Out of the tangled web of trades and risks in the 50th annual National Football League draft at the Omni Park Hotel today, several truths emerged.
Most of all, the Buffalo Bills made the largest haul of talent among the league's 28 teams. The Bills, equipped with two picks in each of the first four rounds, selected Virginia Tech defensive tackle Bruce Smith as the draft's No. 1 pick and later added much-savored cornerback Derrick Burroughs (Memphis State), all-America center Mark Traynowicz (Nebraska) and, with the first pick of the third round, Maryland quarterback Frank Reich.
Such are the advantages of finishing 2-14, as the Bills did last season, and of trading wisely. "As one might expect," Buffalo Coach Kay Stephenson said, "we're extremely happy with our draft."
The Bills then traded their 12-year veteran quaterback Joe Ferguson to the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed 1986 draft pick. Joe Dufek finished last season as the Bills' starter.
Furthermore, San Francisco's Bill Walsh and the Redskins' Bobby Beathard exhibited today why they are considered among the league's most shrewd personnel men.
Walsh, coach/general manager of the Super Bowl champion 49ers, traded the team's top three picks (28th, 56th and 84th overall) to New England for the Patriots' No. 1 choice today. By moving up 12 drafting spots in the first round to take the Patriots' 16th position, the 49ers selected wide receiver Jerry Rice. Rice merely caught 214 passes over the past two seasons in Mississippi Valley State's no-huddle, pass-at-all-cost offense.
"We felt we had to get into the top 20 (picks) to have any likelihood of getting a top player," said Walsh about a move that does not bode well for Renaldo Nehemiah, the ex-Maryland track star now the 49ers' No. 4 receiver. "Rice is a sensational player along the line of (Wes) Chandler and (John) Jefferson. He can make a lot happen in a game."
Last week, Beathard traded this year's No. 1 pick to acquire New Orleans' running back George Rogers. Today, Beathard traded veteran running back Joe Washington, the team's No. 1 pick in 1986 and this year's No. 2 pick to Atlanta for the Falcons' No. 2 pick this year and Atlanta's No. 2 and No. 6 pick next year.
The deal highlighted an NFL draft day that included choices that, while hardly shocking, were announced in an order that was plenty unexpected, including the Dallas Cowboys' selection of New Jersey Generals running back Herschel Walker in the fifth round. Walker, who signed with the USFL team after his junior year, was not eligible for the NFL draft until now. He has four years left on his Generals contract, but if the league folds, he could join the Cowboys immediately. Walker's USFL quarterback teammate, Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, was picked in the 11th round by the Los Angeles Rams.
It would have been easy to predict that Minnesota would swap first-round picks with Atlanta (which moved from fourth to second, while giving up a second-round pick) in order to let the Falcons make Pitt's all-America tackle, Bill Fralic, the draft's second choice. This was considered likely because several days ago Fralic had notified the Vikings not to draft him. "In the past the Vikings have been cheap" in paying their top draft picks, Fralic said.
After Houston had selected Texas A&M defensive end Ray Childress with the third pick in the draft, who would have thought the Vikings then would use the draft's fourth pick to take Pitt's linebacker/defensive end Chris Doleman? Doleman was expected to be a first-round pick, but few expected him to be selected so high.
"We felt that Doleman might have a bigger impact on our team," said Minnesota Coach Bud Grant, sidestepping the issue of Fralic's contention that the Vikings don't pay well. "There's no guarantee that Fralic is going to make an impact offensively right off the bat."
Furthermore, who would have expected that Chicago would use its top pick (22nd overall) to select Clemson nose tackle William (the Refrigerator) Perry? Perry was considered a high-risk choice because of his global, 6-2, 335-pound physique.
Bill Tobin, Bears' director of player personnel, simply said of the risky choice, "No guts, no glory."
"He'll look good in a Bear uniform . . . or two uniforms, whatever it takes," Chicago Coach Mike Ditka said. "I feel sorry for opposing centers and for our centers in practice." Perry, who weighed 15 pounds at birth ("I was big when I was little," he notes), said he now weighs 318 pounds, adding that "I'll play at any weight they want. I can control my weight."
Also, who would have thought that Florida State's highly-regarded Greg Allen would be only the fifth running back selected in the draft? Allen, who has recovered from a knee injury, was chosen by Cleveland in the second round (35th overall).
It was expected that North Carolina's Ethan Horton (Kansas City) and Kentucky's George Adams (New York Giants) would be selected in the first round ahead of Allen. But few figured that running backs such as Oklahoma's Steve Sewell (Denver) and Florida's Lorenzo Hampton (Miami) would be taken in the first round, ahead of Allen.
Another surprise: The first quarterback selected is known mostly for being a first-team all-America punter who had a 46-yard average last season. Nevada-Las Vegas quarterback Randall Cunningham, brother of former NFL running back Sam Cunningham, was selected in the second round (37th overall) by Philadelphia, 20 picks before Maryland's Reich.
It also was surprising that a wide receiver -- considered a position of stars and depth in this draft -- wasn't selected until the New York Jets chose Wisconsin's Al Toon with the 10th pick of the day. This marked the first draft since 1968 that no quarterback, running back or wide receiver was taken in the top eight picks. (In 1968, Miami selected running back Larry Csonka with the eighth pick overall, the first skill position offensive player chosen that year.) University of Miami wide receiver Eddie Brown was expected to go in the top five picks, but wasn't chosen until the 13th pick, by Cincinnati.
Most of the draft talk, of course, centered on the Bills' success. Last week, Buffalo had traded the No. 1 choice in the NFL supplemental draft to Cleveland, which will allow the Browns to select University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar.
In exchange for the draft choice, Cleveland gave the Bills linebacker Chip Banks, a two-time Pro Bowl participant. Banks did not report to Buffalo, however, and a provision in the trade enabled Buffalo to take Cleveland's No. 1 pick in today's draft instead of Banks. Buffalo traded that No. 1 pick (seventh overall) to Green Bay for both the Packers' No. 1 pick (14th overall, used to take Burroughs) and Green Bay's second-round pick.