04-25-2005, 12:04 PM
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Saints like McPherson\'s \'upside\'
Loomis: Team trying to hit a \'home run\' with 5th-round pick
Monday, April 25, 2005
By Mike Triplett
Most of the drama had long been sapped from the NFL draft midway through its second day, but the way Rick Mueller described it, there was a buzz of excitement in the Saints\' draft room Sunday as their fifth-round pick approached.
The Saints selected electrifying yet unproven quarterback Adrian McPherson with the 152nd pick of the draft -- a high-risk, high-reward athlete they had been targeting for more than a year.
Off-field problems scared many teams away from the 6-foot-3, 218-pound McPherson, who was kicked off the Florida State football team for several indiscretions in 2002, including cashing a stolen check, passing bad checks and allegedly being involved in a gambling ring.
But his on-field upside proved too irresistible.
\"I\'ll say it. We kind of had a (star) next to this kid,\" said Mueller, the Saints\' director of player personnel who was admittedly McPherson\'s most ardent supporter. \"There are some other quarterbacks that may develop into backups or may develop into guys that will make your team. But I think talent-wise, this kid has a chance to develop into a player in the league.
\"From a skill standpoint, we thought this guy has the most upside of all those guys up there.\"
General Manager Mickey Loomis admitted that \"there are some red flags there\" with McPherson. But he said \"we are up there in the fifth round swinging for the home run.\"
The Saints also went with a risk-reward pick in the fourth round, selecting oft-injured but big-bodied receiver Chase Lyman out of California.
They finished their draft by selecting two defensive linemen, Wisconsin\'s Jason Jefferson in the sixth round and Arizona State\'s Jimmy Verdon in the seventh, but McPherson was the most intriguing pick Sunday.
Mueller said the Saints had been discussing, scouting and doing background checks on McPherson since early 2004, when he joined the Arena Football League\'s Indiana Firebirds.
\"And he had been debated ever since, up until 30 minutes ago,\" Mueller said shortly after the selection was made.
Mueller said the Saints reached a consensus that they definitely wanted McPherson, but they didn\'t feel comfortable taking him before the fifth round, which made for some nervous moments as early as Saturday night.
McPherson was such a wild card -- much like the Denver Bronco\'s third-round pick, Maurice Clarett -- that the Saints didn\'t know where he might land in the draft.
The Saints reportedly were one of five teams who scouted McPherson\'s personal workout at his former high school in Bradenton, Fla., in late March. McPherson indicated Sunday that the Saints showed more interest in him than any other team.
\"I don\'t think there was anybody that was completely against him,\" Mueller said. \"There were people more for him than others, but I think everybody is happy with him, especially at this point in the draft.
\"The farther along you go, the more excited everybody gets about a guy like this. I think in the fifth round, everybody is comfortable with it. And everybody is excited about it.\"
McPherson, who turns 22 next month, was Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida in high school. He started four games at Florida State before being kicked off the team during his sophomore season.
McPherson improved his reputation with a dazzling Rookie of the Year campaign in the AFL, throwing for 56 touchdowns with just five interceptions. But the Saints said he is as raw as he is impressive.
McPherson is seen as a \"developmental project,\" according to Loomis, who said he did not want to label him as the team\'s quarterback of the future.
\"Realistically, I think he\'s fighting for a roster spot at that third quarterback spot, and we\'ll see how it shakes out,\" Mueller said of McPherson, who will compete with backups Todd Bouman and Kliff Kingsbury. \"He\'s a guy who is going to have a chance, an opportunity to develop and play in the league. Every indication I\'ve had is that he\'s going to take advantage of it.
\"And I think he\'s going to come in with a little chip on his shoulder, something to prove. We kind of like the attitude of guys like that, too.\"
Lyman, meanwhile, is expected to compete for the fourth receiver spot with Talman Gardner, among others, if he can stay healthy.
Lyman underwent six surgical procedures during his college career, while starting eight games. He averaged 20.2 yards per catch, and at 6-3, 217 pounds, Mueller said he is the kind of big, tall receiver who \"brings us something we don\'t have right now.\"
\"He\'s another guy, obviously if he\'s healthy, we aren\'t talking about him in the fourth round,\" Mueller said. \"He\'s a risk, too, but I think the talent level made it worth it. Obviously we\'re more comfortable taking these guys with these concerns on the second day.\"
Although the Saints ranked last in the NFL defensively in 2004, they apparently didn\'t see enough value in the defensive players available in the fourth and fifth rounds to ignore the potential of Lyman and McPherson.
Rick Reiprish, the Saints\' director of college scouting, said Jefferson was one of the top defensive players on the board even in the fifth round, when they selected McPherson.