Lions change up, nab Harrington

Draft-day reversal sends Oregon QB to Motor City

April 21, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Joey Harrington's free-fall through the first round never materialized yesterday. In a turn of events that stunned even him, the Detroit Lions grabbed the Oregon quarterback with the third pick in the NFL draft.

"I was unbelievably surprised," Harrington said later. "Honestly, I had been told five minutes earlier that they were going in another direction. So I was just about to sit down with my mom and dad and watch the Lions pick someone else, and then I got a phone call."

Detroit's reversal was the clearest indication the Lions were divided on Harrington, considered the second-best quarterback prospect behind Fresno State's David Carr.

In those final five minutes, second-year coach Marty Mornhinweg waged a winning battle to take a quarterback who delivered 10 fourth-quarter comebacks for the Ducks and who won 25 of 28 college games he started.

Lions president Matt Millen apparently preferred to take Texas cornerback Quentin Jammer with the third pick and stick with Mike McMahon, a fifth-round pick a year ago, at quarterback. But after running through three quarterbacks in a 2-14 season, Millen saw the benefit of the Harrington pick.

"We have to have stability at the quarterback position," he said. "We just have to."

Harrington, who thought he might have lasted until the Washington Redskins' 18th pick, will go to camp as McMahon's backup. He wasn't even the biggest surprise of the first round.

On a day when the Kansas City Chiefs' assistant equipment manager helped preserve the team's sixth pick, the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts authored major reaches with the 10th and 11th picks.

The Bengals passed on a cornerback (Miami's Phillip Buchanon) and a tight end (Miami's Jeremy Shockey) to fill major needs to take an offensive tackle at No. 10 who probably would have lasted another 10 picks.

But in taking Arizona State tackle Levi Jones, Bengals coach Dick LeBeau wanted to bring his offense up to snuff.

"There was a lot of talk about defensive players," LeBeau said. "Right now, we think the defense is a little ahead of the offense, and we want to get the productivity of the offense up. That's why we went on that side of the ball."

There's no doubt Jones will enhance Cincinnati's offensive line. Starting left tackle Richmond Webb is 35 and his backup, John Jackson, is 37. But the Bengals could have traded down -- the New York Giants offered to swap their 15th pick -- and still gotten their man.

"I knew it was going to be anywhere from 10th to possibly 27th," Jones said of his selection. "But I didn't think at all it would be 10th. I was real surprised."

The Colts, meanwhile, took undersized defensive end Dwight Freeney with the 11th pick, even though he had been projected to go in the bottom half of the first round. At 6 feet 1 and 268 pounds, Freeney was a sack master at Syracuse.

"Thirty sacks in two years at the college level -- he has to be doing something right," said Colts president Bill Polian, who, with new coach Tony Dungy, is trying to rebuild the defense.

One team that scored a significant defensive coup was the Oakland Raiders, who likely filled two starting positions with Buchanon and Northwestern outside linebacker Napoleon Harris. The Raiders started the day with the 21st and 23rd picks and after two trades, ended up with the 17th and 23rd.

Buchanon, a smallish cornerback at 5-10, nevertheless was considered a top-10 talent who fell to the Raiders' pick when Cincinnati and Indianapolis shook up the projected order.

Meanwhile, the most bizarre scene of the day had Kansas City trading up two spots to the Dallas Cowboys' sixth pick -- and then having to fend off the Minnesota Vikings to take defensive tackle Ryan Sims of North Carolina.

Because Dallas owner Jerry Jones used up virtually all of his allotted 15 minutes to make the trade, the Vikings were ready to step in before the Chiefs could make their pick. Minnesota also wanted Sims.

But Chiefs assistant equipment manager Chris Shropshire effectively blocked the Vikings' representative from submitting a card with Sims name at the podium in Madison Square Garden in New York, where the draft is formally held.

Jones had been talking with the Chiefs and a second team about trading the pick, and used up his time trying to squeeze out an extra pick. As it was, Kansas City agreed to give the Cowboys the eighth pick in the first round, their third round pick and a sixth-rounder in 2003.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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