Kyle Orton's Second Wind

By Chris Burrows

Chicagoans cheered this off-season when Kyle Orton followed in the footsteps of Grossman, Stewart and Chandler before him who led disappointing seasons in the Windy City as he was shipped off to Denver to be replaced by dream QB Jay Cutler. Chicago’s history of expendable QBs seems to have found its savior in Cutler. However, Kyle Orton’s dump to Denver will have mile high implications on his fantasy stock.

Matt Forte was the star offensive standout from the 2008 Chicago Bear’s 9-7 season as he rushed for 1,238 yards—a spectacular showing for a rookie. He captured the limelight from the underperforming and overhyped Devin Hester and made a convincing argument for Kyle Orton to keep the ball on the ground. Forte’s impressive production stats that included 12 TDs—8 of which came on the ground—chipped away at Orton’s numbers with very few pass options available.

Orton finished off the season with 465 pass attempts to an unspecialized group of receivers (Devin Hester was originally a punt returner, Greg Olsen is a tight end, and Matt Forte of course is a running back) for a terrible 6.39 yards per attempt that garnered him 2,972 throwing yards and a rank of 19th among NFL quarterbacks and 18 touchdowns. These numbers were far from fantasy-starter-worthy.

In Denver the story is completely different. Orton will be serving the ball up to a top receiver in the league—Brandon Marshall—who has caught for over 2,500 yards in the span of his last two seasons in Colorado. Even Marshall’s complement—Eddie Royal—caught for an additional 980 receiving yards last season so Orton is entering a very different offense that offers him the chance for a lot of production with some very capable hands for his passes.

Additionally, the Broncos offensive line means serious business and should have no problem keeping Orton vertical. They allowed a franchise record-low 12 sacks last season. And a pair of rookie tackles from 2008—Ryan Claddy and Ryan Harris—proved to be spectacular at holding off sacks and pass-protection.

Mike McCoy is the man that will effect this transition to Denver for Orton. He’s the new Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach in town fresh from the Carolina Panthers where he primped a successful Jake Delhomme. McCoy’s talents as a QB cultivator can also be seen in Brett Basanez who McCoy brought from obscurity on the practice squad up to the active roster in Carolina.

With an arsenal of potent pass-catchers to pull it off downfield, Kyle Orton is looking to be the new Cutler in Denver. 2009 will be just his fourth as a pro QB and Mike McCoy should be able to correct whatever is holding him back. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal should do most of the hard work however.

Orton is a risky top fantasy draft choice but I’d pick him up early if he’s available. He can only do better in Denver than he did in Chicago.