Eye on Elway's future, Broncos tab QB N. Arizona's Lewis could be replacement

April 22, 1996|By VITO STELLINO | VITO STELLINO,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Jeff Lewis, an obscure quarterback from Northern Arizona, one day could be thrust into one of the toughest situations in sports: trying to replace a legend.

As the NFL wrapped up the final four rounds of its draft yesterday, Lewis was a most intriguing pick.

Lewis, who passed for 2,426 yards before breaking his right collarbone last year, was selected on the fourth round by the Denver Broncos and will be groomed to replace John Elway.

Elway, 35, who recently signed a record five-year, $29.5 million deal, may only play three more years, and the Broncos must begin to think about replacing him.

Nobody suggests Lewis is another Elway. He's not noted for being a deep thrower, but he did pass for 2,497 yards in 1993 and 3,355 in 1994, and coach Mike Shanahan likes his potential.

"It takes awhile to develop a quarterback. If you're fortunate enough to get a player somewhere after the fourth round and develop him for the future, you feel very fortunate," he said. "We'll have to see exactly what type of talent he has to see if we evaluated him correctly. But we feel very good about the pick."

About replacing Elway, Shanahan said, "Sure, I'd like John to play his five years. Is John going to play three or four? I don't think anybody can answer that. But if he did play three quality years, and after his third year he said, 'Hey, it's time to hang it up,' then you have a quarterback with three years of experience in the NFL who's in a position to come in and play."

The Broncos said they rated Lewis as the No. 1 quarterback in a field that was considered relatively weak. He was the third of eight quarterbacks selected.

The first two were Tony Banks of Michigan State, who went to the St. Louis Rams on the second round, and Bobby Hoying of Ohio State, selected by the Philadelphia Eagles on the fourth round.

St. Louis and Philadelphia have aging starters (Steve Walsh and Rodney Peete, respectively) and are looking to develop quarterbacks for the future.

The next quarterback picked was Florida's Danny Kanell, who went to the New York Giants on the fourth round.

Giants general manager George Young still believes in starter Dave Brown and coach Dan Reeves likes Tommy Maddox, whom he drafted on the first round when he was in Denver.

But the Giants might have to start facing the possibility that Lewis Brown may never be the answer.

The other quarterbacks selected were Spence Fischer of Duke (Pittsburgh Steelers, sixth round); Mike Cawley of James Madison (Colts, sixth round); Jon Stark of Trinity, Ill. (Ravens, seventh round), and Kyle Wachholtz of Southern California (Green Bay Packers, seventh round).

Among quarterbacks not drafted were Nebraska's Tommie Frazier and Maryland's Scott Milanovich.

As usual, most of the players selected on the final four rounds were rather obscure.

The player with the best-known name picked in the later rounds was defensive back Anthony Dorsett of Pitt, who went to the Houston Oilers on the sixth round.

Dorsett's father, Tony, was the second player selected in 1977 and went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Teams also continued to gamble on problem players from

Nebraska.

Defensive lineman Christian Peter, who pleaded no contest to third-degree sexual assault in May 1994 and was put on 18 months probation, went to the New England Patriots on the fifth round.

Running back Lawrence Phillips, on probation after pleading no contest to assault charges, and cornerback Tyrone Williams, still facing criminal felony charges involving a gun, were drafted by the Rams and Packers, respectively.

Sam Manuel, a linebacker from New Mexico State, was the 254th and final player selected, by the San Francisco 49ers, during a draft that lasted 16 hours, 52 minutes.

That qualifies him as "Mr. Irrelevant," and he'll be honored during "Irrelevant Week" in Newport Beach, Calif., in late June.

Fifteen picks earlier, the 49ers selected his twin brother, Sean, a tight end at the same school.

Draft by position

Selections in the 1996 National Football League college draft

by position:

Defensive backs .. .. .. 43 .. Tight ends .. 16

Wide receivers ... .. .. 33 .. Guards ... .. 11

Running backs . .. .. .. 32 .. Centers .. ... 9

Linebackers ... .. .. .. 29 .. Quarterbacks . 8

Offensive tackles ... .. 27 .. Punters .. ... 1

Defensive ends ... .. .. 26 .. Nose tackles . 1

Defensive tackles ... .. 18

Draft by conference

Breakdown of selections in the 1996 National Football League college draft by conferences:

E;Southeastern .. .. .. .. 38 .. Gulf South .. .. .. .. .. 3

Big Ten . .. .. .. .. .. 32 .. Mid-Eastern Athletic . .. 3

Pacific 10 . .. .. .. .. 27 .. Southland ... .. .. .. .. 3

Big Eight .. .. .. .. .. 24 .. Lone Star ... .. .. .. .. 2

Big East ... .. .. .. .. 18 .. Pennsylvania Athletic ... 2

Southwest .. .. .. .. .. 17 .. Yankee ... .. .. .. .. .. 2

Atlantic Coast ... .. .. 16 .. Other . .. .. .. .. .. .. 2

Independent ... .. .. .. 15 .. Gateway .. .. .. .. .. .. 1

Western Athletic . .. .. 14 .. Mid-American ... .. .. .. 1

Big West ... .. .. .. ... 6 .. Mid-America Athletics ... 1

Ohio Valley ... .. .. ... 5 .. New England . .. .. .. .. 1

S'western Athletic .. ... 5 .. N. Calif. Athletic ... .. 1

Big Sky . .. .. .. .. ... 4 .. N. Ill. Intercollegiate . 1

Central Athletic . .. ... 4 .. South Atlantic . .. .. .. 1

Southern ... .. .. .. ... 4 .. Southern Athletic . .. .. 1

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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