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The NFL Draft


A Blast from the Past

Four years in the military apparently didn't rob Chad Hennings of the skills that made him the 1987 Outland Trophy winner. A defensive tackle who was the Cowboys' 11th-round pick in the 1988 draft, Hennings stunned the Dallas coaching stall' in a workout last Saturday, 24 hours before the Cowboys had planned to trade him for a middle-round draft pick.

At 6'6" and 272 pounds, 12 more than he weighed at the Air Force Academy, Hennings ran the 40 in 4.80. That time was .15 of a second slower than he had run as a senior, but it was faster than all but one defensive lineman's time at this year's NFL scouting combine. Hennings then ran the Cowboys' pass-rush drill .2 of a second faster than linebacker Marco Coleman, who the next day would become the 12th player picked, by the Dolphins, in the draft.

Early in Saturday's workout Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson turned to owner Jerry Jones and said. "We don't want to trade this man. By the end of the session, Johnson had penciled Hennings into his depth chart at defensive end. "He's an absolute gift out of the sky," said Johnson. "He could be a Pro Bowl player."

Maybe even the next Roger Staubach. "It's been a long time since I fell off the face of the earth four years ago." said Hennings, who was trained as a lighter pilot and spent the last 18 months based in England. "But it's been an interesting career."

First Things First

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, Colt general manager Jim Irsay, who hadn't been to bed since Friday morning, walked grimly into the Indianapolis hotel where agent Marvin Demoff was staying. This should have been a very happy morning for Irsay, because in two hours the Colts would have the first two picks in the draft—the first time since 1958 that a team had such an advantage. And Irsay wanted to rebuild his defense around tackle Steve Emtman of Washington, who is one of Demoff's clients, and Texas A&M linebacker Quentin Coryatt. In fact, Irsay wanted both players signed before he selected them. "But everything was dead," Irsay would say on Sunday night. "I honestly didn't think we'd get anything done."

The problem: Emtman, as a matter of pride, wanted to be the first player taken in the draft. The Colts, however, figured they could sign Coryatt for far less than the $9.5 million over four years that Emtman wanted, and, if they picked Coryatt first, they could then sign Emtman for less than Coryatt. Such a Coryatt-Emtman package would cost Indianapolis about $14 million. But Emtman's unwavering wish to be first—which if not granted would have led to brutal negotiations with Demoff or the need to draft somebody else-meant Irsay would have to ante up about $3 million more for his two prize picks.

The solution: Irsay and Demoff reached a compromise on Emtman's contract, settling for $8.6 million for four years. That still left Emtman with a huge raise over last year's No. 1 selection, defensive tackle Russell Maryland, who got a five-year deal worth $6.8 million from the Cowboys, and made Emtman the highest-paid defensive player in league history. Coryatt, who was delighted to be the No. 2 pick, signed for $8.2 million over four years.

The key for the Colts: Both Emtman and Coryatt will be at Indy's minicamp May 7-10. "We got the top two picks in a good draft, and we got 'em signed," Irsay said. "How unbelievable is that?"

Backfield or Outfield?

The phone rang in the office of Falcon defensive backfield coach Gummy Carr last Friday, and football hobbyist Deion Sanders was on the other end. Carr, an irascible sort, shouted, "Hey, Deion, will you quit going to the West Coast with that baseball team?"

"Huh?" Sanders said.

"When you go to the coast, I don't get to sleep till one in the morning! Cut it out!"

Carr, like many people in the furrow-browed Falcon organization, is casting a wary eye toward televised baseball games and newspaper box scores this spring. "I'm no baseball fan, but I am following the Braves and the Cardinals," says Carr. "How can I help it?"

Sanders, the Falcons' Pro Bowl cornerback, and Brian Jordan, their starting strong safety, are starting in the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals outfields, respectively. Both Sanders and Jordan say they would like to stay in the big leagues all season, and both say they might leave football altogether. That, of course, leaves the Falcons in a big-time state of flux. "We have to approach the draft as if they'll never be back," said coach Jerry Glanville last Friday. Atlanta didn't get much help for its secondary on Sunday, waiting until the fourth round before picking little-known Frankie Smith of Baylor.

California, Here I Come...

In 1987 the Rams got three first-round picks and three second-rounders from the Colts for running back Eric Dickerson. On Sunday he limped back into town, only 31, for fourth-and eighth-round choices. "It could have been a 10th, I didn't care." Dickerson said. "I just wanted to play for the Raiders."

Dickerson, whose history of contract squabbles started with the Rams and continued after he was shipped to Indianapolis, wanted to return to L.A. so badly that he took a monstrous pay cut (from $2.6 million per year to about $1.2 million) to make the deal acceptable to the Raiders. He'll probably split time with good buddy Marcus Allen, whom Al Davis is forever looking to replace, and Nick Bell. "I've never understood what the Raiders" problem has been with Marcus." said Dickerson. "He's always played hurt, and he's always played hard. I'm not here to take Marcus Allen's job."

The Bleeding Finally Stops

Stripped of high draft choices by their ill-fated trade for Herschel Walker, the Vikings haven't had a first-round pick since George Bush was vice-president. "This is the third straight year of this stuff for us, and it's tough," says Minnesota head scout Ralph Kohl. "I play one game a year, and man, the waiting gets to you."

The worst trade in league history finally was played out on Sunday, just as the Vikings were discovering that there were no takers in their bid to unload Walker. They now admit privately that they'll probably have to release him.

In the Oct. 12, 1989, trade the Vikings gave up three starters from their 1988 playoff team, two backups and eight draft choices that could have been Minnesota's foundation for the 1990s (first-and second-round picks in 1990, '91 and 92, a sixth-round choice in '90 and, finally, a third-round pick on Sunday). In return the Vikings got Walker, who has averaged 54 yards a game in 42 games, and a total of four draft choices between the third and 10th rounds in 1990 and '91. Those picks became Jake Reed, Mike Jones, Reggie Thornton and Pat Newman—household names all. Reed is Minnesota's fourth wideout, Jones is the third tight end and the other two are gone. As, soon, will be Walker.

Throw In Two of Those Super Bowl Trophies
How sorely did the 49ers want to move up from their No. 18 Spot in the first round? In the days leading up to the draft, San Francisco made several trade proposals to the Packers, who had the No. 5 pick, offering quarterback Steve Young, fullback Tom Rathman and defensive linemen Dennis Brown and Ted Washington. The 49ers also offered the Colts linebacker Charles Haley and defensive end Kevin Pagan as part of deals for either the first or second pick in the draft. The Niners selected Washington safety Dana Hall with the 18th choice.

The End Zone
Boy, is Keith Millard happy. Sidelined since September 1990 with a knee injury that twice has required surgery, he watched the Vikings plunge from being the NFC Central champions to a learn snuggling to reach .500. Millard begged Minnesota for his freedom last week, and the Vikings gave it to him when the Seahawks offered a second-round choice and a conditional pick in next year's draft for Millard, the 1989 NFL defensive player of the year. "I feel as if I've just been drafted by Seattle, like I'm 21 again," Millard said Sunday.



For Hennings, the wild blue yonder is a Cowboy uniform.



Dickerson paid a pretty price to get himself out of Indianapolis.