NFL teams don't think highly of Purdue's Dicken

NFL teams don't think highly of Purdue's Dicken

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – He threw for 1,500 more yards than Cory Sauter, got picked off fewer times than Todd Schultz and beat out Brian Griese for first-team All-Big Ten on the coaches' ballot.

But the only draft Purdue's Billy Dicken plans on being a part of this weekend is the kind that costs $1.25 a glass.

"I would say his chances are slim and none," Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller said of his quarterback's National Football League prospects. "And slim's on his horse, sitting high in the saddle on the edge of town."

Mel Kiper Jr. and friends say this year's NFL's draft could be one of the best ever for Big Ten quarterbacks, with Michigan's Griese, Minnesota's Sauter, Michigan State's Schultz, Iowa's Matt Sherman and even Penn State's Mike McQueary all possible picks.

No Bloomington bomber, though.

"You've got five quarterbacks who are seeded ahead of me to get taken," said Dicken, Purdue's first Big Ten passing leader since Mark Hermann in 1980. "It kind of puzzles me why no one's taking a hard look at me."

Dicken and a few senior teammates got to audition for several NFL clubs in the off-season, but his performance didn't earn him a spot on a chalk board in anyone's war room.

Makes him wonder if he was there just because they needed someone to throw balls to Brian Alford, Purdue's prized receiving prospect.

"What position does he play?" Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Anderson said when asked to comment on Dicken.

Uh, quarterback. Threw for 3,136 yards last year and led his team to a bowl.

"I'm not too familiar with him," Bills quarterbacks coach Turk Schoner said.

"(NFL) people called about him and asked for tape," Tiller said. "But nobody calls back."

They've called Lloyd Carr about Griese, Hayden Fry about Sherman, Glen Mason about Sauter.

What do the other Big Ten guys have that Dicken doesn't?

About 3 inches.

Sauter goes 6-foot-5, McQueary and Schultz 6-4, Griese and Sherman 6-3.

Dicken's 6-1. Fine for a point guard, not an NFL quarterback who has to throw over NFL linemen.

"There's a prototype you look for in the National Football League," Bills general manager John Butler said.

"First you look for size," Schoner said. "And if somebody doesn't have the size, then they've got to have something else, whether it's a live arm, great playmaking ability, those types of things. There's got to be something where you can say, 'Hey, he's got something special.' "

Dicken had a special 1997 season, throwing a Big Ten-high 407 passes, connecting on a Big Ten-best 21 touchdowns and leading the league in total offense.

But that, scouts have told Tiller, had more to with the Big Ten Coach of the Year's pass-happy system than Dicken's abilities.

"Billy was outstanding for that system over there," Butler said. "His style of game is a little different than the typical NFL game."

"I don't think Billy can play in the NFL," Tiller said. "I want to preface that by saying that I'm a poor judge. I'm not in the NFL. But Billy's not a prototype, seven-step dropback passer that can throw the ball on the line out there on the wide side of the field. That's what they're looking for."

They check out everything, from IQs to MRIs. They know all about the fractured sternum Dicken suffered in 1996 and the rotator cuff injury he went down with in 1994.

Neither helps his draft cause.

"The torn rotator cuff has probably weakened his arm to the point where they don't look at him and see a Drew Bledsoe-type arm or a Ryan Leaf-type arm," Tiller said. "In the NFL, if they don't feel like you have the physical skills that they can develop, they're going to pass on you."

If they do, Dicken's got other options.

The Canadian Football League's always looking for short, speedy quarterbacks like him. And he's probably good enough to earn an invitation to someone's NFL training camp.

Or he could put that business degree to use and get a desk job.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next couple weeks," Dicken said. "And if nothing happens, oh well."

Draft details

What: 1998 NFL draft

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

When: 11 a.m. today (rounds 1-3), 10 a.m. Sunday (rounds 4-7)

TV coverage: Today, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., ESPN; 6 p.m.-conclusion of third round, ESPN2; Sunday, 10 a.m.-noon, ESPN; noon-conclusion, ESPN2.

Prime prospects

The Big Ten's top five pro prospects, according to staff writer Jeff D'Alessio:

1. Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan. Desmond Howard debacle won't keep Al Davis from investing in another Heisman Trophy-winning Wolverine. Two-way threat could be another weapon for ex-Illini Jeff George.

2. Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State. Won't need to hit up agent for any more loans after today. Bears interested, which is probably not a good sign for Penn State bad boy.

3. Flozell Adams, OT, Michigan State. Ear problem may keep five-star "Hotel" from making it at left tackle. Mel Kiper Jr. calls him draft's best run blocker.

4. Robert Holcombe, RB, Illinois. Hopes to become second Illini back taken in first round (Tony Butkovich, Jim Grabowski), sixth Illini first-rounder in '90s (Jeff George, Henry Jones, Brad Hopkins, Kevin Hardy, Simeon Rice).

5. Tony Simmons, WR, Wisconsin. Big Ten's reigning 100-meter dash champ ran fastest time at combine. Best of deep Big Ten receiving bunch (Wisconsin's Donald Hayes, Penn State's Joe Jurivicius, Purdue's Brian Alford).

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