The day Ohio State Univer-sity invited NFL teams to Columbus to work out the draft-eligible Buckeye players, tight end Darnell Sanders was injured and ran the 40-yard dash in a very run-of-the-mill 4.82 seconds.
"He had tweaked his hamstring," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "I was impressive that he gutted out his workout (despite his injury). He caught the ball extremely well. You could tell he had good hands."
Wanting to get a jump on the rest of the league, Davis sent Browns tight ends coach Steve Hagen back for a second visit with Sanders, whose hamstring had since healed.
"He ran a 4.72," Davis said. "He ran significantly better. We were impressed with the way he caught the ball. He's not a finished product - yet - but he's a big kid with good hands."
With that tucked away in the back of their minds, once players started falling off the draft board April 21, Davis didn't want to miss out on a chance to add a tight end with star quality.
Cleveland traded its own fifth-and sixth-round picks to the Oakland Raiders for their fourth-rounder (No. 122 overall) and took Sanders.
"We weren't sure Darnell Sanders would still be there," Davis said. "He was too good an opportunity to pass on. He was worth the risk to make the move."
The 6-foot-6, 267-pounder from Warrensville Heights High School certainly didn't have overwhelming numbers at Ohio State. He caught 42 passes for 474 yards (11.3 average) and nine touchdowns in his career.
Considering the problems Ohio State had last fall at the quarterback position, it's a wonder any of the Buckeyes' targets had any numbers to speak of.
He caught just 18 passes for 197 yards (10.9 average) and three TDs during his junior year last fall. He was considerably more productive as a sophomore with 23 receptions for 270 yards and five TDs.
"(Ohio State's struggles) played a significant role," Davis said. "Ohio State is a run-oriented football team, with a limited production from the tight end. With his upside, he can flourish if he runs better routes. That was an offense that doesn't always showcase throwing the ball."
Sanders, 23, said he's thrilled to play with former Ohio State tight end Ricky Dudley.
"It's going to be a pleasure," he said. "I'll learn from Ricky. I want to get all the film I can and be the best pro I can be."
Davis added, "We wanted to add someone to the tight end position." We felt it was one of the deepest positions in the draft. There were as many as 12 tight ends who could impact our team. We passed on some (earlier in the draft)."
|Pick: No. 122 (fourth round)
College: Ohio State
Position: Tight end
Height/Weight: 6-6, 267
40-yard dash: 4.93
Birthdate: March 16, 1979
High School: Warrensville Heights (Ohio)
Honors: Second-team All-Big Ten selection by NFL Draft Report.