Volume 2, Number 5 -- May, 1997

Buy a Damned T-Shirt!
From the Cheap Seats "The Football Draft"
By Dave Lind

 Christmas, for football fans, comes not in December, but in April. Ah, the NFL draft! That most wonderful time of the year, when every football team (except the Jets) is a playoff contender, and NFL fans across the country gather around their televisions and rekindle their relationships with long forgotten friends. There's old Uncle Mel, as in Kiper, who hasn't predicted a draft pick correctly since Tony Mandarich went to Green Bay, but still plugs valiantly on. It good to see Uncle Mel, even if he does tend to get all red in the face every time the Jets make a pick. Oh, and there's Cousin Fred (Never Right) Edelstein, who's probably busy cooking up his next "Inside information-based" trade rumor which never comes to fruition. Oh, Cousin Fred, when will you ever learn? But the real stars of this day are the General Managers, busy maneuvering away in their warrooms. Making phone calls and checking their draft board as eager fans, like fathers in the waiting room, wait impatiently to meet their new child. Wow, this isn't going nearly as well as I'd envisioned it. How about we just plunge right into the evaluation part of this story? I've taken the trouble of breaking down all of the NFL teams into three categories: The Big 10, or the 10 teams with the best draft, the Little 10, and the Mediocre 10.

1) Seattle With all the maneuvering that was taking place before the draft to grab a shot at Ohio State's man-child, Orlando Pace, the Seahawks wisely opted to stay out of the bidding. The result, instead of getting the best player in the draft they got two of the best five players in the draft. CB Shawn Springs and OT Walter Jones will both step immediately into the starting lineup and will likely develop into pro-bowl caliber players.
2) Tampa Bay The Bucs went one better than the Seahawks, grabbing three potential starters in RB Warrick Dunn, WR Reidel Anthony, and OT Jerry Wunsch. Of the three, Wunsch might actually be the best bargain, having slipped all the way to the 37th pick overall. The selection of Dunn may well serve as a warning to Errict Rhett, play or pack.
3) St. Louis The big winner in the draft of '97 might turn out to be Lawrence Phillips, who gets to exploit those big holes massive OT Orlando Pace promises to open in opposing defenses for the next ten years. New Head Coach Dick Vermeil finally got some measure of revenge against the Raiders for the Superbowl XV pasting they visited upon his Eagles, outfoxing them as he did by moving up to the number 1 spot to grab Pace.
4) Detroit The new coaching regime in Detroit made no bones about their goal in this draft: Beef up the secondary. After failing in their efforts to move up to number 2 for Springs, the Lions will have to make do with CB Bryant Westbrook, whom many have compared to Ronnie Lott. They also snapped up OL Juan Roque and DB Kevin Abrams to round out a very solid draft.
5) NY Jets Bill Parcells said all winter that the Jets needed more than one player to make them competetive, and danged if he wasn't joking! The Jets dealt away the top pick, moving down in the draft and beefing up their defense with LB James Farrior and DT Rick Terry, whom some have compared favorably with Darrell Russell.
6) Miami Jimmy Johnson backed up the truck and loaded up, tapping a league-high 14 players in this year's draft, including six in the first three rounds. The players will come in handy as Johnson tries to fill out a thin roster. The player who figures to be of most immediate help will be WR Yatil Green, while the best pick might well have been DB Sam Madison in the second round.
7) Jacksonville Tom Coughlin went defense-happy as all of his first four picks went to the defense. DT Reynaldo Wynn was a steal with the 21st pick while DB Mike Logan and LB James Hamilton could pay dividends down the road.
8) Baltimore Like their AFC Central counterparts, the Ravens also addressed their glaring defensive shortcomings. Peter Boulware looks to be an impact player wherever he starts, whether Devensive End or Linebacker. The same can be said of LB James Sharper, who may take a bit longer to develop.
9) NY Giants The Giants' added a much needed weapon to their offense when they snagged WR Ike Hilliard, who looks more like Sterling Sharpe than Sterling Sharpe ever did. The quest to replace Dave Meggett continues with RB Tiki Barber, who won't exactly shred defenses, but will annoy the hell out of them.
10) Atlanta The Falcons joined in on the DB feeding frenzy by snapping up CB Michael Booker. They then made a move to shore up their defensive line by adding DE Nathan Davis. Then they made their best pick of the draft, RB Byron Hanspard, who will push Craig Heyward out of Atlanta altogether and could eat into Jamal Anderson's playing time.

11) Oakland For any other team, DE Darrell Russell would have rated a Big Ten ranking, but for a team that already had Chester McGlockton and Russell Maryland, well... Unless Russell can switch to OT and protect QB Jeff George's blind side the Raiders did not get out of this draft what they came for.
12) Carolina The rich just got richer. There is no way possible that Rae Carruth should have made it to the Panthers with the 26th pick. The Panthers also got some nice devensive projects in DB Mike Minter and LB Kinnon Tatum.
13) Indianapolis Colts came to the draft looking for protection for QB Jim Harbuagh. They feel they more than filled their need with OTs Tarik Glenn, who needs to control his weight, and Adam Meadows.
14) Minnesota Another team that profited from other team's oversights. The Vikings were not exactly looking for a Linebacker, but when Dwayne Rudd was still standing around with no hat at the 20th pick, well...
15) Arizona The Cardinals pulled a PR coup by keeping local hero QB Jake Plummer in the state of Arizona. If the Cards are smart, they'll bring Plummer along slowly and let Kent Graham take his lumps while they continue to build the rest of the team. DB Tom Knight is a fine addition to the secondary.
16) Buffalo The Bills feel they have found the heir apparent to Thurman Thomas in RB Antowain Smith. It's about time. DE Marcellus Wiley, projected by many as a first rounder, was a welcome find in the second round.
17) Cincinnati DE Reinard Wilson was the first pick, but it was RB Corey Dillon who raised eyebrows when his name was called out. His selection means that incumbent Ki-Jana Carter will be pushed for the starting job in training camp.
18) Pittsburgh The Steelers are accepting applications to fill the huge shoes left behind by Rod Woodson. The first to interview will be CB Chad Scott, who faces a steep learning curve in the NFL.
19) Dallas The only player of note added by the Cowboys was a big one, 280-pound tight end David Lafleur, whom the Cowboys hope can replace Jay Novacek. After Lafleur, the Cowboys next best bet will be LB Dexter Coakly, who will provide depth to a free-agency riddled linebacking corp.
20) Kansas City The Chiefs wheeled-and-dealed to move up and grab TE Tony Gonzalez before the Niners could get him. The move may well have been ill-advised, as many in the draft rated Lafleur as high or higher than the Cal star who will continue to play basketball for his alma mater when the season ends for the Chiefs, probably in December. WR Keith Lockett was a nice pick up.

21) Washington The Redskins passed on many quality players before settling on DE Kenard Lang, otherwise their draft would have been rated higher. LB Greg Jones is a project player at best. Of course, the 'Skins do have time for projects.
22) Green Bay For picking with the last selection in each round, the Packers managed to pull a late jewel out the pile in OT Ross Verba. What can you say about a team that is so deep they can afford to take a Place Kicker in the third round (Brett Conway of Penn State.) How about, "Look for them to be picking last again next year?"
23) San Francisco Steve Mariucci blew his first-ever NFL draft selection by forcing QB Jim Druckenmiller into the first round. There is no doubt Druckenmiller was the best QB in the draft, but he was not worth a first rounder. The Niners would have been better-advised to snag Rae Carruth with their top pick and grab Pat Barnes or Jake Plummer later on. Either would be a better fit for the Niner's offense.
24) Houston The Oilers pulled a fast one on Kansas City, trading down five spots and still managing to come away with the player they had targeted, DE Kenny Holmes.
24) Philadelphia The Eagles picked up a long-term project in DE Jon Harris and were happy to get him. He may not replace the departed William Fuller this season, but eventually should make Ray Rhodes look like a genius. Other than that, the Eagles will have to rely on the free agent market to fill needs.
26) Chicago The Bears traded their first rounder (11th overall) to Seattle for Rick Mirer, who was the second choice overall just four years ago. Not a bad deal, when one considers the paucity of NFL-caliber QB's today. Still, the Bears managed to pull TE John Allred and RB Darnell Autry out of the 2nd and 4th rounds, respectively. Both will probably need a year or two to develop, but could pay dividends in the long run.
27) New England The Patriots didn't come away with much to brag about from this year's draft, settling for DB Chris Canty, DT Brandon Mitchell, and RB Sedrick Shaw. All are longshots to make any sort of impact in the near future, though each could contribute off the bench, and given time, could blossom into steady ballplayers.
28) New Orleans One wonders if new Head Coach Mike Ditka even watched football during his hiatus. Chris Naeole was scarcely projected as a first rounder, let alone the 10th pick. Ditka passed on several more highly-regarded tackles such as Tarik Glenn and Jerry Wunsch. Troy Davis was a nice pick-up in the 3rd, though, and all eyes will be on Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, taken in the fourth. Beyond that, this draft was a bust.
29) San Diego Bobby Beathard did his homework again, bagging TE Freddie Jones in the second round. Since the Chargers had no firstrounder, thanks to las-il- year's deal to draft Bryan Still, that was about all the noise the Chargers made this year. Hardly what one expects from Beathard.
30) Denver The Broncos once again have taken steps to beef up their defensive line, this time by signing DE Neil Smith and drafting DT Trevor Pryce. Chances are, this time next season the Broncos will again be looking to beef up their defensive line.

 So that's it. That's the 1997 NFL Draft, in a nutshell. Next stop, the Hall of Fame game on July 26th. Mark your calendars.
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