Oakland spices up dull draft by taking Janikowski

Raiders get their kicks

Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2000

NEW YORK -- Leave it to the Raiders to provide a kick to an otherwise predictable NFL draft.

No first-round trades for the first time since 1983 -- those came before Saturday's lottery. Penn State's Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington, as expected, went 1-2. And a first-round bonanza for Washington, whose owner tolerates nothing short of a Super Bowl.

But then came the 17th pick, and a move sure to raise eyebrows among the NFL's character police, especially after a season in which two players were charged with murder and dozens more with various lawbreaking. That's when Oakland picked Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski -- a player facing bribery charges that could get him deported to Poland. He's the first kicker taken in the first round in 21 years.

''We feel we have an environment with our veteran players and our coaching staff for this young man to flourish,'' Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.

This isn't new for the Raiders, who won Super Bowls two decades ago with the likes of John Matuszak and Ken Stabler advancing their wild-child image.

And it's not surprising Janikowski was taken high -- he kicked 50 field goals the past two seasons, sent most of his kickoffs and wowed people at the scouting combine. ''An orbital display,'' Gruden called it.

Still, they tried in vain to trade down before using the high pick, but no one bit because all the movement was before the draft. Moreover, most personnel people say there's not much difference between players in the middle of the first round and the middle of the second.

That's not true at the top.

The first pick was Brown, the Penn State defensive end who was chosen by Cleveland over teammate Arrington, a linebacker promptly snatched by the Redskins. It was the first time since 1984, when Irving Fryar and Dean Steinkuhler of Nebraska went 1-2, that the top two choices were from the same school, and only the third time ever.

Washington, which had obtained picks 2-3 in trades with New Orleans and San Francisco, grabbed Alabama's Chris Samuels, whom it hopes will play left tackle for the next 15 years.

''It's really hard to please an entire room, but in a half-hour period, we pleased the defensive staff with Arrington and turned around and pleased the offensive staff with Samuels,'' said coach Norv Turner. Maybe demanding owner Dan Snyder will stay pleased, too.

Arrington even upped the expectations by choosing No. 56, the number worn by Lawrence Taylor, to whom he's often been compared. And while all the ''next LTs'' have proven to be less than that, all Arrington has to do for now is provide some impact to a defense that ranked next to last in the NFL even while Washington was winning the NFC East.

Janikowski, a native of Poland with the strongest leg most NFL people have ever seen, wasn't the only player who was chosen despite problems with the law. In fact, he wasn't the only Florida State transgressor taken.

Wide receiver Peter Warrick, chosen by Cincinnati with the fourth overall pick, was suspended for two games last season after he got $400 worth of department store merchandise for $21.

Janikowski was the taken higher than any kicker since Russell Erxleben was taken No. 11 overall by New Orleans in 1979.

Aside from the Redskins, the team that probably did the best were Baltimore and the New York Jets.

The Ravens, who had choices five and 10, got just what they wanted for their anemic offense, a running back and receiver. Jamal Lewis of Tennessee was the back, going at No. 5, and Travis Taylor of Florida was the receiver at No. 10.

The Jets had four first-round picks, two of their own and two they obtained from Tampa Bay in the trade Tuesday for Keyshawn Johnson.

Predictably for a team being run by Bill Parcells, they went for defense at Nos. 12 and 13 with defensive end Shaun Ellis of Tennessee and linebacker John Abraham of South Carolina.

But they pulled a surprise with the 18th pick, choosing Chad Pennington of Marshall as their quarterback of the future.

''That really wasn't really the talk,'' said Pennington, who, like most analysts, expected to go to Pittsburgh, Denver or San Francisco.

After Brown, Arrington, Samuels and Warrick, Lewis went to Baltimore.

Then Philadelphia chose defensive tackle Corey Simon of Florida State; Arizona took running back Thomas Jones of Virginia, and Pittsburgh took wide receiver Plaxico Burress of Michigan State, who had alienated the Eagles by skipping a workout to attend the Final Four.

Chicago took Brian Urlacher of New Mexico, a 260-pounder they will use at linebacker although he also played tight end and safety in college. Baltimore then chose Taylor, and the New York Giants, using only two of their 15 allotted minutes, jumped on Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, the leading rusher in college history.

The Jets then took Ellis and Abraham and Green Bay chose Miami tight end Bubba Franks, who is expected to replace Mark Chmura, who missed most of last season with a neck injury and was accused last week of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.

''This is what felt good to us,'' new coach Mike Sherman said. ''I think Franks has the ability to be a starter in this offense. Whatever role he plays on our team this year, he'll be a big target for Brett Favre.''

After Franks, Denver took California cornerback Deltha O'Neal; San Francisco went for Michigan State linebacker Julian Peterson; the Raiders took Janikowski; the Jets took Pennington; Seattle took running back Shaun Alexander of Alabama; Detroit took Oklahoma offensive tackle Stockar McDougle; Kansas took Jackson State wide receiver Sylvester Morris; Seattle used its second first-rounder on Wisconsin offensive lineman Chris McIntosh; and Carolina took cornerback Rashard Anderson of Jackson State, the second player in three picks from Walter Payton's Division I-AA alma mater.

San Francisco, terrible at cornerback last season, took Ohio State corner Ahmed Plummer; Minnesota when for Boston College defensive tackle Chris Hovan; Buffalo took a potential replacement for Bruce Smith in Erik Flowers, a defensive end from Arizona State.

The Jets then used their fourth first-rounder pick on West Virginia tight end Anthony Becht; Indianapolis took Brigham Young linebacker Rob Morris; Jacksonville took wide receiver R. Jay Soward of Southern Cal; Tennessee chose Syracuse linebacker Keith Bulluck; and St. Louis finished the first round with running back Trung Canidate of Arizona.


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