This may be the most confusing NFL draft in history. "It's certainly the toughest one to figure since I've been in the business," says Jack Faulkner, the Rams' administrator of football operations. The source of the confusion: There's so much talent that almost every team is trying to trade up for one of the first five picks.
As of last Sunday, San Diego, with two picks in the first round (the fifth and 20th) and two in the second, was the clear front-runner in the John Elway Sweepstakes, if Baltimore should choose to trade away the No. 1 pick in the draft. Three trade rumors center around the second pick, owned by Houston. The first one, oddly enough, also involves the Chargers. It has San Diego giving up the earlier of its two first-round choices and a lower-rounder for the Oilers' pick, so the Chargers can draft SMU Tailback Eric Dickerson. Three NFL sources say this Charger-Oiler deal has already been made. The only trouble is that none of them comes from San Diego.
More logical is a prospective trade in which Seattle (ninth selection in the first round) puts together a package to get the Oilers' choice and then drafts Penn State Halfback Curt Warner. The Sea-hawks are desperate for a runner. Trade rumor No. 3 involves the Rams (third in the first round), who would use their extra picks (two in each of the third, fourth and fifth rounds) to swap first-round positions with the Oilers and get Dickerson. Houston would then trade spots in the first round with Seattle.
Denver holds the fourth spot in the first round, and Dallas has supposedly offered the Broncos its first-round pick (23rd) plus Tight End Jay Saldi and Flanker Butch Johnson for the Broncos' choice, which would then go for Billy Ray Smith.
More prospective first-round trades: Philadelphia giving up its eighth spot for a proven fullback; Buffalo using its two picks (12th and 14th) to trade upward for a quality quarterback; San Francisco peddling its 22nd choice in the round, plus a veteran, to move into position for a high-level runner; and the Raiders putting any kind of a package together to land Elway.
The 49ers also are rumored to be in the market for a veteran running back, either Detroit's Billy Sims or Houston's Earl Campbell, with San Francisco offering the pick of its secondary. The Chargers are reported to be ready to deal backup Quarterback Ed Luther to better position themselves for an Elway trade.