Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, April 20, 1999

Cards, Lions big
winners in NFL draft

WHO had the best of it in the National Football League draft this year?

Who knows, until the draft picks start performing. For now, on paper, every team feels it has satisfied its needs.

Some teams - most notably the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals - did well, to my way of thinking.

Not others, especially the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. But, as I said, we can only wait and see how it all pans out.

I like what the Lions got in Southern Cal linebacker Chris Claiborne and Wisconsin's massive 372-pound offensive tackle Aaron Gibson. Throw in Michigan State running back Sedrick Irwin - who had no business lasting until the fourth round - and Detroit coach Bobby Ross has to be pleased.

The cardiac Cardinals surely pleased franchise quarterback Jake "The Snake" Plummer by drafting David Boston, Ohio State's big-play wide receiver. Boston joins two other talented wideouts, Frank Sanders and Rob Moore, giving Plummer & Co. more air power than the NATO forces.

DON'T ask me what my Cowboys were thinking. Obviously, they are obsessed with drafting defensive ends.

Their first pick, Ebenezer Ekuban of North Carolina by way of Ghana, is the fourth first-round DE they've selected in six years. Of course, with Leon Lett practically out of the picture, you can't blame the Cowboys - America's Defensive End Team.

And by drafting Texas A&M's undersized linebacker Dat Nguyen, the Cowboys became Vietnam's Team as well.

You also have to wonder about the Patriots. With Robert Edwards sidelined with a possible career-ending knee injury suffered in a touch football game on the beach at Waikiki during Pro Bowl week, they drafted only one running back (Kevin Faulk, LSU) among their eight choices.

You can never have enough running backs. Just ask Miami's Jimmy Johnson. He drafted three of them, including Cecil "The Diesel" Collins, who could be this year's Randy Moss in terms of turning one's life around.

Kicked out of LSU and McNeese State, Collins showed enough potential in the five college games he played to be just the running back or headache that the Dolphins need. Remember, Jimmy also gave equally troubled Lawrence Phillips a chance last season.

Speaking of running backs, the Giants made an intriguing pick in running back Sean Bennett, who gained only 160 yards for Northwestern last year. Twenty-nine of them came on a touchdown run against Hawaii in the Wildcats' 47-21 romp.

But Bennett ran for 2,856 yards at Evansville before it dropped football, enabling him to transfer without losing a year of eligibility.

The biggest surprise of the NFL draft was Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams of Texas going as the fifth overall pick.

Picking No. 1, the new Cleveland franchise had to go with a quarterback and Kentucky's Tim Couch was clearly the choice. But Syracuse's Donovan McNabb No. 2 and Oregon's Akili Smith No. 3?

McNabb will be this year's Kordell Stewart as the Philadelphia Eagles will soon find out. An adequate player, but hardly a future franchise commodity as Williams will be.

Like McNabb, Smith will be sending in signals from the sidelines while Williams is carrying the ball 20 times a game for the Saints this season.

But Williams will come at a steep price. No wonder the Saints made him their only draft pick this year.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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