Aside from players, Tobin, Kiper pick fight NFL DRAFT

April 25, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- What the NFL's college draft lacked in quality yesterday, it certainly made up in theater.

There was a lot of wheeling and dealing in the unpredictable first round as the San Francisco 49ers traded both up and down, the Los Angeles Rams traded down twice and the Indianapolis Colts twice passed up quarterback Trent Dilfer of Fresno State.

The Colts' decision sparked a debate between the team's director of football operations, Bill Tobin, and Baltimore draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. during the ESPN draft telecast.

After the Colts took running back Marshall Faulk with the second pick, they gave the Rams a third-round pick to jump from seventh to fifth in the order, then took linebacker Trev Alberts over Dilfer, who went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the next selection.

"I think you win with defense in this league. You win with the running game and everything will come together," Tobin said to explain why he passed on Dilfer and will go into the season with Jim Harbaugh, a player he drafted when he was in Chicago, as his starting quarterback.

When Tobin, who traded Jeff George to the Atlanta Falcons last month, was asked about the criticism of his decision not to take a quarterback, he blasted Kiper.

"Who is Mel Kiper?" Tobin said. "He's never been a player, he's never been a coach, he's never been a scout, he's never been an administrator and all of a sudden he's an expert. He has no more credentials to do what he's doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor's a postman."

Kiper shot right back, saying Tobin must be insecure in his job. He was named to his post this year when owner Bob Irsay demoted his son, Jimmy, who had been running the team's drafts for the past decade.

"I have a right to my opinion and he has a right to his. You can't go for Jim Harbaugh and pass up Trent Dilfer. Forget it. That's why the Colts are the laughingstock in the league year in and year out," Kiper said.

Later, during a news conference at the Colts headquarters, Tobin noted Kiper is from Baltimore and was "very, very upset" when the Colts moved to Indianapolis.

"So every chance that Mel Kiper gets to shoot at the Colts and Indianapolis, he's going to do it," he said.

But Kiper praised the selection of Faulk with the second pick when many NFL executives thought he should have taken Heath Shuler, who went to the Washington Redskins with the next pick.

Buddy Ryan, the general manager and coach of the Arizona Cardinals, who was an assistant coach at Chicago when Tobin was there, supported Kiper in the dispute watched by personnel men around the league. Ryan said: "I back Kiper. He's got a better track record than Tobin."

The exchange between Kiper and Tobin obscured the fact that the Rams also bypassed Dilfer when they made the swap to the Colts even though coach Chuck Knox had said he was going to take him if he was still there. Knox said he changed his mind about a quarterback because Shuler was gone.

There was a feeling around the league that Knox, who signed Chris Miller, really didn't want to take a quarterback, but was warning Tampa Bay that it had to trade up with New England if it wanted one.

Instead, the Bucs sat tight at No. 6 and got Dilfer anyway. It could have been the coup of the draft.

The other big winner was San Francisco, which started the day with the 15th and 23rd picks and traded up with the Rams to the seventh slot to take defensive lineman Bryant Young of Notre Dame, who's supposed to help rebuild their defense.

The 49ers then got a second-round pick from the Cowboys to drop to the 28th slot. It was the first draft move for the Cowboys now that Jimmy Johnson has departed and owner Jerry Jones is in charge, although Larry Lacewell is now running the personnel department.

Jones, who had tried to peddle Alvin Harper to move up into the top 10, decided to keep the wide receiver when he couldn't get defensive lineman Willie McGinest of Southern Cal from the New England Patriots, who selected him fourth behind Shuler.

Jones shook hands with his colleagues in the draft room when the Cowboys selected defensive lineman Shante Carver of Arizona State with the 23rd pick.

Jones later jokingly asked if the ESPN cameras had made him look as if he were busy in the draft room. Johnson has claimed that in the past, Jones told him to sit close to him in the draft room so he'd look involved during the draft. Jones has denied the allegation.

The cameras did catch new coach Barry Switzer yawning at one point.

"I learned a lot in the draft room," Switzer said later.

The draft followed form for just four picks as the Cincinnati Bengals took defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson of Ohio State, the Colts took Faulk, the Redskins grabbed Shuler and the Patriots bypassed trade offers to select McGinest.

The teams then started maneuvering because there wasn't much consensus on how to rank the rest of the first-rounders in what was ranked as just an average draft.

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