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The NFL
Peter King
April 06, 1998
Pressure Picks
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April 06, 1998

The Nfl

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Running Hot and Cold

With the NFL draft fast approaching, coaches, scouts and front-office personnel are conducting their final checks on prospective picks. Here are six players of note whose stock has risen nr fallen dramatically since the start of the year.

PLAYER

POSITION

SCHOOL

HEIGHT

WEIGHT

Mercury Rising

Brian Griese

QB

Michigan

6'2"

212

Smarts, sufficient arm strength lift him from probable seventh-round pick to a second

Fred Taylor (above)

RB

Florida

6 feet

226

Moved into top 15 after running a 4.35 40—on grass—in a workout

Scott Frost

S

Nebraska

6'2�"

219

Quarterback trying new position; showed great speed, tackling ability in all-star games

Cooling Off

Michael Myers

DT

Alabama

6'2�"

285

Slow (5.15 in 40) and, after getting kicked off Tide in '97, there are character questions

R.W. McQuarters

DB

Oklahoma State

5'9�"

193

Poor man's Deion Sanders is missing one critical Deion element: speed

Tavian Banks

RB

Iowa

5'9�"

198

Half step too slow and not big enough to be an every-down NFL back

Pressure Picks

Jets coach Bill Parcells' signing restricted free-agent running back Curtis Martin away from the Patriots last week showed a brazen disregard for New England's front office. Certainly New England never should have put itself in the position to lose its second-most-important player, after quarterback Drew Bledsoe. But the upshot of the deal is that Parcells, who defected from the Pats to the Jets a year ago, has no respect for New England's ability to mine talent without him.

Combining their compensation for Parcells' departure with the draft choices they received for declining to match New York's offer to Martin—a six-year, $36 million contract—the Patriots have the Jets' first-, second-and third-round picks in the draft this month, plus a first-round selection next year. In effect Par-cells has handed his chief rival for AEC East supremacy—and a two-time defending division champion—a chance to reload with 10 picks (including New England's own) in the top three rounds of the next two drafts.

Would Parcells have given Dolphins coach and general manager Jimmy Johnson such draft-day largesse? Never. Even New England vice president of player personnel Bobby Grier, who oversees his team's draft, believes Parcells was questioning his organization's drafting prowess. "I thought exactly that when the offer sheet for Curtis came in," Grier said last Saturday. "I don't think there's any bad feeling between Bill and me, but there's definitely something between Bill and our organization."

The backdrop: Parcells and Grier combined on a superb 1995 draft (cornerback Ty Law, linebacker Ted Johnson, Martin and center Dave Wohlabaugh). But the following year Parcells and Grier were at odds over whom to select with the No. 7 pick. Par-cells wanted defensive help, Grier wanted wideout Terry Glenn. When owner Bob Kraft sided with his personnel man, Parcells seethed. Less than 10 months later, after leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl, Parcells walked away.

With total control of the selection process for the first time last April, Grier, a New England assistant coach and scout since 1983, had an uneventful draft, with only nickelback Chris Canty, a first-round selection, becoming a regular contributor during the season. All nine players chosen in the '97 draft remain on the roster, but in addition to Canty, only running back Sedrick Shaw, a third-round pick, is expected to have an impact in '98. Now die Patriots have lost Martin, who led the AFC in rushing as a rookie, with 1,487 yards, and ran for 1,152 yards his second year and 1,160 more last year, even though he missed all or part of six games with a torn abdominal muscle that required off-season surgery.

The good news for the Patriots is the strength of the draft. New England holds the 18th, 22nd, 51st, 53rd, 80th and 82nd picks. "They have almost the same opportunity the Cowboys had after the Herschel Walker trade [to the Vikings in 1989]," says Rams pro personnel director Charlie Armey. "This is a top-heavy draft, really strong through three rounds."

"You judge a draft by the strength of the offensive and defensive lines, and they're both good," adds Bucs director of player personnel Jerry Angelo. "On the offensive line, as many as 12 will come out of the draft and be rank-and-file NFL starters or better, and that's very good."

The Patriots' top priority is a running back, but New England would have to pay dearly to move into position to take Penn State powerback Curtis Enis, most likely bound for the Bears at No. 5 or the Rams at No. 6. Florida's big, fast Fred Taylor or Georgia's productive Robert Edwards—the Patriots called agents for both last week to arrange visits—may fall to No. 18. " New England's still the most talented team in our division," the Dolphins' Johnson says. "They didn't have Martin the last month of last season, and they beat us twice."

Grier says he feels no pressure picking impact players in the first three rounds. Armey, who worked with Grier in the New England scouting department until moving to the Rams last year, believes him. "Bobby's not the kind of guy who succumbs to pressure, even when things are hot," Armey says. "The pressure will not deflate this man."

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