Duds and Studs
When he took Baylor defensive tackle Daryl Gardener with the 20th pick in April's NFL draft, Miami Dolphins general manager and coach Jimmy Johnson thought he had grabbed a sleeper. Four months later many NFL observers are wondering if Gardener, a talented but often lethargic player, will ever come out of hibernation. In an SI poll of NFL G.M.'s, coaches, personnel directors and scouts, Gardener (left) was the overwhelming choice as the rookie most likely to be a bust, garnering 14 votes. No other player received more than two.
One NFL assistant says, "You had to watch a lot of film to see this guy make a play. We were wondering who'd take a chance on him. We knew it wasn't going to be us." Says one personnel director, "In the Senior Bowl he'd have one good play and four bad ones, and he'd always have an excuse." The guy who chose Gardener in the draft refused to pick a potential bust (even anonymously). "I don't think you can pick any of these rookies," said Johnson, "and say he's a bust after one year. It takes two or three years for some guys."
Another sleeper in the April draft, Denver Broncos linebacker John Mobley, who played at Division II Kutztown (Pa.) State, was the clear-cut winner, with six votes, as the rookie most likely to make a major impact this season. "This kid has all the tools you look for to be not just a great player but a superstar," says a Philadelphia Eagles scout of the 15th pick. "He's got the potential to be a once-in-a-lifetime linebacker."
As for much-ballyhooed and much-troubled former Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips, now of the St. Louis Rams: He finished second to Mobley with three votes and also got two mentions in the bust category.