Parcells, Jets join downward trend No. 1 choice dealt to St. Louis

Pace expected to be first

Nfl Draft Preview

April 18, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Bill Parcells decided he couldn't squeeze 335-pound Orlando Pace into his shopping cart, but Dick Vermeil thinks he'll find room for him.

Parcells, who said when he left the New England Patriots that he should be able to shop for the groceries if he's expected to cook the meal, jumped on the trading-down bandwagon in his first major decision as the czar of the New York Jets.

Parcells traded down from the first to the sixth spot with St. Louis in exchange for the Rams' third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks.

The Rams, who were expected to take offensive tackle Walter Jones with the sixth pick, will now select Pace with the first choice.

Vermeil, the new Rams coach, wanted more blocking for an offense that ranked 27th in yardage gained last year and couldn't resist making the trade once Parcells dropped his demand for a second-round pick in the deal.

"It's a win-win situation for both teams," said Parcells, who, in effect, traded for himself. He got the third- and fourth-round picks back the Jets had to give to the Patriots to sign him.

In joining the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons, who had already traded down from the second and third spots, respectively, Parcells sent the message that he doesn't think the top players in this year's draft are worth the prices the teams will have to pay them and the possible holdouts they may have to endure to get them into camp.

"I don't see this group comparing to last year's group," said Bill Kuharich, Saints general manager who traded down to the 10th spot with the Oakland Raiders and is interested in trading down again.

There are no glamour players -- quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers -- at the top of this year's draft, but that doesn't mean the contract demands go down.

Before making the trade with the Rams, the Jets even contacted David Ware, the agent for cornerback Shawn Springs, and offered to negotiate a contract for him in the No. 1 spot if he'd agree to take less than the $6.5 million signing bonus that Keyshawn Johnson got in the first spot last year. They thought the idea of being the first pick might appeal to Ware and Spring.

Ware declined because he figures he'll be in an excellent negotiating position in the third spot because Simeon Rice of the Arizona Cardinals got a $6.5 million signing bonus in the third slot and Jonathan Ogden got a $6.79 million signing bonus in the fourth slot.

The Ravens gave Ogden the biggest signing bonus in the draft because they wanted to avoid a holdout in their first year in a new city.

The real winners in this draft will be Carl Poston, Leigh Steinberg, Ware and Eugene Parker, the agents for Pace, Darrell Russell, Springs and Peter Boulware, who are expected to be the top four players picked by the Rams, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and Ravens.

There's a chance, though, that the Raiders, who traded up to the No. 2 spot to take Pace, will now trade down to the fifth spot with the Detroit Lions, who could move up to take Springs in the second slot.

If the Raiders stay in the second spot, they've sent out signals they'll take Russell, even though it's not a need pick. Russell's a gamble because he had the habit of not going all-out on every play in college and that's not likely to change once he gets $6 million to $7 million in his pocket.

Springs figures to go to Seattle with the third pick. He's the

player the Seahawks traded up to get.

That would leave the Ravens likely to take Boulware with the fourth pick. Even though the Ravens tried to trade down for weeks, Boulware would help their anemic pass rush that was tied for the fourth-lowest sack total in the league last year at 30.

Assuming the Lions don't trade up, they'll likely take cornerback Bryant Westbrook in this spot.

The Jets then will make the sixth pick and it's here that things get confusing because so many players are rated in similar categories. The Jets even could trade down again.

Even in the best of drafts, picking players is like selecting stocks in a bear market and this is far from the best of drafts.

As Bill Polian, the general manager of the Carolina Panthers, said, "Over time, 50 percent or more fail to pan out. It's far from foolproof."

Look at the 1991 and 1992 drafts. Those players should be in their prime now, but only nine players selected in the first round of those two drafts made the Pro Bowl.

Although the conventional wisdom is that this is a deep draft in the second through fourth rounds, those players obviously aren't rated as highly as the first-rounders.

But despite the lack of glamour players, the scouts all hope they can find some productive players.

Tony Dungy, the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said, "It's probably not an interesting draft from a fan or writer's standpoint, but there are some good players, guys who will have impact on the league."

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