NFL draft comes to close, but some picks debatable

April 28, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

There were 336 stories in the NFL's 57th collegiate draft, which rang to a close yesterday after the 28 teams made 22 trades during the 17 hours, 34 minutes and 12 rounds of sometimes frantic deliberating.

Actually, make that at least 337 stories.

One of the best stories of the draft may involve quarterback Boomer Esiason of the Cincinnati Bengals, the former University of Maryland star who was a big draft-day story eight years ago when he wasn't selected until the second round.

Esiason wasn't happy about the slight, and he got the last laugh on the critics when he led the Bengals to the Super Bowl three years ago.

Esiason is noted for being outspoken, and he made it obvious yesterday he wasn't happy about the Bengals' selection of quarterback David Klingler.

"If you've been a Bengals player the last five or six years, you'd assume we'd be working on the defense," Esiason said.

"Can David rush the passer?" he said.

The Bengals, though, apparently believed they couldn't pass on a quarterback of Klingler's potential, even though they don't have an immediate need.

That's what makes the draft so fascinating. Once you get past the three automatic picks of Steve Emtman, Quentin Coryatt and Sean Gilbert, you can debate almost every move in the draft.

Here's a snapshot of some of those debates:

* When offensive lineman John Fina was made the 27th selection in the first round by the Buffalo Bills, the pick was criticized by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper of Baltimore. Kiper is now so well-known as a draft analyst that when he criticizes a pick, a club is put on the defensive. Which is why Fina and the Bills were defending the pick yesterday.

"Let me tell you, I'm not worried about Mel Kiper," Fina said.

John Butler, the director of player personnel of the Bills, said, "Mel Kiper had him misgraded, doggone it. Mel didn't do a very good job on that one."

If Fina plays well, nobody will care what Kiper said. You have to understand the draft to figure out why anybody cares now.

* The NFL drug tests are supposed to be confidential, but virtually nothing is confidential in the NFL. Just ask Todd Marinovich, the Los Angeles Raiders' quarterback who has denied a report by ESPN that he flunked a drug test at the end of last year.

Eddie Blake, the Miami Dolphins' second-round draft pick, has taken a different tack. When word of his positive test for cocaine leaked out, he didn't deny it. He referred the questions to his agent, Lamont Smith, who said that punch Blake drank at a fraternity party at Auburn on was spiked with cocaine on Feb. 3 -- two days before the combine.

"Not alcohol, punch," Smith said. "Eddie is not a big drinker."

Blake even submitted affidavits to the NFL from persons at the frat party backing his story that the punch was spiked.

Either way, Blake will have to be tested under NFL rules, and he said he'll submit to as many tests as the Dolphins ask him to take.

* One of the most curious things about the draft was that the New York Giants and the New York Jets drafted back-to-back on the first round and both selected tight ends. The Giants took Derek Brown and the Jets took Johnny Mitchell.

The intriguing thing is that the Jets said they would have taken Mitchell over Brown. "Very frankly, this was the player we really wanted the whole time, and we did have him rated ahead of Derek Brown," said Dick Steinberg, the Jets' general manager.

* Tom Landry was fired by Jerry Jones in 1989, but he left behind a present for him -- Chad Hennings.

The winner of the Outland Trophy was drafted by the Cowboys on the 11th round in 1987. He was taken so late because he was planning to become an Air Force pilot with a commitment to 1997. The Cowboys figured they'd take their chances. It worked with Roger Staubach.

The move paid off although Landry is not around to take advantage of it. Hennings was a fighter pilot in Desert Storm, but with the military cutback, the Air Force waived the rest of his obligation. He's signed with the Cowboys -- as a sort of bonus pick.

* The Phoenix Cardinals, who traded their first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for Randall Hill last year, are not noted for wizardry in the draft. They kept their reputation alive when they traded down 12 spots in the second round and then drafted quarterback Tony Sacca of Penn State.

Most scouts thought Sacca was a third or fourth rounder at best.

*Although Desmond Howard, the 1991 Heisman Tropy winner, was the fourth pick, Ty Detmer of Brigham Young, the 1990 winner, lasted until the ninth round when he was drafted by Green Bay.

Detmer was downgraded for his size (he's six feet) and his lack of arm strength.

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