Minnesota's top two picks, draftees Derrick Alexander of Florida State, who flubbed most of his workouts, and weighty offensive tackle Korey Stringer, should get early starting assignments.
Giants: New York began the off-season by making the worst deal of the George Young era, in effect swapping Dave Meggett for Herschel Walker. Walker is a useful utility player and brings great locker room presence, but signing him as a free agent for $1.6 million after refusing to pay Meggett $2 million is ludicrous. Meggett is the one Giant who kept defensive coordinators up nights.
The Giants could still be in position to prove that their 15-10 season-ending win over Dallas wasn't a fluke. A terrific back-field (Rodney Hampton, Walker and top-pick Tyrone Wheatley), good receivers (Mike Sherrard and second-year player Thomas Lewis) and a more mature Dave Brown at quarterback give New York more offensive punch.
Cardinals: Arizona's off-season has been a never-ending quest for wideouts and quarterbacks, because coach-despot Buddy Ryan threw everyone he had at those positions away. He lost part-time starting quarterback Steve Beuerlein to Jacksonville after making him available in the expansion draft, then failed to sign the signal-caller he wanted, Atlanta backup Bobby Hebert. As a consequence he had to give a huge contract to one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks of our time, Dave Kreig, who ended last season in a starring role with Detroit.
Ryan traded wideout Ricky Proehl to Seattle and lost free-agent wideout Randal Hill to Miami, then he dealt first-and fourth-round picks and running back Ron Moore to the Jets for productive receiver Rob Moore and used his second-round pick for Frank Sanders of Auburn. It's amazing what stability every team always has with the Budman.
Cowboys: If you're a Dallas fan, you've got to be wondering how the Cowboys improved themselves this off-season. While the 49ers got an impact player in J.J. Stokes and a serviceable corner, Marquez Pope, to replace Deion Sanders for at least half of the season, the Cowboys have lost Pro Bowl center Mark Stepnoski, deep receiving threat Alvin Harper and free safety James Washington. The Cowboys used the draft to get Emmitt Smith a backup (Alabama back Sherman Williams), a center for the future (300-pound tight end Kendell Watkins of Mississippi State) and lots of special teams help. They haven't added a single significant player.
Eagles: Ray Rhodes is as even keel as any coach in the NFL. So it was amazing to see him bordering on bubbly at defensive end Mike Mamula's workout in Boston on April 6. "Too many players in the league don't have that burning desire to play. My players have to have that. Mamula has it," he said at the time. And now he has Mamula, whom he will likely install as a pass rusher at right defensive end.
That, plus the acquisition of running back Ricky Watters, makes the Eagles, who lost their final seven games in '94, a playoff threat. The question on Watters is whether he can run between the tackles, which he didn't have to do much of in San Francisco.
Redskins: With holes throughout the Washington roster, coach Norv Turner felt he would do best to find a weapon to help the development of last year's first-rounder, quarterback Heath Shuler. So the Redskins took big, rangy wideout Michael Westbrook of Colorado in the first round. "You should see Heath now," Turner says. "Westbrook really looks like he's going to be a player." He had better be, because if Turner hopes to pull off a revival, he can't afford to waste the fourth pick in the draft.