In NFL draft, deals go round and round 9 of first 13 selections change hands on Day 1

April 20, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Let's make a deal was the theme of the NFL's annual collegiate draft yesterday. The league's wheeler-dealers swapped draft picks as if they were trading cards while moving up and down the board.

Although several picks, including the first three, were traded before the draft started, nine of the first 13 picks wound up changing hands and four teams had the sixth pick before the Seattle Seahawks selected offensive lineman Walter Jones with

the choice.

That gave the Seahawks, who had earlier traded up to the third spot to select cornerback Shawn Springs, two of the first six picks.

But the best wheeler-dealers in the draft may have been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who gave the New York Jets a fourth-round choice to move up from the eighth to sixth spot on the first round and then promptly got a third-round choice from the Seahawks for the pick to move back down to the 12th spot.

The Bucs used the 12th pick to select running back Warrick Dunn, and then with the 16th pick they got last year from the San Diego Chargers they grabbed wide receiver Reidel Anthony as they made a major move to improve their offense.

The Florida connection loomed large in yesterday's first round: Nine of the first 18 picks came out of national champion Florida, runner-up Florida State or the University of Miami. Florida State had four players picked in the first round, the fifth school to have four or more. Southern California holds the record of five in 1968.

Bill Parcells, in his first year as the czar of the New York Jets, continued to collect extra picks when he took a fourth-round choice to move down from the sixth to the eighth position.

Parcells made one more move in the third round when he used the choice he got from the St. Louis Rams in the package for the top pick to trade third-rounders with Denver for the Broncos' sixth- and seventh-round picks this year and a sixth-round pick next year.

That meant that Parcells wound up with six more picks in this year's draft than he would have had if he hadn't made the trades.

But he could have had Orlando Pace or Darrell Russell with the first pick if he hadn't started trading and wound up with linebacker James Farrior in the eighth spot, so it remains to be seen if the extra picks will make up for giving up the top choice.

Defending his moves, Parcells said the team's salary cap problems prevented the Jets from plunging into the free-agent market.

"We need volume," he said.

Before all the trading started, the first five players went off the board the way they were expected to after the Rams traded up with the Jets to get Pace, who became the first offensive lineman to be selected first since the Minnesota Vikings selected Ron Yary in 1968.

Pace is being touted as the next Anthony Munoz, but he doesn't want to be compared to any other player.

"I don't compare myself to anybody. I am Orlando Pace. I'm not trying to be like Mike," Pace said.

The Oakland Raiders, who traded up to get Pace, then settled for defensive lineman Russell and the Seahawks grabbed Springs. The Ravens got the pass rusher they needed in Peter Boulware in the fourth slot, and the Detroit Lions got a cornerback they wanted in Bryant Westbrook.

After Seattle took Jones, the New York Giants came up with the first major surprise by selecting Florida wide receiver Ike Hilliard, who wasn't expected to go in the top 10.

"We kept a secret," said general manager George Young, but he said Hilliard's selection shouldn't have been a surprise because he helped Florida win the national title.

"Danny Wuerffel [the Heisman Trophy winner] considered him the go-to guy and we did, too," Young said.

The Giants probably could have traded down and gotten Hillard later, but Young rarely makes first-round deals, although he did offer the Ravens a third-round choice for the fourth spot.

Coach Jimmy Johnson of the Miami Dolphins, noted for his mastery of the draft room, took a gamble on the first round by selecting Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Yatil Green.

Green has more physical talent than Hilliard, but he got only a 10 on the 50-question Wonderlic mini-IQ test, which was enough to make the Giants shy away from him.

But Johnson thinks he can turn him into a productive player and possibly a great one.

As usual, some players saw their stock drop on draft day and others soared.

For example, Alabama linebacker Dwayne Rudd and Houston running back Antowain Smith were among the nine players invited to draft headquarters by the NFL because they were expected to go in the top half of the round.

But Rudd fell to Minnesota at No. 20 and Smith to Buffalo at 23. It may have been a break for Smith, though, because he's got a chance to start in Buffalo's new one-back offense.

Other players to drop were Colorado wide receiver Rae Carruth, who went to Carolina at 27, and Virginia linebacker Jamie Sharper, who lasted until the second round, when the Ravens grabbed him.

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