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Sports 101

Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington could be the No. 1 pick in tomorrow's National Football League draft. So could Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown, Alabama tackle Chris Samuels, or Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick. But what's going to happen to Arrington has the most intrigue and drama. The Cleveland Browns own the first pick. The Washington Redskins, with the Nos. 2 and 3 draft spots, are salivating over Arrington. But the Browns could snatch him up before Washington gets a chance. ESPN will air the event live from Madison Square Garden beginning at noon tomorrow. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. calls the NFL draft "the start of the football season."

Q: Why is the NFL draft important?

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A: "The draft is where you build your team," says Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese. For instance, 11 of the 22 starters for the Super Bowl champion, St. Louis Rams, were original draft choices of the team, and 16 of the 22 Titans' starters were picked from the draft.

Q: Why does Cleveland pick first?

A: Because the Browns had the worst record in the league last year (2-14). The tables turn when a team comes off a Super Bowl win. That means the Rams will be the last to draft, except for those teams that traded away their first-round picks.

Q: What makes Arrington a top pick?

A: As a sophomore and junior, he was a first-team All-America selection. In 1999, he won the Butkus and Bednarik awards for the nation's best college linebacker and defensive player. His amazing dives over the line of scrimmage became known as the "LaVar Leap" at Penn State. Arrington, a 6 ft. 3 in., 250-pound linebacker, is leaving with one more year of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft.

Q: What's working against him?

A: Only three linebackers have been the first pick in the NFL draft - Aundray Bruce in 1988, Tom Cousineau in 1979, and Tommy Nobis in 1966.

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Q: Why watch the telecast?

A: "The draft has everything you could want in a television show,' says Joe Theismann, the former Washington Redskins quarterback. "Humor, drama, intrigue, controversy." Last year ESPN's two-day ratings for the draft telecast were up 14 percent.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society