The speed at running back and wide receiver is breathtaking. And for only the second time in 12 years, a quarterback will be the first player taken (Tampa Bay, in fact, already has Vinny Testaverde's signature on a contract). But for all that, the scouts still say the greatest quality in the 1987 NFL draft next Tuesday lies in defense. "I've projected 12 defensive players picked out of the first 17," says coach Sam Wyche of No. 17 Cincinnati, which will go for, well, defense. Because the No. 1 choice is settled, trade talk has centered on the Colts' No. 2 slot, where most everybody covets the shot at Alabama linebacker Cornelius Bennett, the star of this defensive show.
THE FIRST ROUND: HOW THEY'LL PICK 'EM
1. TAMPA BAY, Vinny Testaverde, QB, Miami
This makes Steve Young expendable. Watch for predraft trade.
2. HOUSTON (from Indianapolis), Cornelius Bennett, LB, Alabama
They're all jockeying for Bennett. San Diego could get the pick, but Oilers have more to offer.
3. BUFFALO, Shane Conlan, LB, Penn State
It's Conlan vs. Duke's Mike Junkin. But head coach Marv Levy likes Conlan.
4. GREEN BAY, Reggie Rogers, DE, Washington
Big dispute here. Some Packer brass are said to prefer Auburn RB Brent Fullwood.
5. SAN DIEGO, Brent Fullwood, RB, Auburn
Chargers, as usual, need defense, but this one's too good to pass up.
6. ST. LOUIS, Ron Woodson, CB-KR, Purdue
Unless San Diego decides to grab him first. Woodson wowed 'em at the combine workouts.
7. DETROIT, Jerome Brown, NG, Miami
A real powerhouse in the middle. Lions were 26th in run stoppage in '86.
8. INDIANAPOLIS (from Houston), Alonzo Highsmith, FB, Miami
Highsmith, a multitalented big back, is Bob Irsay's choice, and he pays the bills.
9. PHILADELPHIA, Shawn Knight, DT, Brigham Young
Eagles gave up 104 sacks in '86, but Buddy Ryan's still the coach, and he still likes defense.
10. PITTSBURGH, D.J. Dozier, RB, Penn State
Most-recent clocking was a dazzling 4.45 for the 40, and Steelers need the speed.
11. NEW ORLEANS, Harris Barton, G, North Carolina
Saints might switch gears here and opt instead for a wide receiver who can return kicks.
12. DALLAS, John Clay, T, Missouri
A 320-pounder who fits the cowboys' new "big-butt" approach and fills a big hole in Big D.
13. ATLANTA, Chris Miller, QB, Oregon
Never saw much of the spotlight, but some scouts like him better than Testaverde.
14. MIAMI, Danny Noonan, NG, Nebraska
Boosted his draft status with a 4.71 clocking at the combine workouts.
15. L.A. RAIDERS, Mike Junkin, LB, Duke
Al Davis and Co. figure to trade for a quarterback rather than draft one.
16. MINNESOTA, Roger Vick, FB, Texas A & M
Vikes need a big back. This one runs with power and catches the ball as well.
17. CINCINNATI, Jason Buck, DE, Brigham Young
Bengals will go for need and take the best pure pass-rusher available; Buck fills the bill.
18. SEATTLE, Tony Woods, LB, Pittsburgh
A Lawrence Taylor-type stand-up rusher. Seahawks need the sacks.
19. KANSAS CITY, Ricky Nattiel, WR, Florida
Instant-impact flier who also returns kicks. Chiefs are looking for two-way talent.
20. INDIANAPOLIS (from Houston), Haywood Jeffires, WR, N.C. State
Assuming the Colts get Houston's second No. 1. Oilers could also pick him here. Has 4.4 speed.
21. N.Y. JETS, John Bosa, DE, Boston College
Once-feared Sack Exchange now a dim memory. Could go for NG Jerry Ball, SMU.
22. SAN FRANCISCO, Paul Palmer, HB, Temple
Niners, with two No. 1's, could well parlay their picks and make a trade upward.
23. NEW ENGLAND, Bruce Armstrong, G, Louisville
They're still looking for another John Hannah. Pat runners averaged 2.9 per carry in '86.
24. CLEVELAND, Rod Bernstine, TE, Texas A & M
Ozzie Newsome is 31 and coming off an injury. Browns want added offensive punch.
25. SAN FRANCISCO (from Washington), Jeff Bregel, G, USC
Bill Walsh is concerned with his aging offensive line. Niners will go for big beef.
26. CHICAGO, Mark Ingram, WR, Michigan State
Some scouts rate him the best wideout in the draft. Bears also like SMU's Ron Morris.
27. DENVER, Kenny Flowers, RB, Clemson
The fastest running back (4.44) at the combine workouts, he turned some heads.
28. N.Y. GIANTS, Ron Morris, WR, SMU
Might instead fill their most pressing need and take CB Nate Odomes of Wisconsin.
FIVE MOST UNDERRATED, OVERRATED
1. Henry Thomas, NG, LSU
Ferocious competitor, great pursuit. Needs to bulk up.
2. Troy Stradford, RB, BOSTON COLLEGE
Slashing runner who blossomed in all-star games.
3. Jon Embree, TE, COLORADO
Dubious speed (4.91), but he's tough and sure-handed.
4. Stephen Baker, WR, FRESNO STATE
A 5'8", 157-pound shrimp who will surprise.
5. Rich Gannon, QB, DELAWARE
If he had played at USC, he'd be a first-round choice.
1. Doug DuBose, RB, NEBRASKA
Had knee problems in '86. Slow to rehabilitate.
2. Randy Dixon, T, PITTSBURGH
Some scouts question his hot-and-cold performance.
3. Jim Riggs, TE, CLEMSON
Size and speed, but where has the production been?
4. Dick Chapura, DT-NG, MISSOURI
Hard-working type who's hurt by lack of quickness.
5. Tim McDonald, S, USC
Made some big plays, but consistency is a problem.
BIGGEST BUSTS OF '86
(First and Second Rounds)
1. Bo Jackson, LF, K.C. ROYALS
O.K., it's a cheap shot, but hey, Tampa Bay, you blew it.
2. Anthony Bell, LB, ST. LOUIS
A mystifying top draft who didn't clear up the mystery.
3. Doug Williams, T, N.Y. JETS
Got in trouble with the snap count, then got cut.
4. Walter Murray, WR, WASHINGTON
Skins traded him to Indy, where he caught two passes.
5. James FitzPatrick, T, SAN DIEGO
Reported at over 300 pounds; IR'd with back injury.
6. Jon Hand, DE, INDIANAPOLIS
Struggled at first, but came on late. There's hope.