After draft Hindsight turns speculation into questions

April 28, 1992|By Glen Macnow | Glen Macnow,Knight-Ridder News Service

The great thing about the National Football League draft day is that every player can be projected as a superstar. Focus on areas like vertical leap and psychological test scores, ignore nuances like actual game performance, and next thing you know, Casey Weldon can be penciled in as the Philadelphia Eagles' next starting quarterback.

Until the games begin, or at least until the training camps open, no one really knows whether Amp Lee can play or Tommy Maddox should have stayed in school. For now, it's all just speculation. Which is, of course, the central point of the draft.

But that doesn't mean we can't ask questions.

* Who goes home smiling? Three teams:

1. The Indianapolis Colts, certainly, who drafted and signed the first two picks -- Washington's Steve Emtman and Quentin Coryatt of Texas A&M -- and unloaded premier malcontent Eric Dickerson.

2. The Cincinnati Bengals. They surprised everyone by ending up with Houston quarterback David Klingler, Miami defensive back Darryl Williams and Tennessee wide receiver Carl Pickens. All three were ranked among the top 15 players.

3. The Miami Dolphins. Bengals coach David Shula gave his father, Dolphins coach Don Shula, an early Father's Day present by taking Klingler ahead of Wisconsin cornerback Troy Vincent. Don Shula grabbed Vincent and Georgia Tech linebacker Marco Coleman to improve a bad defense.

* Who's got a big mouth? New Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren. Having never learned the Buddy Ryan skill of blowing smoke, Holmgren said all along that he planned to take Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard of Michigan with the fifth overall pick. His honesty/stupidity (choose one) spurred the Washington Redskins into trading up for the fourth pick, and getting Howard.

* Who lost $5 million? Michigan State's Bill Johnson, a 310-pound pass rusher with a reputation for meanness (that's a plus in the NFL). Johnson was projected as one of the top dozen picks, which would have brought a multiyear contract for about $6 million. But he injured a knee two weeks ago when a former teammate pushed him down a flight of stairs. The Cleveland Browns took Johnson in the third round, where contracts rarely exceed $1 million.

* What's the new catch word? Signability. Before drafting a player this year, clubs wanted to know how quickly he would sign, and at what price. The reasoning was that first-round holdouts in recent years have spurred acrimony and unproductive rookie seasons. So, this time around, clubs and agents started dickering early. And if a prospect wanted too much, he was passed over.

* Officially, the NFL bars clubs from negotiating with players before drafting them. Of course, that rule is enforced about as often as you see anyone attempt a drop kick. That's why six first-rounders -- including the first three picks -- had agreed to terms before ESPN switched over to yachting at 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The Cowboys, in fact, had their top six picks flying to Dallas on Monday to sign contracts.

"We were thrilled that he was still on the board" -- Raiders coach Art Shell on second-rounder Greg Skrepenak.

"We didn't expect Alonzo to be there. He was the best player available -- by far" -- Bears coach Mike Ditka on first-rounder Alonzo Spellman.

"We were very surprised he fell as far as he did. We never expected to get him" -- Detroit Lions coach Wayne Fontes on first-rounder Robert Porcher.

"I was thrilled he was still there" -- Eagles coach Rich Kotite on fourth-rounder Tony Brooks.

Do coaches ever lie? Nah.

*--Which rookie faces pressure? Certainly Derek Brown, the New York Giant's first-rounder. Many in the Giants organization wanted to spend the pick to shore up an aging defense. But general manager George Young is convinced Brown, a tight end, can play the blocking and pass-catching role that Mark Bavaro filled before his retirement last year. Brown, a four-year starter at Notre Dame, has been compared in size and skill to the Eagles' Keith Jackson.

Maybe so, maybe not. But the club -- and the impatient Gotham fans -- will be expecting Brown to produce quickly. There will be no breaking-in period, no honeymoon from criticism.

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