Bengals, 49ers round up top prizes in draft

April 23, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Cincinnati Bengals, the second-worst team, and the San Francisco 49ers, the best team, made the two most dramatic moves in the NFL's collegiate draft yesterday, adding offensive firepower with blue-chip picks.

The Bengals, whose 3-13 record tied the Washington Redskins for the second-worst mark in the league last year, traded up from fifth to the top spot with the Carolina Panthers to take the most heralded player in this year's draft -- running back Ki-Jana Carter of Penn State.

The Super Bowl champion 49ers traded up from the 30th spot on the first round to the 10th with the Cleveland Browns to select wide receiver J. J. Stokes of UCLA, who is destined to replace veteran John Taylor in the team's receiving corps.

The moves by Cincinnati and San Francisco topped a day filled with trades. Eleven of the 32 picks on the first round changed hands yesterday, and 15 picks were made by teams that didn't originally own them. The first round lasted 5 hours, 39 minutes.

As expected, the draft emphasized offense. For the first time in 31 years, the first five picks were offensive players. Eight of the first 10 picks were offensive players, including the top two quarterbacks, Steve McNair of Alcorn State, who went No. 3 to the Houston Oilers, and Kerry Collins, who went No. 5 to the Panthers after they traded the No. 1 choice.

One defensive player who figured to go in the top 10 but wasn't selected until No. 12 by Tampa Bay was Warren Sapp of Miami after reports surfaced Friday -- he denied them -- that he failed multiple drug tests in college.

Carolina started the chain reaction of trades when it decided a Penn State quarterback (Kerry Collins) was better than a Penn State running back (Carter) for their future development as they build an expansion team.

"You can't go where you want to go without a quarterback," said Carolina general manager Bill Polian. "We all felt that for the long run, Kerry was the kind of player we needed."

Owner Jerry Richardson, who has predicted the Panthers will be in the Super Bowl in 10 years even though the last two expansion teams, Tampa Bay and Seattle, haven't made it yet, had the Super Bowl on his mind after the Panthers made the deal for Collins.

"I asked him if he heard of the Lombardi Trophy [given to the Super Bowl champions]," Richardson said. "He told me he just started thinking about it."

But the move was a controversial one because Carter is being touted by some scouts as another Gale Sayers or O. J. Simpson, someone who could become an instant star, and the Panthers only got a second-round pick in the deal.

It was a coup for Bengals owner Mike Brown, who passed up running back Marshall Faulk for defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson last year and now has his running back of the future.

"Dreams do come true," said Jim Anderson, the Bengals' running backs coach.

Said Bengals coach David Shula: "He'll score touchdowns when you hand him the football, and we haven't done that lately."

The Bengals scored five rushing touchdowns and averaged 97 yards a game on the ground last year. Carter should change that.

A native of Westerville, Ohio, who grew up rooting for the Bengals and Cleveland Browns, Carter said he'll be happy to play in Cincinnati.

"This is sweeter than winning the Heisman [which was won by Rashaan Salaam of Colorado, who went to the Chicago Bears on the 21st pick], and I'm very excited because I can have all my family and friends watch me every week," he said.

San Francisco, which has a history of bold moves (it traded up for Jerry Rice in 1985), gave up its first-round choices this year and next and a third and fourth pick this year for Stokes.

Although Stokes isn't a speed burner, the 49ers aren't worried about that. Rice isn't noted for speed either, and the 49ers say Stokes was worth four picks.

"We paid a price, but we think the price is going to pay dividends," team president Carmen Policy said.

The Dallas Cowboys, the team that was dethroned by the 49ers last year, took a different philosophy and traded out of the first round with Tampa Bay for two second-round picks.

By the time the wheeling-and-dealing was over, Carolina had three first-round selections and Tampa Bay had two. The Jets and Vikings started the day with two first-rounders.

In addition to Collins, Carolina took defensive back Tyrone Poole with the 22nd pick it got from Chicago and offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer with the 29th pick it got from San Diego.

It was no surprise that Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, one of the noted wheeler-dealers in the draft, swapped his first-round pick. He's made a habit of doing that. The only surprising thing is that it took him so long. Later, he traded away his 1996 first-round pick to the Detroit Lions to take running back Terrell Fletcher of Wisconsin.

Tampa Bay, which started out with the seventh pick, wound up taking Sapp at No. 12 and linebacker Derrick Brooks of Florida State with the 28th pick.

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