It had all the makings of a beautiful NFL draft. The USFL, which had enough financial clout last year to dislodge 30% of the players projected for the first three rounds, decided to save money in 1985, and Doug Flutie was its only major catch. So the glamour quarterback was gone, but hold on a minute, along came Bernie Kosar, a sophomore who's really a senior, a dazzler from the University of Miami, to take his place. While the NFL owners were meeting out in Phoenix in March, Kosar was back in Ohio announcing that he wanted to be a pro. Beautiful.
But now the draft wasn't so nice. The big question at week's end was whether Kosar would enter the regular draft, scheduled for April 30, or a supplemental draft (SCORECARD, April 22). Commissioner Pete Rozelle was to make that decision during the week, and whatever his ruling, some people were likely to be hopping mad. Some were talking lawsuit. Minnesota had traded for Houston's No. 2 slot in the regular draft to have a shot at Kosar, Buffalo having already signed Bruce Smith as the No. 1 pick. Cleveland had acquired Buffalo's No. 1 pick in the supplemental draft, also with a view of getting Kosar.
For this draft preview, we'll just forget about Kosar.
1. BUFFALO—Bruce Smith, DE, Virginia Tech. Signed, sealed and delivered.
2. MINNESOTA (from Houston)—Bill Fralic, T, Pittsburgh. The Vikes like Fralic and two wide receivers, Miami's breathtakingly fast Eddie Brown and Wisconsin's Al Toon, who came on strong in all-star action.
3. HOUSTON (from Minnesota)—Ray Childress, DE, Texas A & M. The Oilers have said so all along.
4. ATLANTA—Eddie Brown, WR, Miami. The Falcons will go for Fralic if he's still there, and Toon is looking more attractive every day, but Brown means instant excitement.
5. INDIANAPOLIS—Ken Ruettgers, T-G, USC. The Colts like Brown and Fralic, and as late as the weekend they were leaning toward another WR, Jerry Rice, but then the offensive line started crying for help.
6. DETROIT—Duane Bickett, LB, USC. Everyone figured the Lions would go for running back Ethan Horton because of Billy Sims's knee injury, but they're moving to a 3-4 defense, and they want an active linebacker.
7. CLEVELAND—Al Toon, WR, Wisconsin. The Browns hope to get Kosar in the supplemental draft, thus completing the act. Owner Art Modell has a big stadium to fill.
8. TAMPA BAY—Ron Holmes, DE, Washington. The Bucs want someone to play the left side, the strong side. Notre Dame's Mike Gann is a possibility, but Holmes is more active.
9. PHILADELPHIA—Lomas Brown, T-G, Florida. It was between Brown and Ruettgers. With Ruettgers gone, the decision's easy. Either way, Wilbert Montgomery will applaud the pick.
10. NEW YORK JETS—Kevin Brooks, DE, Michigan. They like Horton and Rice, but coach Joe Walton spent the week before the draft shopping around for a pass rusher. Barring a last-minute trade, this is the guy.
11. HOUSTON (from New Orleans)—Derrick. Burroughs, CB, Memphis State, in a photo finish over the other top-rated cornerback, Richard Johnson of Wisconsin. The Oilers spent the last three years building an offense. Now it's the defense's turn.
12. SAN DIEGO—Kevin Allen, T-G, Indiana. How the Chargers would love to have Ruettgers or Lomas Brown, but they have an efficient pass blocker here.
13. CINCINNATI—Richard Johnson, CB, Wisconsin. The Bengals have two first-round picks. The first for defense, the second for offense. Johnson is rated by many as the best DB in the draft.
14. GREEN BAY—Jerry Rice, WR, Mississippi Valley State. Coach Forrest Gregg was all set to draft a linebacker like Bickett, but surprise, Rice may still be available. Not as much speed as Toon or Brown, but great hands. J.J. Jefferson, as everyone knows, is trade bait.
15. KANSAS CITY—Ethan Horton, RB, North Carolina. A 6'3" long-strider who brings back memories of Calvin Hill. Coach John Mackovic's running game was in turmoil last year. He'll blink twice if he sees Horton's name on the board, rub his eyes and grab him quickly.
16. NEW ENGLAND—Kevin Glover, C-G, Maryland. The skeptics say that at 6'2" he's too short. His fans point to the great game he had against Clemson's 350-pound William Perry. The Patriots, who suffered when center Pete Brock was hurt last year, want that firepower down the middle.
17. DALLAS—Vance Johnson, WR, Arizona. Everyone figured the Cowboys needed some help in the offensive line, which has been rebuilding since Rayfield Wright's retirement in 1979. Then Johnson ran a 4.28 40 for the scouts, and those Cowboy computers started humming.
18. ST. LOUIS—Chris Dole-man, .LB-DE, Pittsburgh. Luis Sharpe, the Cardinals' fine left tackle, jumped to Memphis of the USFL last week, which left a big hole in the offensive line, but coach Jim Hanifan says he'll fill it from within. How often do 6'5", 250-pound linebackers come along?
19. NEW YORK GIANTS—Greg Allen, RB, Florida State. Healthy, he's a dazzling runner who would have gone in the top half-dozen picks. Now he's coming off a knee injury and he's a gamble. The Giants, with a big blocking fullback (Maurice Carthon of the Generals) arriving from the USFL, will take it.
20. PITTSBURGH—Jerry Gray, S, Texas. He could be projected to cornerback. Actually he could be used anywhere in a secondary that was riddled by Miami in the AFC Championship.
21. L.A. RAMS—Garin Veris, DE, Stanford. It's no secret that coach John Robinson's looking for a pass rusher. It'll come down to Veris, who blossomed in the East-West game, or Mississippi's Freddie Joe Nunn.
22. CHICAGO—Mike Gann, DT-DE, Notre Dame. The Bears want a wide receiver and a tight end, but will have to find them later on.
23. L.A. RAIDERS—Jim Lachey, T-G, Ohio State. Suddenly, one of the Raiders' greatest strengths, the offensive line, has become a problem. Still vivid is the memory of the heat Jim Plunkett suffered in the playoffs against Seattle.
24. WASHINGTON—Kyle Morrell, S, Brigham Young. Yeah, we know, John Riggins is aging and has a bad back. Call this a sleeper.
25. CINCINNATI (from Seattle)—George Adams, RB-FB, Kentucky. It's the offense's turn now. The surprise is that Adams is still there.
26. DENVER—Issiac Holt, CB, Alcorn State. Holt has had a bad knee, but the Broncos don't want to go through another year playing Mike Harden, a natural safetyman, at cornerback.
27. MIAMI—Lorenzo Hampton, RB, Florida. He runs, he catches, he provides instant impact. The only thing he doesn't do is play defense, which is what the Dolphins really need.
28. SAN FRANCISCO—Owen Gill, HB-FB, Iowa. Bill Walsh said he'd trade his first three rounds to get Eddie Brown. The 49ers still might trade up for a fancy wide receiver, but if they don't they'll be happy with Gill, a muscle runner.