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Day 2 full of intrigue

Orton leads late round selections

Posted: Monday, April 25, 2005

 

  Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton drops back to pass against Syracuse in the first quarter in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, Sept. 5, 2004. Orton went to the Chicago Bears with the fifth pick of the fourth round, No. 106 overall. AP Photo/Michael Conroy,file

Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton drops back to pass against Syracuse in the first quarter in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, Sept. 5, 2004. Orton went to the Chicago Bears with the fifth pick of the fourth round, No. 106 overall.

AP Photo/Michael Conroy,file

NEW YORK — Kyle Orton certainly looked like a first-round NFL draft pick when he was tossing touchdowns at a torrid pace and leading Purdue to a 5-0 start.

Then injuries derailed Orton's breakthrough season, and instead of competing with Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers to be the first quarterback taken, he ended up being the first quarterback selected Sunday on the second day of the draft.

Orton went to the Chicago Bears with the fifth pick of the fourth round, No. 106 overall, and was the seventh of 14 quarterback chosen overall, not counting players who'll change positions such as Matt Jones.

''I thought maybe I would slide maybe to the third round at the latest and really thought I would go somewhere in the second,'' he said. ''I'm really not too worried about it.''

At least he got drafted. Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, the Heisman Trophy winner in 2003, didn't.

On the other hand, Matt Cassel, who was the backup to two Heisman Trophy winners — Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart — at USC and never started a game in college was picked in the seventh round by New England.

Orton was one of several big-name college stars to get the call from the NFL on the draft's second day.

Louisville quarterback Stefan LeFors, the NCAA's highest-rated passer last season, joined Orton in the fourth round, going to Carolina at No. 121.

LeFors is a Louisiana native like current Carolina starter Jake Delhomme.

''I just met him this past Easter, we went to his house down in Breaux Bridge and it's funny because my wife, they're somehow related through marriage,'' said LeFors, from Baton Rouge. ''As we were leaving his house I said 'Man, it would be great to go there.'''

Minnesota running back Marion Barber III, whose father played for the New York Jets, was selected in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys, three picks ahead of running back Ciatrick Fason of Florida, who went to Minnesota.

Both Barber and Fason passed up their junior seasons to enter the draft.

The San Diego Chargers picked 5-foot-7 running back Darren Sproles, Kansas State's career rushing leader, in the fourth round.

Oklahoma cornerback Antonio Perkins, who owns the NCAA records for punt return touchdowns in a game with three and a career with eight, went to Cleveland with the second pick of the fourth round.

Two other intriguing players went three picks apart in the fifth round.

Quarterback Adrian McPherson, who played two seasons at Florida State before pleading no contest in 2003 to gambling and stolen check charges, was taken with the 152nd choice by New Orleans. He played in the Arena Football League last season.

Larry Brackins, a wide receiver from Pearl River Community College in Mississippi, went to St. Louis with the 155th pick. The Rams also picked wideout Dante Ridgeway, who left Ball State after leading the country in receiving as a junior, in the sixth round.

Anttaj Hawthorne, one of four players to test positive for marijuana at the combine in Indianapolis, went with the first pick in the sixth round to the Oakland Raiders. The 320-pound defensive tackle from Wisconsin was first projected to be a first-day pick, but a mediocre showing at the combine had his stock dropping even before the positive test.

Orton's stock was off the charts early last season, when he threw for 1,642 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his first five games.

At 6-foot-3 1/2 and 226 pounds, Orton looked like a prototype NFL passer.

But a hip injury in mid-October was a big reason why Orton fell from September star to NFL draft afterthought. Purdue lost four straight after its fast start as Orton tried to play through the injury for a while but never regained that great form.

''It was just tough,'' Orton said. ''The fact that I got hurt and obviously we got off as a team to a great start and individually I got off to a great start also, and, you know, to get hurt and not be able to play in the tough stretch where we lost four games in a row, it was obviously hard but I thought I bounced back pretty well at the end of the season.''

He'll head to Chicago as insurance for Rex Grossman, a first-round pick in 2003 from Florida who had a season-ending knee injury in the third game of last season.

Orton should get every opportunity to be Grossman's backup. The Bears were the worst offense in the league last season and went through three quarterbacks trying to find a replacement after Grossman was injured.

''To get someone of that caliber in the fourth round, I think it's a great deal,'' new Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ''He is a first- or second-round talent. He's a very talented young man and I'm very familiar with him.''

Orton was 35-for-50 for 366 yards and four TDs against Turner's Illinois team last season.

———

AP sports writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report



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