston Oilers and was traded to three teams in the last few days -- New England, Dallas and the Washington Redskins.

Among the maneuvers that made this draft so unpredictable:

* The Cleveland Browns bypassed Notre Dame cornerback Todd Lyght with the second pick to select UCLA safety Eric Turner. Lyght fell to the Los Angeles Rams with the fifth pick. The Rams had been projected to get Maryland.

* The Phoenix Cardinals made the gamble of the draft by selecting Eric Swann with the sixth pick even though he's only 20 years old and never has played college football.

* The Philadelphia Eagles bolstered their shaky offensive line by trading up from the 19th to the eighth pick with the Green Bay Packers to select Antone Davis of Tennessee.

* The Redskins, who once traded down, traded up to select defensive tackle Bobby Wilson and then traded their second-round pick to former Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard of the San Diego Chargers for a No. 1 next year, so they'll have two first-round picks in 1992 for the first time since 1961.

* Al Davis, the boss of the Los Angeles Raiders, continued his maverick ways by selecting quarterback Todd Marinovich on the first round despite his drug problem and rift with his college coach. The Raiders have a history of success with problem players. Davis also took Ismail on the fourth round. The Raiders retain his NFL rights for four years, and are gambling he'll eventually return to the NFL.

Ismail's defection stunned NFL scouts, who had questioned whether the Canadian offer for Ismail was serious.

Ron Hughes, the Detroit Lions director of player personnel, was at Mass yesterday morning when he got the news.

"It was near the end, and the priest said, 'Some of you Notre Dame fans might be interested to know that Rocket Ismail signed with the CFL last night.' I turned to my wife and said, 'Jesus!' Then I quickly hoped nobody heard me. Luckily, I didn't say it very loud."

The Cardinals, who had a long history of picking such busts as Clyde Duncan and Steve Pisarkiewicz on the first round, were busy defending the pick of Swann on the first round.

"We feel that this is a safe pick," general manager Larry Wilson said.

Joe Bugel, the head coach and a former Washington assistant coach, said: "The thing we like about this young man is his great work habits. He has prepared himself, and he is going to surprise a lot of people."

But taking Swann with the sixth pick of the draft surprised a lot of people in the NFL.

"I wouldn't have taken him there," said Mike Hagen, a scout for the Redskins.

The Cowboys also had a lot of teams scratching their heads with all their maneuvers.

Last week, they had the 11th, 12th and 14th picks. They could have taken Harlow and Wilson -- a player many had rated as highly as Maryland -- along with another first-rounder.

Instead, they wound up with Maryland and wide receiver Alvin Harper in the first round and linebacker Dixon Edwards in the second round. All the moves netted them two fourths, a third and a fifth with extra picks.

The teams wound up going through the first four rounds of the draft yesterday. They'll conduct the final eight rounds of the draft starting at 10 a.m. today.

Yesterday's key trades

Green Bay traded first-round pick (No. 8) to Philadelphia for first-round pick (No. 19) and 1992 first-round pick.

* Dallas traded first-round pick (No. 14) to New England for first-round (No. 17) and fourth-round picks.

* Dallas traded first-round pick (No. 17) to Washington for first-round pick (No. 20) and fifth-round pick.

* Dallas traded rights to first-round pick Kelvin Pritchett (No. 20) to Detroit for second-, third- and fourth-round picks.

* San Diego traded 1992 first-round pick to Washington for second-round pick and 1992 fifth-round pick.

* Miami traded CB Tim McKyer to Atlanta for third- and 12th-round picks.

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