Rocket who?

Just because Raghib Ismail decided to accept a suitcase full of Toronto Argonaut dollars to play in the Candian Football League, don't for one moment think that upset the plans of the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's NFL draft.The Cowboys weren't all that fascinated with the Rocket anyway, certainly not at the $26.2 million price tag Toronto attached to him.

No sir, said coach Jimmy Johnson. The man he wanted all along was the man he got with the No. 1 pick - defensive tackle Russell Maryland from the University of Miami.

"We 100 percent traded up to get Russell Maryland," Johnson said of the deal the Cowboys made with New England to corral the No. 1 spot. "We had every intention to do what we had to do to get Russell."

For Maryland, the opportunity to play for his old college coach made being No. 1 even better. "I'm flabbergasted and overwhelmed," the Outland Trophy winner said. "It will be great to be reunited with Jimmy Johnson, who took a chance on me when he recruited me."

At $8 million for five years, Maryland ushers in an NFL-style recession. He was considerably less expensive for the Cowboys than Ismail would have been. And his contract - compared to the $13 million that No. 1 Jeff George got last year and the $11.2 million that No. 1 Troy Aikman signed for two years ago - is certain to reduce the payoffs for all the remaining first-round picks.

All three are represented by attorney Leigh Steinberg, who also is the agent for defensive back Eric Turner, selected by Cleveland as the No. 2 pick in the draft

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he had negotiated in good faith with Ismail's representatives. "His numbers were totally out of our league," he said.Exit Rocket. Enter Russell.

The Cowboys' No. 1 pick touched off an unprecedented run on defensive talent - the first six picks were all defensive players.

Following Maryland, Cleveland took Turner, the earliest selection for a defensive back since 1956. Next to go were Nebraska teammates Bruce Pickens, a defensive back chosen by Atlanta, and linebacker Mike Croel, who went to Denver.

Then the Los Angeles Rams took defensive back Todd Lyght of Notre Dame and Phoenix grabbed defensive lineman Eric Swann, who came into the draft from semipro football with no college experience.

The string of defenders ended when Tennessee guards Charles McRae and Antone Davis went on consecutive picks, McRae to Tampa Bay and Davis to Philadelphia. It was the first time in draft history that players from the same school who play the same position went on consecutive choices.

In all, the round produced just nine offensive skill position players, only two of them quarterbacks. The first passer to go was Dan McGwire of San Diego State, picked by Seattle at No. 16. The Los Angeles Raiders went for Southern Cal sophomore Todd Marinovich with the 24th pick.

The selection of Maryland was just the beginning of a busy day for the Cowboys, who spent the first round talking to just about every club, wheeling and dealing. When they were done, the Cowboys had swung three trades, moving down in the draft rotation to accumulate extra picks.

The long first round limited Sunday's draft to four rounds. The remaining eight rounds will be held today.