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Monday, April 28, 1997
Aikman's 'draft pick' needs to catch on fast
By RANDY GALLOWAY
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS - The new draftees are mingling with the veterans this
weekend at Valley Ranch, and finally, the Dallas Cowboys have
a first-round pick who definitely stands out.
Then again, standing out comes natural for 6-7, 272-pound David
LaFleur, particularly when you combine size with what he will
be asked to accomplish in the NFL.
To be an eventual success in the Dallas offensive system, LaFleur
must catch passes. The Cowboys are so convinced he can, Jerry
(Second Round) Jones not only stayed in the first round, he traded
up three spots to ensure LaFleur would be available.
Based on body bulk, plus track record at LSU, LaFleur can become
an excellent blocking tight end. If that's all, however, then
the drafting history of the Jerry-Barry regime will continue its
clueless trend. What the Cowboys are looking for in LaFleur is
the third coming of Jay Novacek - Eric Bjornson already was billed
as the second.
Maybe you noticed that the Cowboys like to throw to the tight
end. A lot. Maybe you also noticed the dip in offensive production
last season when Novacek was absent, and Bjornson had ongoing
So with tight end in this offense being far different from
most in job description, why make LaFleur the draft focal point?
In a passing game, can he get the constant separation from a clinging
linebacker, which has everything to do with explosiveness and
quickness? Doesn't LaFleur present a drastic change in what Novacek
once brought to the position?
Better yet, is there a scout available who can explain all
this? Oh ... there is a scout available, huh. Then go right ahead,
sir. Your reasoning, please, on David LaFleur.
"Until everyone sees him, the assumption is no one that
big can do what we expect a tight end to do," said Troy Aikman,
Jones' new super scout. "All I would say is take a look at
him on the field before making up your mind.
"No, at first glance, he's not Jay, but in a way, he is
Jay. There are some things about him that really remind me of
Jay, starting with the exceptional hands, and also the attitude
he brings to the game. As a rookie, I'm not sure what we will
have. But he's going to be an outstanding player in the NFL for
a long time."
Clip and save that Aikman endorsement. In fact, you will hear
it a million times from Jones, coaches and scouts - "Troy
liked him." The drafting has been so bad lately, an Aikman
endorsement brings a reprieve of sorts. Also, his involvement
in the draft served to counter all those off-season stories that
Aikman would retire. Jerry certainly wanted Troy involved.
At the request of Jones, Aikman "worked out" eight
receivers before the draft, and gave his recommendation on each.
Of the eight, Aikman said he wanted three, but refused to name
them. Obviously, however, LaFleur was one, and Aikman also said
of Florida wideout Ike Hilliard, "He jumped out right away
... there was a sparkle to him."
Aikman went to Lake Charles, La., to meet LaFleur, and spent
30 minutes throwing to him, and more time getting to know him.
"Good kid ... good family," he said.
"It's definitely true our drafts lately have been seriously
questioned," Aikman added, "but I do not, in any way,
feel my involvement came as a result of all that. It's just not
"Jerry had asked me originally to throw to a couple of
tight ends and give my opinion. I agreed. I think what happened
was the word got out around the league that Aikman had worked
with this guy and that guy, so that's who the Cowboys were going
"As a strategic thing, I was then asked to throw to some
receivers, where it wouldn't be so obvious. In the end, we got
who I think we wanted.
"I was operating on the theory that if Jerry thought it
would help us as a team if I did this, then, sure, I'm happy to
do it. I was pleased when some scouts told me it had really helped
"But I want it stressed that my opinion did not weigh
heavily in the final decision-making process. A draft is about
so many different opinions. I was just one voice."
OK, fine. Except I don't believe a word of all that. One way
or the other, David LaFleur just became "Troy's pick."
And you know that stuff about Aikman being hesitant to warm
to rookies? Here's a friendly side wager that LaFleur will have
immediate ample opportunity to prove he's the pass-catching tight
end the Cowboys need.
His "scout" will see to that.
All content copyright 1997,
AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News
and Reporter OnLine