It's hard to say that anyone had a bad draft. That's how good
the talent was. There were no first-round head-scratchers. Form
held up, needs were addressed. Here then, are the six teams I
believe fared best, listed alphabetically.
Bengals. Their top four picks were all on defense, including a
pair of swift linebackers taken in the first round, Takeo Spikes
and Brian Simmons. Those two players could make Dick LeBeau's
3-4 zone blitz effective. I particularly like the fourth-round
choice, Michigan defensive end Glen Steele, an overachiever who
has the kind of fire that was missing in a defense that ranked
28th last year.
Cardinals. Arizona will get a tremendous boost from defensive
end Andre Wadsworth and defensive back Corey Chavous, who has
superb coverage instincts. Running back Michael Pittman is a
banger and a nifty receiver, and defensive end Jomo Cousins, a
seventh-round choice, is a gifted athlete with unlimited
potential. The key, though, may be second-round selection
Anthony Clement, a 6'7", 355-pound tackle who can pass-block. If
he comes through, this draft could make the Cardinals into
Dolphins. Here's a prediction: As Jimmy Johnson's offense
commits itself to the ground game, first-rounder John Avery, a
diminutive tailback with 4.37 speed, will make more of an impact
than any other runner in the draft. Elsewhere among Miami's 10
selections is the usual Johnson mix of athletes, sleepers and
handpicked gems that slipped through the cracks.
Jaguars. With all due respect to my colleague Peter King, I like
what they did. Jacksonville plugged in some athletes: running
backs Fred Taylor and Tavian Banks; cornerback Cordell Taylor,
who has run a 4.43; safety Donovin Darius; even quarterback
Jonathan Quinn, who has run a 4.59. Keep an eye on center John
Wade, an excellent drive-blocker who was a fifth-round pickup.
Patriots. Call it saturation bombing. New England made six of
the draft's first 83 picks. With Robert Edwards running behind
fullback Chris Floyd, the athletic Tebucky Jones spicing up the
secondary and Greg Spires adding muscle and speed to the
defensive line, things are looking good in Foxboro.
Steelers. True to its character, Pittsburgh went for big,
hardworking, lunch-pail types: Alan Faneca and Chris Conrad on
the offensive front, Jeremy Staat for the defensive line. Then
there's Georgia's little utility back/wideout, Hines Ward, who
does everything well. Call him Slash Jr.
COLOR PHOTO: DARRELL MCALLISTER Dashing The 5'9 1/2", 184-pound Avery will make a sizable impact. [John Avery]