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Peter King
April 09, 2001
Trade DeficitThe Broncos have a talented running back to deal, but no takers
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April 09, 2001

The Nfl

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Trade Deficit
The Broncos have a talented running back to deal, but no takers

Here's one thing that's hard to figure out about the NFL and its win-at-all-costs mentality: Why aren't there more trades? In three deals last year Packers general manager Ron Wolf exchanged mid-round draft picks and/or roster flotsam for running back Ahman Green, linebacker Nate Wayne and returner- cornerback Allen Rossum, all of whom became key players on a surprisingly strong 9-7 team. But 99 times out of a 100, teams act as if the only ways to improve are through the draft and free agency. That's silly and shortsighted.

Case in point: The Broncos are willing to trade running back Mike Anderson, the league's offensive rookie of the year last season, for one of the first 15 picks in the April 21 draft. Actually, Denver would listen to offers for either of its other 1,000-yard rushers, Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary. As of Sunday, though, coach Mike Shanahan had received only one lukewarm bid.

Three teams drafting among the top dozen—the Browns (third), the Bears (eighth) and the Panthers (11th)—are considering taking a running back in the first round, but none are pursuing Anderson. What hurts Anderson's trade value is that Denver's backs seem almost interchangeable; a series of low-round draft choices have all turned into stars running behind one of the best lines in the game. Davis, Gary and Anderson were chosen in the fourth round or lower, and all rushed for more than 1,100 yards as rookies. Cleveland coach Butch Davis, whose club had informal talks last week with the Broncos about dealing for a back, says, " Mike Anderson's got very good numbers, but he's in a great offense behind a great line. When it comes to draft choices, you'd rather give up your firstborn than a high pick."

If Shanahan can't swing a trade, he says he'll move one of the running backs to fullback. "It's pretty odd," he says of the lack of interest in Anderson. "You could have three more years, at minimum salary, for a guy who rushed for 1,500 yards [in 14 games] and averaged five yards a carry?

Draft Uncertainty
After Vick, No Clear-cut Order

To no one's surprise Chargers coach Mike Riley says it's all but certain that his team will use the top pick in the draft on Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick. "Unless a blockbuster offer comes up, things are assuredly headed that way," Riley says.

There's the rub. No one is eager to trade into the top of the draft because, unlike in recent years, there aren't one or two players that most everyone craves. As holder of the second pick, Cardinals general manager Bob Ferguson says, "Tell people to call us. We'll listen."

Vick is a mobile 6-footer with a strong arm but has only two years of college experience. As for other candidates who could be among the top five selections, Michigan wide receiver David Terrell disappointed scouts with a lackadaisical workout last month. "He reminds me, attitudewise, of [ Redskins wideout] Michael Westbrook," says the coach of one team picking in the top 10, a death-knell assessment if there ever was one. Wideout Koren Robinson of North Carolina State is probably a reach as a top-three choice. Mississippi running back Deuce McAllister has a history of injuries. None of the five to seven top defensive linemen has set himself apart from the others.

Take Missouri pass-rushing end Justin Smith. Whereas one team might rate Smith in the top three, another team might say that, at 267 pounds, he's a tweener who should go in the middle of the first round. "I could see Smith going second or 22nd," one general manager says.

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