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ROCKET FUEL NEEDED
TO: Raghib (Rocket) Ismail
The draft is still four months away, but by this time of year we usually have a pretty good indication of which collegian will be the top pick. When there is no clear-cut No. 1, there is at least a short list of leading candidates that everybody agrees on. Well, here's how the 1991 draft is shaping up: If it were conducted today, somebody named Mike Croel might well be the first player chosen. "I'm glad I don't have that top pick," says Seahawk player personnel director Mike Allman, "because I don't know who the hell it would be."
"The top 10," says Redskin general manager Charley Casserly, "is going to be dramatically less [talented] than the top 10 of a year ago."
The prospect of a weak draft seems appropriate, considering that the first selection probably will belong to 1990's cursed franchise, the 1-13 Patriots. Barring an influx of a number of top-drawer juniors into the player pool, this draft looks so meager that New England can neither expect to get the franchise player who comes with the No. 1 pick, nor use the choice as trade bait for a veteran player or two who can provide help that can't be found in the draft. League sources say the Pats have Croel, a speedy and punishing outside linebacker who was a second-team All-America at Nebraska, atop their draft board. However, he's the type of player who should go, say, 12th, not first. New England personnel chief Joe Mendes won't say whom he favors.
A few juniors, like Virginia wideout Herman Moore and Georgia Tech safety-linebacker Ken Swilling, probably will come out and bolster the top of the draft. Five of the first seven players selected in 1990, including No. 1 choice Jeff George, were juniors, but the only junior who could make the first pick in '91 attractive is Ismail, Notre Dame's wideout-return specialist. "If Ismail comes out, he'll be this year's Jeff George," says one player-personnel director.
When George left Illinois a year early and wowed NFL scouts with his passing skills in workouts last spring, he immediately made the Falcons a rich team. Atlanta owned the No. 1 pick and auctioned it to the highest bidder, the Colts, for two starters, All-Pro tackle Chris Hinton and promising wideout Andre Rison, and two draft picks.
Ismail has said that he will return to South Bend for his senior season, but some scouts think that without Lou Holtz as his coach—rumors persist that Holtz has eyes for an NFL job—and with familial prodding because of the threat of a rookie wage scale in 1992, Ismail may declare himself eligible for the draft by the Feb. 1 deadline.
GET THE BROOM
Updating some messy situations around the league: