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PANTHERS, JAGS SHOULD TAKE A LOOK AT ZEIER

The Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars should take a history lesson before they walk into their draft rooms April 22.

Then they would discover that one of their expansion predecessors selected an undersized quarterback form Georgia with a down-the-line pick in its inaugural draft. Fran Tarkenton wound up taking the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls and himself to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Vikings drafted Tarkenton in the third round in 1961, even though he was a slight six-foot, 185 pounds. Despite his stature, he became the most prolifie passer in NFL history. He threw more passes for more yards and more touchdowns that any quarterback of any size.

That in mind, both Carolina and Jacksonville might want to take another look at the latest undersized quarterback form Georgia. Eric Zeier is only slightly bigger than Tarkenton at 6-0, 206, but towers over him as a college passer.

In fact, Zeier towers over all passers that have ever played in the Southeastern Conference - a collection that includes Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Archie Manning, Bert Jones and Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier and Pat Sullivan.

Zeier threw more passes for more yards and more touchdowns than anyone in SEC history. He also ranks third in NCAA history with his 11,153 passing yards.

But as significant as what Zeier does as a quarterback is what he doesn't do - turn the ball over. He threw only 37 interceptions in his 1,402 career passes. That's one every 38 passes, the lowest in SEC history.

But Zeier doesn't rate among the top five quarterbacks in 1995. He's one of the shortest quarterbacks available and, in a league that lives by tape measure and stopwatch, that will hurt him on draft day. If he were 6-4, Zeier would likely be a first-rounder.

"Playing quarterback has nothing to do with that," Zeier said. "You throw through lanes, not over people. I've thrown behind a line (of blockers) that was 6-9, 6-7, 6-6. Three-quarters of an inch of and inch doesn't make that much difference.

That's what the Vikings decided when they drafted Tarkenton 34 years ago. That's what the Panthers of Jaguars might want to consider in the third round of 1995 draft.

DRAFT WINDS: UCLA wide receiver J.J. Stokes was expected to be a high draft pick, but scouts cooled to him when he ran a 4.77 second 40 yard dash in a March workout. Stokes rebounded in April to run in the 4.6s, so his stock is back on the rise. But not fast enough to catch Colorado's Michael Westbrook and Ohio State's Joey Galloway, They're the top two wideouts on the board.

Westbrook, by the way, set school records with his 76 catches for 1,060 yards in 1992. His offensive coordinator that year was Les Steckel, who is now the receivers' coach of the Oilers. Don't be surprised if Houston takes Westbrook with the third pick of the draft instead of quarterback Steve McNair.

The stock of Ohio State offensive tackle Korey Stringer continues to plummet. He was the big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1993-94, but showed up at the combine heavy at 345. Scouts hoped he'd check in at 320.

Stringer canceled one workout for NFL coaches and scouts in March, then showed up at his April workout weighing 33.1. He tried to run a 40-yard dash but pulled a hamstring and finished neither the dash nor the workout. He was expected to be a top 10 pick. Now he's sprinting toward the second round.

ONE OF THE FEW: There weren't enough Rams fans to keep the team in Anaheim, so the team is moving to St. Louis this season. The Rams sold out only one home game in their last two seasons and drew only 25,705 for what would be their final game in Anaheim last December. The Rams averaged only 42,300 fans last season.

So not many fans in Southern California will miss the Rams. But count Brenden Stai among the few. He was an All-America at Nebraska and is one of the top-rated guards in the 1995 draft. He would have loved to have been drafted by the Rams - they were once his hometown team.

"I grew up right next to Anaheim Stadium, and have been to so many Rams games in my life," Stai said. "It's amazing to see that they're moving. I'm disappointed. The Rams meant a lot to Anaheim."