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NFL DRAFT ANALYSIS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

AFC East

Buffalo

Pick to watch: WR Eric Moulds -- They hope he's the next Andre Reed.

Analysis: They faced a tough decision on the first round, when they bypassed Leeland McElroy, who could have been the next Thurman Thomas, for Moulds, because they think Thomas has a couple of years left. It was a need choice, even though McElroy was in the top 10 on the board. How Moulds plays will make or break this draft. They went for defense on the next four picks.

Grade: B-

Indianapolis

Pick to watch: WR Marvin Harrison -- He can help Jim Harbaugh's passing game.

Analysis: Bill Tobin didn't do anything to start a verbal battle with Mel Kiper Jr. He was fortunate that Harrison lasted until the 19th pick. Harrison was a logical pick for a team that needs another receiver. Tobin then went for a defensive back on his second pick, before switching to offense for his next two.

Grade: B

Miami

Pick to watch: DT Daryl Gardener -- a classic boom-or-bust player.

Analysis: Jimmy Johnson was open for business. He did his usual wheeling and dealing with a dizzying array of trades, but he may have lost a battle with his ego when he picked Gardener, an underachiever in college, with his first choice. Johnson figures he's a great motivator, but it's difficult to turn around a player who didn't live up to his potential in college.

Grade: C

New England

Pick to watch: WR Terry Glenn -- Will have to overcome the fact that the coach didn't want him.

Analysis: There was a silent coup in New England, as owner Bob Kraft took the final say in the draft away from coach Bill Parcells and gave it to personnel director Bobby Grier, then backed him when he took Glenn over a defensive player. Glenn appeared to be a good choice, but Parcells is furious, and there's now an internal rift in the organization that could be slow to heal.

Grade: D

New York Jets

Pick to watch: WR Alex Van Dyke -- Wants to prove the Jets fans who booed him at the draft were wrong.

Analysis: They made the chalk move by drafting Keyshawn Johnson with the first pick, but then they came up with a puzzling move by taking another wide receiver, Van Dyke, with the first pick in the second round, even though Leeland McElroy was on the board. But then it wouldn't be a Rich Kotite draft if he didn't do something puzzling.

Grade: C

AFC Central

Baltimore

Pick to watch: CB DeRon Jenkins -- He has to justify trading three picks for him.

Analysis: The Ravens can thank Arizona for bypassing Jonathan Ogden. That made their draft, because they were able to avoid Lawrence Phillips, who likely would have been a headache in the future. The Ravens may have gotten three future starters in the first 55 picks with Ogden, linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Jenkins. The only negative is that they didn't fill their need at running back.

Grade: A-

Cincinnati

Pick to watch: OT Ken Blackman -- If he makes it, the Bengals will have found two offensive tackles in this draft.

Analysis: With Ki-Jana Carter coming back from knee surgery, the Bengals wanted to get more blocking for him and selected a pair of tackles, Willie Anderson and Blackman, with their first three picks, along with tight end Marco Battaglia on the second round. The Bengals could have the makings of a good running game to complement Jeff Blake's arm.

Grade: B

Houston

Pick to watch: OT Jon Runyan -- Projected much higher, he was a good value on the fourth round.

Analysis: The Oilers made one of the best maneuvers on the first round, trading down and then back up again while getting the player they wanted, running back Eddie George, and picking up second- and fourth-round picks for Glenn Montgomery. They wound up with three of the first 48 picks and got a tackle on the fourth round, Runyan, who was expected to go higher.

Grade: A

Jacksonville

Pick to watch: DE Tony Brackens -- Projected as a first-rounder, he could be a second-round bonus.

Analysis: Tom Coughlin's bluff didn't work, as he failed to trade the second pick, but he still got two players who should improve his defense immediately, Kevin Hardy and Brackens. They can step right into his defensive line. Coughlin also got the best center in the draft, Michael Cheever. Coughlin may be better at drafting than bluffing.

Grade: A-

Pittsburgh

Pick to watch: FB Jon Wittman -- They need running backs and hope he's a find on the third round.

Analysis: The key to this draft for the Steelers was the trade for Jerome Bettis, who flopped with the Rams after a good rookie year. If Bettis recovers his old form and becomes the big back the Steelers need because of Bam Morris' uncertain future, this will be a good draft. If not, the Steelers will have lost their gamble. They went for defense late, selecting defensive ends on the fifth and sixth rounds and a linebacker on the seventh round.

Grade: C

AFC West

Denver

Pick to watch: QB Jeff Lewis -- A fourth-round choice who'll be groomed to replace John Elway.

Analysis: The Broncos wanted to do some dealing in this draft. After failing to deal for the Cardinals' Eric Swann, they tried to trade up or down on the first round. When all that failed, they took a solid linebacker, John Mobley, on the first round to start a draft that concentrated on their weakness -- defense.

Grade: B

Kansas City

Pick to watch: DB Reggie Tongue -- A second-round pick who's being counted on to become an eventual starter.

Analysis: The Chiefs wanted to rebuild their secondary, and they made good strides in that department by taking Jerome Woods and Tongue in the first two rounds. The Chiefs stressed defense with their first-day picks before taking wide receiver Joe Horn on the fifth round.

Grade: B

Oakland

Pick to watch: LB Lance Johnstone -- A good value late on the second round.

Analysis: Al Davis still is living in the past. He thinks Rickey Dudley will be another Dave Casper. But tight end isn't an important enough position to trade up for. The 49ers and Cowboys won Super Bowls with players who were on Plan B, Brent Jones and Jay Novacek, and the Steelers won with the likes of Larry Brown and Randy Grossman. Dudley should be a good one, but did he justify giving up a second- and a fourth-round pick to get him? Probably not.

Grade: C+

San Diego

Pick to watch: WR Bryan Still -- Will have to prove he was worth a 1997 first-round pick.

Analysis: Judging a Bobby Beathard draft is a bit like judging a Picasso painting. It may seem confusing, but it may turn out to be a masterpiece. Beathard's habit of trading away first-round picks all the time is a gamble, but his teams keep winding up in the Super Bowl. Giving up next year's first-round pick to draft Still might have seemed like a steep choice, but it's difficult to knock a Beathard draft.

Grade: B

Seattle

Pick to watch: RB Reggie Brown -- He's the player they selected with the extra pick they got for trading down on the first round.

Analysis: The Seahawks' draft was obscured by the announcement that Paul Allen purchased an option to buy the team, but they were busy on draft day, making two trades that enabled them to pick up defensive tackle Glenn Montgomery from Houston and four players in the first three rounds. They wound up with offensive tackle Pete Kendall, the player they wanted on the first round after trading down twice.

Grade: B

NFC East

Arizona

Pick to watch: DE Simeon Rice -- Will he turn out to be better than Jonathan Ogden?

Analysis: The Cardinals faced a difficult choice on the first round, when they had to choose between Rice and Ogden. Although Ogden would have been the safer choice, they gambled that Rice will have an immediate impact. It'll be interesting to track how Rice and Ogden turn out. They got good value on the second round with running back Leeland McElroy.

Grade: B-

Dallas

Pick to watch: LB Randall Godfrey -- They need linebackers, and he's supposed to make an immediate impact.

Analysis: By the time Jerry Jones was done wheeling and dealing -- he made deals with archrival Washington and his old coach, Jimmy Johnson -- he was out of the first round and had two seconds and three third-round picks. Trading with a division rival, Washington, so the Redskins could get into the first round, was a puzzling move, but Jones does things his way. He gambled on defensive end Kavika Pittman, a project, with his first pick on the second round.

Grade: C+

New York Giants

Pick to watch: QB Danny Kanell -- Will he eventually replace Dave Brown?

Analysis: The Giants were hoping to get Simeon Rice, but had to settle for Cedric Jones when Arizona grabbed Rice. They then went for offense with their next three picks, with the selection of Kanell on the fourth round their most critical decision in the draft. Because neither Brown nor Tommy Maddox is the long-range answer at quarterback, they have to hope Kanell develops in the next two or three years.

Grade: B-

Philadelphia

Pick to watch: QB Bobby Hoying -- Is he the team's quarterback of the future?

Analysis: The Eagles went for need on offense, taking tackle Jermaine Mayberry and tight end Jason Dunn with their first two picks. But Hoying on the third round was the most intriguing pick, because it's obvious that the Eagles want better than Rodney Peete or Ty Detmer, and they have to hope Hoying develops quickly.

Grade: B-

Washington

Pick to watch: OT Andre Johnson -- Has to prove he was worth second- and third-round picks.

Analysis: The Redskins wound up with only one player on the first three rounds after they traded the sixth pick in the draft for defensive lineman Sean Gilbert and second- and third-round picks to move up to take Johnson at the end of the first round. Gilbert's play will make or break this draft. If he turns out to be worth the sixth player in the draft, the Redskins did well.

Grade: C+

NFC Central

Chicago

Pick to watch: WR Bobby Engram -- He's supposed to replace Jeff Graham.

Analysis: Coach Dave Wannstedt hasn't yet distinguished himself in the draft room, and he was so desperate to get Walt Harris on the first round that he traded third- and sixth-round picks to move up five spots to take him. Harris has to make it big to prove he was worth that price, because that move left the Bears with just two players after three rounds.

Grade: C

Detroit

Pick to watch: LB Reggie Brown -- The Lions are short of linebackers, and he needs to make an immediate impact.

Analysis: The Lions were busy in the draft, trading second- and seventh-round choices even before the draft began for Denver's Glyn Milburn and then giving up a third-round pick to move up four spots on the first round to take Brown and fourth- and sixth-round picks to move up 10 spots on the second round. They wound up with three players on the first three rounds and Milburn.

Grade: B-

Green Bay

Pick to watch: WR Derrick Mayes -- A second-rounder who should be a good target for Brett Favre.

Analysis: The Packers went for a big-school draft, taking players from winning programs -- USC, Notre Dame, UCLA and Nebraska -- with their first four picks, although the fourth player, Nebraska cornerback Tyrone Williams, was a gamble because he's facing felony criminal charges. They stressed offense, taking two offensive lineman and a wide receiver with their first three picks and then getting good value with Minnesota running back Chris Darkins on the fourth round.

Grade: B-

Minnesota

Pick to watch: DT James Manley -- If they're to rebuild their defensive line, he has to make it to complement Duane Clemons.

Analysis: There was nothing subtle about the Vikings' draft. They were desperate for defensive linemen after losing Chris Doleman, Henry Thomas and Roy Barker in recent years. That's why they took defensive linemen Clemons and Manley with their first two choices. How they play will determine the value of this draft.

Grade: B-

Tampa Bay

Pick to watch: DT Marcus Jones -- Their second first-round pick needs to complement Regan Upshaw on the defensive line.

Analysis: It's easy to have a good draft when you have four of the top 41 picks -- one obtained in a trade with the Ravens -- and the Bucs appeared to do well, grabbing three quality players and winding up with two firsts next year when they traded one of their seconds to San Diego for a 1997 first-round pick. They added a pair of first-round defensive linemen to a line that already includes two No. 1s -- Warren Sapp and Eric Curry.

Grade: A

NFC West

Atlanta

Pick to watch: DT Shannon Brown -- The only player they got in the first three rounds.

Analysis: The Falcons had to give up their first-round pick to Indianapolis as part of the Jeff George deal because they finished 9-7. They then traded their second-round pick last week to the Raiders for defensive back Patrick Bates. That left them with just one player on the first three rounds, so they didn't have much to show for this draft.

Grade: D

Carolina

Pick to watch: RB Tim Biakabutuka -- Will he turn out to be as productive as Lawrence Phillips?

Analysis: The Panthers got a lot of help for Kerry Collins on offense. They were fortunate that Biakabutuka dropped to the eighth spot on the first round and then added a wide receiver and a running back with their next two picks. As Collins continues to mature, the Panthers should be able to upgrade their offense.

Grade: A

New Orleans

Pick to watch: DE Brady Smith -- A third-round pass rusher who has to make it to improve the Saints line.

Analysis: It was no secret the Saints wanted to improve their defense. That's why they went for need and took a pair of defensive backs, Alex Molden and Je'Rod Cherry, on the first two rounds along with a pass-rushing end, Brady Smith, on the third round before finally switching to offense on the fourth round, when they took running back Ricky Whittle.

Grade: B

St. Louis

Pick to watch: RB Lawrence Phillips -- The biggest gamble in this draft.

Analysis: If the Rams had taken Tim Biakabutuka instead of Phillips on the first round, they would have had one of the best drafts. They traded Sean Gilbert for the sixth pick of the draft, traded down with their other second-round choice and traded Jerome Bettis while winding up with five picks on the first three rounds. But the Phillips selection downgraded their draft because his off-the-field problems are likely to come back to haunt them. Phillips was too much of a risk to take this high in the draft, even if he is productive.

Grade: B-

San Francisco

Pick to watch: DE Isreal Ifeanyi -- Can he develop into the pass rusher they need?

Analysis: The 49ers went into the draft looking for a running back, and they weren't able to find one. They traded their first-round pick to the Ravens last year for J. J. Stokes and gambled on defensive lineman Ifeanyi on the second round. A decade ago, the 49ers found eight Super Bowl starters in a memorable 1986 draft. This one was a far cry from that.

Grade: D

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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