Jackson and Byars Early NFL Choices; But Will They Play?

Times Staff Writer

Bo Jackson of Auburn and Keith Byars of Ohio State, the first two running backs picked Tuesday in the National Football League’s draft, may be headed toward a similar fate. Neither may play pro football this year--or ever.

Jackson, the top choice, but also a prospect as a baseball player, declined an invitation to sign with the football team that picked him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I want to talk to the baseball club that drafts me in June,” Jackson said.

Byars’ bad foot, which kept him out of action nearly all of last season, didn’t scare off Buddy Ryan, the new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, who made the Buckeye the 10th pick in the draft.


“You don’t get anywhere in this world unless you roll the dice,” Ryan said. “It’s like blitzing on third and 30.”

Ryan hasn’t blitzed on third and 30 since the Super Bowl, when he coached the defensive team of the Chicago Bears that crushed the New England Patriots and won the NFL title.

Two intriguing questions in the NFL now are whether the Bears can win again without Ryan, and whether the Eagles can win with him. So far, he has only proved that he is one of the league’s most unusual coaches.

On his radio show during the week, Ryan said: “We will not take Keith Byars. We can’t ignore the opinion of our medical staff.”


He apparently changed his mind when Byars lasted through nine picks.

The scouts seem to think that Byars is as talented as Jackson when well, but it worries them that his broken foot hasn’t healed. He hurt it last fall, and there is the chance that Byars will never be 100% again.

For insurance, with their second choice, the Eagles drafted another running back, Anthony Toney of Texas A&M.;

And in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, Ryan got the quarterback he wanted, Matt Cavanaugh, when the Raiders wouldn’t agree to pay as much of Marc Wilson’s Philadelphia salary as the Eagles wanted.


As for Jackson, the all-around Auburn athlete has more confidence in his baseball ability than the baseball scouts have.

“I’ve played baseball all my life and football for eight-nine years,” he said. “I like challenges. There are people who say if Bo goes baseball, he will have trouble with the curveball. I love making liars out of people.”

Hugh Culverhouse, Buccaneers’ owner, is preparing a $5-million deal for Jackson that would take him through the 1980s. “If it’s a question of money, we’ll win,” he said.

But Jackson said: “I don’t want people to say that Bo was bought.”


Otherwise, the NFL’s 51st annual lottery was this kind of event:

--Turning a light on the area where football games are won and lost, the first nine teams drafting chose six linemen. In all, 14 linemen were picked in the opening round, seven offensive and seven defensive.

--As expected, the only two first-round quarterbacks were Jim Everett of Purdue and Chuck Long of Iowa. But a difference between them was reflected in where they went--Everett third, to the Houston Oilers, and Long 12th, to the Detroit Lions.

--One of the league’s leading passing experts, Rod Dowhower, coach of the Indianapolis Colts, had traded up to fourth to get Everett. But when the Oilers beat him to the Purdue passer, Dowhower didn’t want Long. Instead, he drafted a defensive lineman, Alabama’s Jon Hand, after trading for a quarterback, Gary Hogeboom, who was recently dropped from backup to No. 3 by the Dallas Cowboys.


--In the third round, Dowhower found another Big Ten quarterback, Jack Trudeau of Illinois.

--The Oilers, who need help everywhere, added Everett although they already have a quarterback, Warren Moon.

--Iowa, which lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, led the nation with three first-round choices--Long, running back Ronnie Harmon, who went to Buffalo, and tackle Mike Haight, drafted by the New York Jets.

--Six Big Ten players were named in the first round to three from the Pacific 10. The SEC led with seven.


--The L.A. area provided two first-round picks, USC tackle James FitzPatrick to the San Diego Chargers and UCLA wide receiver Mike Sherrard to the Dallas Cowboys, and two second-rounders, UCLA kicker John Lee to the St. Louis Cardinals and Cal State Fullerton cornerback Mark Collins to the New York Giants.

--Of the day’s first 41 choices, 11, or 26%, were running backs. The six first-rounders in order: Jackson, Byars, John L. Williams of Florida to Seattle, Harmon, Reggie Dupard of SMU to New England, and Neal Anderson of Florida to Chicago. Five went early in the second round: Garry James of LSU to Detroit, Dalton Hilliard of LSU to New Orleans, Darryl Clack of Arizona State to Dallas, Toney, and Kenneth Davis of TCU to Green Bay.

--The day’s 48th pick was Florida linebacker Alonzo Johnson, who was drafted by Philadelphia despite drug rumors that forced his agent to commit himself, in writing, to tests by NFL teams. After drafting Johnson, Ryan said: “This is America, not Russia. We believe in giving everyone a chance.” Said Johnson: “I don’t have a problem and never have.”

--Chicago’s chief scout, Bill Tobin, said the Bears passed on all cocaine positives for this reason: " . . . the evidence on the recovery rate. You see it in basketball and baseball. They confess and ask forgiveness, and a few weeks later they miss a practice (or a) game. We hear the recovery rate is 1 in 10.”


--As often happens, many teams drafted to their strength. The Raiders and Washington Redskins, who both have some fine defensive linemen, drafted defensive linemen first. The Oilers, led by a young quarterback, drafted another one. The New England Patriots, with Craig James, Tony Collins and two other good backs, drafted Dupard first. “You can’t read the future,” said Dick Steinberg, New England’s chief scout. “You draft the best man.”

--The 49ers spent much of the morning making draft-choice trades, acquiring, among others, Washington’s No. 1 for next year when the Redskins wanted Hawaii wide receiver Walter Murray. The 49ers emerged with two first-rounders and two second-rounders for 1987. When they finally kept a draft choice, the 49ers took a defensive lineman, Larry Roberts of Alabama, as the day’s 39th selection.

Explaining himself, Bill Walsh, who has often traded up or down as the 49er coach, said: “It doesn’t make sense to draft a third-round talent on the second round just because he’s the best available.”

Walsh’s draft-day trades of other years have produced running back Wendell Tyler, tight end Russ Francis and wide receiver Jerry Rice, among others.


His last trade Tuesday produced the quarterback who may succeed Cavanaugh as Joe Montana’s backup, Jeff Kemp, former Ram.