A Cut Above?
This is an article from the March 6, 2006 issue
While Vince Youngsat out the combine workouts, Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler's draft stockcontinued to rise
Can you imagineVince Young in silver and black? Could the most spectacular player on the boardfor the April draft drop to the Raiders, who have the seventh pick? Such anotion might have sounded absurd two months ago, but there's an increasingpossibility that Young, the Texas quarterback who ranked third in the nation inpassing efficiency in 2005 and led the Longhorns to the national championship,could be selected after a passer who had an 11-34 record at Vanderbilt and zerobowl appearances: Jay Cutler.
This might godown as one of those years when NFL teams foolishly overthink the draft (seeDaunte Culpepper, 1999; Drew Brees, 2001; Ben Roethlisberger, 2004). Theconventional wisdom has Houston selecting USC running back Reggie Bush with theNo. 1 pick and New Orleans taking Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart next. Thencomes Tennessee and the New York Jets, the two other clubs among the top six inthe draft order looking for quarterbacks. (Green Bay and San Francisco, at Nos.5 and 6, respectively, selected passers in the first round last year.) Wouldthe Titans and Jets pass on Young, who shredded USC with 467 combined yards inthe Rose Bowl?
It's not aquestion that poker-faced officials from either team were ready to address atthe NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last weekend. But Young's draft fatewas never far from people's minds. When one longtime coach saw a Raidersexecutive, he told him, "You're going to have a decision to make on VinceYoung. He'll fall to you." Carve this in stone: If Young does drop thatfar, Oakland will jump on him.
The buzz at thecombine was that Cutler is a safer pick than Young. A career 57.2% passer,Cutler had a total of 23 more touchdowns than interceptions in two differentoffenses over four seasons as a starter. He has a strong-enough arm for thepros and has good mobility, and Tennessee and New York may favor a pro-stylequarterback (Cutler) rather than one who is a talented runner but has anunorthodox passing delivery (Young). "I think they want pocket guys who canmove a little bit," Cutler said last Friday. "You're not going to makea living running around in the NFL."
After Cutler'sworkout on Sunday, Seattle quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, who directed thepassing drills, told him he'd done well. Throwing to wide receiver prospects,Cutler was on target with sideline timing routes and threw several perfect goroutes. "I thought I had good velocity and showed the ability to throwdeep," said Cutler.
His mostinteresting experience in Indy was a 15-minute meeting with the Jets lastSaturday night. With so many prospects to evaluate, time is short, so whenCutler walked into the Jets' meeting room he wasn't introduced to any teamofficials. They got started immediately, playing a video of last fall'sLSU-Vanderbilt game and asked Cutler to dissect plays, analyze his decisionmaking and explain the progression of his reads. "It was a littleunorthodox," Cutler said. "I saw coach [Eric] Mangini, but I never gotto meet him. I liked it. They seemed all business."
Young was inIndianapolis, but like Bush and Leinart he chose not to work out. He did,however, take the Wonderlic aptitude test, which is administered to everyplayer at the combine, and after a weekend of controversy over his scorethere's no question teams will be investigating the Texas quarterbackthoroughly. Houston G.M. Charley Casserly said he was told by an NFL officialthat reports of Young scoring a 6 (out of a possible 50) were false. Young wasgiven the test a second time on Sunday, and Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher told SIon Monday that Young scored a 16; the combine average is about 20.
The Titans have achance to evaluate Young in depth around the time of his personal workout atTexas on March 22. "We'll find out everything we need to know about Vincewhen we sit down in a room with him, ask him to diagram plays, and see what hisfootball vision and understanding is," said Fisher. "That's when youfind out about a player, not from a Wonderlic test."
Just Give Me AChance
Former VirginiaTech quarterback Marcus Vick, younger brother of Falcons passer Michael, spentthe combine weekend telling teams he's not the monster he's been made out to bein the media and claimed he was actually toting a cellphone, not a weapon, whenhe was arrested for brandishing a gun in a parking lot in Suffolk, Va., on Jan.9. (He has a March 13 trial date.) "I do not carry guns," Vick said."I don't like weapons of any kind."
A disciplineproblem for the Hokies for three years, Vick was suspended for the 2004 seasonfor a string of transgressions and was finally kicked off the team in Januaryafter intentionally stomping on a Louisville player's leg in Virginia Tech's35-24 win in the Gator Bowl. "For days afterward I'd see highlights of itand felt like it was a dream," Vick said last Friday. "I kept hopingI'd wake up. That's not me. I have no idea why I did it."
Vick ran a 4.4240-yard dash on Sunday and threw the ball with strength and accuracy. Butdespite his combine performance, Vick's troubling past will likely cause him tofall to at least the sixth or seventh round. "If the specifics are whatI've been reading," said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, "he would not beon our board."
• More on the NFLdraft at SI.com/football.
Green Bay's new coach, Mike McCarthy, spent 45 minutestalking football with Brett Favre recently, much of it about the nuts and boltsof McCarthy's offense. "I think he's going to play [in 2006]," McCarthysays of Favre, 36, who has been pondering retirement.... Despite reports to thecontrary, Minnesota will not release quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who iscoming off knee surgery and is due a $6 million roster bonus. But theVikings--miffed that Culpepper (above) is rehabbing in Florida and not inMinnesota, where he could be learning new coach Brad Childress's offense--willlisten to trade offers. The Dolphins have an interest in Drew Brees if the SanDiego QB becomes a free agent, but if he doesn't Miami will be in the mix forCulpepper.... New Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz plans a completeoverhaul of QB Joey Harrington. He told Harrington, "We're going to stripyou down and work on everything"--from his dropback to his footwork to histhrowing motion. Martz may even have Harrington change jersey numbers.