Vikings coach Dennis Green called it the best draft he's had in
eight seasons in Minnesota. Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said
the draft "changed the whole personality of our team." The
Saints assured themselves of a playoff spot, according to their
lone draftee, Ricky Williams. Well, not every team can be great,
but here are six of my favorite drafts, plus a couple of clunkers.
Cardinals: David Boston is a speedy wideout for Jake Plummer.
L.J. Shelton, rated by some as the best offensive lineman on the
board, will replace the departed Lomas Brown at left tackle.
Defensive end Thomas Burke is a relentless outside pass rusher.
Fullback Joel Makovicka offers the big bang. Guard Yusuf Scott
and cornerback Jacoby Rhinehart were quality lower picks.
Bills: Speed is the keynote. Antoine Winfield is a terrific
cover cornerback. Peerless Price will be a deep receiving
threat. Shawn Bryson, a 235-pound fullback, runs a 4.45. The
sleeper is Bobby Collins, a 250-pound tight end with 4.57 speed.
Redskins: They made their picks count, choosing big-name
performers such as versatile corner Champ Bailey; Jon Jansen, a
tough and durable tackle; inside linebacker Nate Stimson, a
261-pound physical specimen who runs in the low 4.4s; and
technically impressive tackle Derek Smith.
Lions: Linebacker Chris Claiborne will give the defense an
instant jolt. Jared DeVries is a hardworking defensive lineman
who can play end or tackle. Detroit hasn't had a quality runner
to spell Barry Sanders, but Sedrick Irvin qualifies. And how
about Sanders's running behind 386-pound wall Aaron Gibson?
Colts: If Edgerrin James turns out to be a better runner than
Ricky Williams, the Colts will look like geniuses. That's the
key to their draft, but I like the toughness and productivity of
outside linebacker Mike Peterson, guard Brandon Burlsworth and
defensive end Brad Scioli. Cornerback Paul Miranda's workout
numbers were out of sight, including a 4.37 40 and a 40 1/2-inch
Rams: Can we count former Colts running back Marshall Faulk as
part of the draft? Why not? Assuming they sign Faulk to an
extension, the Rams really helped themselves when you add Torry
Holt, the best wideout in the draft; Dre' Bly and Rich Coady,
two standout defensive backs; Cameron Spikes, a serious
drive-blocking guard; and Joe Germaine, who could be the sleeper
among the flashy 1999 quarterback crop.
Panthers: They didn't have a first-round pick, and none of the
five players they selected excite me. Top choice Chris Terry, a
tackle taken in the second round, is raw and untested.
Chargers: Their first pick came at No. 60, and I'm sorry, Bobby
Beathard, but 268-pound fullback Jermaine Fazande isn't going to
turn things around.
Saints: The best thing about their draft was the sight of Mike
Ditka in a dreadlock wig. The worst? You know the argument: This
is the kind of deal you make if you're one player from the Super
Bowl, which the Saints ain't. But if Williams winds up in the
Hall of Fame, then yours truly, plus about a million other
draftniks, will be wrong.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO The success of the Indianapolis draft will hinge largely on James.