Winners, losers in a predictable draft
Posted: Wed April 29, 1998 at 1:20 PM ET
Dallas might have made quite a reach for Ellis as the No.8 pick
From The War Room
PHOENIX (CNN/SI) -- The 1998 NFL Draft may have been one of the most predictable drafts in recent memory, for a couple reasons.
First, this was a very deep draft, with a lot of quality players through two or three rounds. Many NFL teams, especially the prepared ones, felt they could stay where they were in the draft and good players would fall to them. When a team spends a whole year and a lot of money scouting and evaluating these players, the last thing it wants to do on draft day is give up picks, even if it is to move up to get a specific player.
Second, to make a trade at the top of the draft on draft day takes two teams. It's easy to want to trade down ... but someone has to want to trade up.
Ironically, the Arizona Cardinals-San Diego Chargers trade before the draft may have sent a false message about the price of trading up. The Chargers gave the Cardinals a 1999 first-round pick, a 1998 second-round pick and veteran players Eric Metcalf and Patrick Sapp to go up one spot, to the No. 2 pick in the draft. Apparently, those types of steep prices scared away teams who wanted to trade up and squelched a proposed trade between the Chicago Bears and the Jacksonville Jaguars on draft day.
Other trends in the 1998 draft
This draft brought some big men into the first round that had second-round grades. Players such as Auburn tackle Victor Riley (Kansas City at No. 27) and possibly Florida tackle Mo Collins (Oakland at No. 23) were guys that many thought might be available early in the second round. There was a tremendous run of corners, which indicated the depth of that group in this draft.
One surprising trend was the selection of quarterbacks in the second and third rounds; Charlie Batch (Detroit,Round 2), Brian Griese (Denver, Round 3) and Jonathan Quinn (Jacksonville, Round 3). They're are all good football players, but most predicted that a quarterback would not be drafted after the Big Two of Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf until Day 2. This is obviously a situation where NFL teams felt that these young quarterbacks were potential starters and they could not wait until Day 2 to get a shot at them. These guys were not drafted to be career backups.
Another interesting note is how well teams draft in the early portion of Day 2. Draft history will tell you that the first 10 picks in the fourth round of any given draft are usually some of the best selections in the two days. The reason is simple. NFL teams have a chance to regroup overnight after expending all of their energy in Rounds 1-3 on Saturday. There are always trades that take place at the top of the fourth round as teams see guys they missed and deal to go up and get them.
A perfect example this year is the Indianapolis Colts, who made a strong move to go up and get Texas A&M guard Steve McKinney as the first pick of the fourth round. McKinney was a perfect example of a player who everybody looked at Saturday night and said this is a great pick. Had Indianapolis not moved up to get him, he would have gone to St. Louis or possibly Philadelphia, only a few picks later.
A final note: It is almost inconceivable that no Ohio State players were selected -- the first time that has happened in the history of the draft. In addition, such traditional powerhouses as Notre Dame and USC had only one player selected, while Stephen F. Austin had two players drafted on Day 1. How times have changed.
The most surprising early picks
Defensive end Greg Ellis, Dallas -- The Cowboys may have been stuck at No. 8. Ellis appears to be a reach at that spot, but he is a need player. The comfort level would have probably been more in the 15-20 range, but he is a solid pick.
Cornerback R.W. McQuarters, San Francisco -- He appeared to be a very cold guy heading into the draft. He couldn't get his 40 speed into the exciting category. Nobody denies his talent, but if you can't run, it is difficult to cover the top wideouts in the NFL.
The 49ers must have seen something special in McQuarters as a return specialist. That is probably where he will make his living in the first year or two. San Francisco has had some success drafting players in the secondary in the past without great 40 times. A guy like Merton Hanks never had great measurables, but he has always played faster than his times.
Tackle Victor Riley, Kansas City -- He is the ultimate underachiever in this draft, and many teams had him projected in the second round. What was ironic about this pick was that, despite the fact that tackle was a need for the Chiefs, running back appeared to be a more critical need. With Robert Holcombe and other running backs on the board, it seems surprising that the Chiefs went this direction -- unless they pick up a veteran RB between now and training camp.
Players who dropped
Tackle Flozell Adams -- It was almost shocking that Adams dropped into the second round, although in discussions with team executives since the draft, several people expressed the sentiment that Adams was not overly impressive in spring workouts. He was really a hot guy at the Senior Bowl when he appeared to be in great shape and his movement was excellent. But he followed that up with a very mediocre combine and obviously never recovered his lofty Senior Bowl status.
Defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday -- Projected as a Top 10 pick, he slipped to No. 19, where Green Bay gladly jumped all over him. While Holliday is an excellent football player, he is not typical of today's tackles. He is more of a two-gap, read-and-react type guy that stuffs the run. Nebraska's Jason Peter, who went ahead of Holliday, probably will be a better NFL pass rusher because of quickness and penetration.
Players who rose
Safety Tebucky Jones -- This is a guy with one year of experience at safety, and until a great Indy combine, was projected as a developmental type player. He went from an afterthought to the 22nd pick in this draft (by New England) and was picked ahead of his much more famous partner at Syracuse, Donovin Darius.
Corberback Terry Fair -- Fair had a mediocre senior year at Tennessee and did not appear to have much of a buzz going into this draft until the last week. Detroit nabbed him at No. 20 and, although he is a good football player, it did not appear to be a great fit for the Lions, who might of had bigger needs at safety and already have a small corner in last year's second-round pick, Kevin Abrams. Fair and Abrams will be charged with covering such giant wideouts in the NFC Central as Cris Carter, Jake Reed and, now, Randy Moss.
Safety Donovin Darius -- Darius is an old-school type safety that is a big hitter but seems to lack great cover skills. He did show a little more athleticism leading up to the draft, but most prognosticators thought he would slip into the second round. When safety Shaun Williams went to the New York Giants at No. 24, Jacksonville was forced to grab Darius at No. 25 because of their need at safety.
Best second-day pick
Guard Steve McKinney, who went to Indianapolis with the first pick in the fourth round. He was arguably the most athletic guard in this draft and followed up a strong Senior Bowl with a great Indy workout. There were rumors he would go as high as Round 2. The Colts' had to give something up to move up to get him, but he may be a steal as the first pick in Day 2.
Who says character doesn't matter?
Just ask Randy Moss, Az Hakim, and Alonzo Mayes. Moss and Mayes were projected to be first-round picks for most of the draft process, with Moss easily perceived as a Top 5 selection, while Az Hakim appeared to be a lock as a second-round pick. None of these three players could shake the "questionable character" tag and it cost all of them a lot of money on draft day.
Moss, the wide receiver from Marshall, slipped all the way to No. 21 where Minnesota Viking head coach Dennis Green was ecstatic to take him. If Moss stays out of trouble, this will be the most astute pick in the 1998 draft.
Mayes was easily rated as the top tight end in this draft until substance abuse allegations from the Indy combine surfaced prior to the draft. He dropped all the way from a guy that should have gone in the 20's to the 94th pick in the fourth round. He is another guy that if he keeps his head on straight he could be a steal for the Bears, but it will take him awhile to make up the money that he has lost.
Hakim, a wide receiver from San Diego State, dropped to the 96th pick in the fourth round, to the St. Louis Rams. He may have even dropped further had it not been for the fact that the Rams have an assistant coach on their staff that spent four years with Hakim and has a great comfort level regarding his character. This draft should send a strong message to college players that have NFL hopes.
Five teams who helped themselves
Arizona Cardinals. Defensive end Andre Wadsworth and safety Corey Chavous will become immediate starters. There is a lot of talent and depth in this group. Most of these guys will make this team. The Cardinal front office, led by Bob Ferguson, showed great foresight and preparation in all of their picks. Three of their four seventh-round picks (wide receiver Phil Savoy, defensive end George Cousins, and safety Pat Tillman) were great selections and, frankly, were not typical of past Cardinal drafts. These guys could turn into gems in the future.
St. Louis Rams. The Rams did not buy take the bait to trade up with Chicago but instead drafted a need -- defensive end Grant Wistrom. Then they had the best news of the day when running back Robert Holcombe dropped to them in the second round. They followed it up with great picks in Rounds 3 and 4, with linebacker Leonard Little and wide receiver Az Hakim.
Miami Dolphins. Although many will criticize running back John Avery in the first round, the Dolphins had good inside information that Avery was so hot that somebody would grab him early in Round 2, so they nabbed him at No. 29. They then picked one of the best unknown cornerbacks in this draft, Patrick Surtain, in Round 2 and followed it up with several Jimmy Johnson-type picks in the middle rounds. All of the Dolphins selections are athletic, young guys who can run. Nobody works the middle of the draft better than Johnson and Bob Ackles. This is a deep group that will continue to provide depth and athleticism to the improving Dolphins.
Washington Redskins. Although the Redskins did not have a first-round pick, they hit it big with their first three selections. They nabbed the best tight end in this draft, Stephen Alexander, in Round 2 and followed it up with Terry Allen's heir apparent, running back Skip Hicks, in Round 3. They stole a great athletic nickel linebacker in Round 4 in Shawn Barber. These three picks give them a nice upgrade. All three are excellent athletes.
Minnesota Vikings. If Randy Moss produces, this will be the pick of this draft. It is scary to think how good the Vikings could be, with the trio of Moss and veterans Cris Carter and Jake Reed with Robert Smith coming out of the backfield. Coach Dennis Green is probably one of the few coaches in the NFL that has total confidence he can handle Moss. The Vikings also did a nice job in Round 2 avoiding the pitfall of selecting need over best athlete available. While they could have easily reached for a corner, they loved linebacker Kailee Wong. They then got their cornerback in Round 3 in Ramos McDonald and proceeded to make a trade for New England cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock, which cost them a No. 3 pick next year. When you include Hitchcock into the mix, it was a great first day for the Vikings. They filled needs and upgraded this team athletically.