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NFL Draft Analysis : They Bet Their Jobs on This All-American Team

Times Staff Writer

Football fans who take All-American teams seriously had to wait four months again this year to get the last word on last year.

When it was put together--in the pro football draft this week--an uncommonly sound backfield was featured.

Vinny Testaverde was at quarterback, Brent Fullwood at tailback and Alonzo Highsmith at fullback.

These were the first players drafted at their positions--as were Haywood Jeffires and Ricky Nattiel at wide receiver and, among others, Reggie Rogers and Jerome Brown in the defensive line.

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And, as a group, these and the others who were top-drafted Tuesday--offensive and defensive players alike--might be classed as members of the last, and best, All-American team of 1986.

The professional coaches and scouts who chose them over all other college players spent an estimated $10 million to get their information. And in many cases, they were also betting their jobs that they are right.

As for the general run of other All-American, all-conference and All-Pro teams, it is often said that, taking them as a whole, they don’t have much validity.

What they all represent is nothing more than the collective opinion of the voters--usually sportswriters--who concern themselves with geographical representation and other irrelevant considerations.

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In contrast, the overriding concern of draft-day voters is player quality.

Although some teams draft for need, their needs are so varied that, after a round or two, the top players at each position typically rise to the top.

Only two kinds of college talent are customarily unrepresented on any draft-day All-American team:

--The pros, first, don’t take sophomores and juniors and others who, like Brian Bosworth this year, are ineligible for the draft.

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--Second, pro clubs occasionally downgrade distinctively great college players who are presumed to lack specific pro skills.

Quarterback Doug Flutie, for example, was downgraded not long ago. But that might have been the pros’ mistake. His fans still say that Flutie hasn’t yet connected with the right coach on the right pro club.

As lined up today, the draft-day team also excludes kicking specialists--for one reason. Such specialists can be best evaluated statistically. Thus in any given week, the champion punter is the one with the best net average--subtracting all yards between the goal line and the 20.

A new champion will probably be kicking somewhere next season.

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More relevant is this kind of question: Who were really the best running backs in college football last fall?

There were a lot of candidates, and many of them were voted onto one All-American team or another. But the men who voted with their money put it on Fullwood and Highsmith.

The 1986 All-Americans--as named in the pro draft:

OFFENSE

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Po Player No College Drafted by WR H. Jeffires 20 N.C. State Oilers WR Ricky Nattiel 27 Florida Broncos TE Rod Bernstine 24 Texas A&M; Chargers OL John Clay 15 Missouri Raiders OL Harris Barton 22 N. Carolina 49ers OL B. Armstrong 23 Louisville Patriots OL Gregg Rakoczy 32 Miami (Fla.) Browns OL Jeff Bregel 37 USC 49ers QB Vinny Testaverde 1 Miami (Fla.) Buccaneers HB Brent Fullwood 4 Auburn Packers FB A. Highsmith 3 Miami (Fla.) Oilers

DEFENSE

Po Player No College Drafted by DL Reggie Rogers 7 Washington Lions DL Jerome Brown 9 Miami (Fla) Eagles DL Shawn Knight 11 BYU Saints DL Danny Noonan 12 Nebraska Cowboys LB C. Bennett 2 Alabama Colts LB Mike Junkin 5 Duke Browns LB Shane Conlan 8 Penn State Bills LB Tony Woods 18 Pitt Seahawks DB Rod Woodson 10 Purdue Steelers DB Nate Odomes 29 Wisconsin Bills DB Brian Davis 30 Nebraska Redskins DB R. Mitchell 33 Texas Tech Bills DB Tim McDonald 34 USC Cardinals

Note: No. is player’s draft number.

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