Three offensive stars will lead off the National Football League draft Sunday, followed by a scramble for defensive players to stop them.
Michigan State offensive tackle Tony Mandarich and Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State are expected to follow UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman when the draft starts at noon EDT. Aikman already has signed a six-year, $11 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys, making him the highest-paid rookie ever and ending what little suspense remained over the No. 1 pick.If Mandarich goes to Green Bay and Sanders to Detroit as expected, National Football Conference Central Division rivals Tampa Bay, the Bears and Minnesota all will be looking for defensive players. But they aren't the only ones.
The Broncos, selecting right after the Bears, who have the 11th and 12th picks, are trying to deal for the Phoenix Cardinals' 10th pick in order to take Pitt defensive end Burt Grossman, considered by most to be the No. 1 pass rusher available. The Cardinals are balking because they want defensive players, and there aren't enough to go around.
The Bears say the New York Jets, who pick 14th, and the Seattle Seahawks (15th) also are talking trade. Their eyes also are on Grossman, and they envy the Bears' having two early picks in a row thanks to deals for Willie Gault and Wilber Marshall. The Bears not only could land Grossman but also could come away with Clemson cornerback Donnell Woolford and fill two big needs.
Here's a look at how the rest of the first round might go before the Bears use their first pick:
No. 4 - Kansas City is zeroing in on Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas, the latest "next Lawrence Taylor."
No. 5 - Atlanta wants Florida State's flashy cornerback, "Neon" Deion Sanders, and figures to get him.
No. 6 - Tampa Bay is said to be eyeing Georgia running back Tim Worley. But Nebraska linebacker Broderick Thomas, who is Mike Singletary's nephew, and Grossman are more likely candidates to fill the Bucs' needs.
No. 7 - Pittsburgh has Broderick Thomas, Worley and Michigan State wide receiver Andre Rison in mind.
No. 8 - San Diego, still trying to engineer a deal to get a quarterback, supposedly will settle for defense: Broderick Thomas, LSU linebacker Eric Hill or Florida safety Louis Oliver.
No. 9 - Miami is deciding between Oliver and Florida State running back Sammie Smith "unless we take Grossman," coach Don Shula told a reporter.
No. 10 - That leaves Phoenix with Oliver, Hill, Woolford or Smith. The Cardinals reportedly don't want Grossman.
Although Grossman emerged at the top of an ordinary group of pass rushers, he comes with "baggage," as one general manager described him. Foremost is a concern over his ability to keep on weight.
Florida's Trace Armstrong, Miami's Bill Hawkins and Arkansas' Wayne Martin also are among the top defensive linemen, along with Auburn's Outland Trophy winner, Tracy Rocker, who is more of a tackle than an end.