The Arena Football League doesn't want to be a developmental
league for the NFL and, at first glance, doesn't look as though
it would be. For example, AFL linemen are generally quicker and
smaller than their NFL counterparts, and wide receivers, who are
allowed to make a running start from behind the line of
scrimmage, don't have to be burners to get separation from
defensive backs. Here, though, are five players who have caught
the attention of NFL scouts.
JOHN DUTTON, QB, 6'4", 225, Colorado
A 1998 sixth-round draft pick out of Nevada by the Dolphins, Dutton is in his fourth AFL season and signed as a free agent with the expansion Crush last fall. Dutton, 27, a late bloomer in Arena ball, came off the San Jose bench to be MVP of the AFL championship game last year.
CHRIS HORN, WR-KR, 5'11", 202, Arizona
The AFL leader in scoring last year, he sprained his right knee in the playoffs last August--an injury that cost him a shot with an NFL team. With 32 receptions for 367 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, Horn, 25, could serve as a versatile and low-salaried fourth receiver in a
pass-happy offense such as the Chiefs'.
JIM KUBIAK, QB, 6'2", 218, Dallas
A former NFL Europe player as well, Kubiak, 30, has improved his decision-making and has the AFL's second-best touchdown-to-interception differential (28 to 3). With an adequate arm and Kurt Warner--like persistence, the former Navy quarterback could land in the Cowboys' camp.
AL LUCAS, DL, 6'1", 300, Tampa Bay
He's one of the few huge linemen quick enough to adapt to the Arena game, which makes him a prospect for a defensive-tackle rotation on an NFL team. A rookie free-agent pickup out of Troy State by the Panthers in 2000, Lucas, 24, spent two seasons on Carolina's bench.
CLEVAN THOMAS, DB-KR, 5'9", 190, San Jose
He led the AFL in kickoff returns for touchdowns last year and is tops in interceptions this season, with seven in five games. A Florida
State product, Thomas, 23, is strong in bump-and-run coverage,
but NFL scouts are mostly looking at him as a return specialist.
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER INSIDE STORY Kubiak threw for seven TDs and ran for two more inDallas's 65--64 overtime win against Arizona on Sunday.