01-29-2006, 10:24 PM
1000 Posts +
Join Date: Apr 2005
I don't think anyone thinks or even said that Cutler will be DRAFTED ahead of Leinart or Young.
Actually Christ Mortensen did, which is why I even made those comments about how I disagree:
Let's get something straight right off the mark. This is not a knock against Matt Leinart or Vince Young. This also is not a knock against my colleague and friend Mel Kiper Jr., our ESPN draft scout, who does a terrific job.
However, this I'm pretty sure about: Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt is the best quarterback available for the NFL draft come April.
I am not alone. A bunch of NFL scouts are whispering the same thing during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala. Some of those even will put out some "negatives" on Cutler deliberately in hopes that he'll drop a little in the draft. It's not going to work.
"It's not even worth trying to downgrade the kid ... hoping he slides," one top personnel director said. "The secret is out."
I have felt for almost a year now that Cutler is the best quarterback prospect, and nothing has changed my mind. If anything, he has even solidified his standing now that I've had the pleasure and benefit of personally seeing him play in the Southeastern Conference.
Could Jay Cutler end up getting drafted before Vince Young and Matt Leinart?Cutler was the All-SEC first-team quarterback selected by coaches and the media. He was the preseason pick, too. Heck, he was a first-team All-SEC choice as a redshirt freshman.
You know how difficult that is when you play at Vanderbilt in a conference with many of the nation's heavyweights?
A scout for one of the NFL's top personnel departments supported this notion in November after he did some cross-checking on the SEC quarterbacks.
"It can't be fun playing quarterback in the SEC," the scout said. "I mean, most of the teams are five and six deep at cornerback -- it's not even close when you compare it to the Pac-10. The speed on defense across the SEC is ridiculous. The defensive coordinators, well, some of them should be coaching in the NFL. Some of them have, in fact. Playing quarterback in the SEC is a task. Playing it well every week is a bigger task."
This scout marveled at Cutler's performance with inferior personnel around him.
"Unbelievably competitive with the physical skills to back it up," the scout said.
Cutler's similarities to Brett Favre are uncanny, except Cutler is far ahead of Favre in the mental aspects of the game at the same career stage. Cutler probably has the strongest arm in this draft. He has moxie. He has a swagger. As Favre did at Southern Mississippi, Cutler had Vandy winning games it had no business winning and competing in games in which the Commodores should have been blown out. As with Favre, his gunslinger mentality will get him in the doghouse with some NFL coach but the upside is way too high to let it bring him down. Oh, he never got his team to a bowl appearance? Neither did John Elway.
"Jay Cutler is special, like Elway and Favre," Bus Cook said.
Cook is supposed to say that. He is Cutler's agent. Oh, he also represents Favre and the Titans' Steve McNair, all three of them good ol' Mississippi men. Don't ask me how Cutler joined that club -- he hails from Santa Claus, Ind. It will be Christmas for any team that lands him.
The Titans, picking third in the draft, could be that team -- if Cutler gets past the New Orleans Saints at No. 2. Titans general manager Floyd Reese has noted that Cutler is a blend of Leinart and Young. He's a terrific pocket passer like Leinart but with much greater arm strength. He's athletic enough to make plays out of the pocket, although Young is certainly a better athlete, just without Cutler's arm strength.
Arm strength is not the only measure of a quarterback, as everyone knows. But it's probably more important in today's NFL than ever before. For instance, defensive coordinators are talking about how tough it is to defend the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger because he can throw it "outside the numbers" so well, meaning he has the arm to deliver the deep outs.
Leinart is clearly smart. Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, his former USC mentor, talks glowingly of how "everything runs on time" when Leinart is behind center.
Yet, in today's NFL, the clock is running faster than ever once the ball is snapped. The idea that a quarterback has a chance to go through his first, second and third progressions while he drops back is basically a myth. The throwing windows are tighter than ever on about 75 percent of the passes a quarterback must deliver. The RPMs matter in a quarterback's throws. There are some doubts about the ability of Leinart and Young to throw it through those closing windows consistently.
Take Cutler's arm, his smarts, his moxie, his toughness and his athleticism, and you have a pretty good model quarterback. To downgrade him because you see a few errant balls during Senior Bowl week is silly because these guys are working in a strange offense with new receivers.
Put Cutler in USC's offense and Leinart in Vanderbilt's offense the past couple of years and imagine what would have happened.
True, Leinart and Young have much more notoriety and the draft projections have them as the stars of the draft, along with USC running back Reggie Bush. But that's where a lot of people in and out of the NFL go shallow.
Cutler was almost bypassed in college recruiting out of high school before choosing Vanderbilt. That wasn't his fault. Somebody missed. It happens a lot. As I've stated many times, the NFL spends millions of dollars on scouting and still gets it wrong more than 50 percent of the time on quarterbacks. So why would it surprise you that colleges would fare even worse?
One of the best players in Super Bowl XL is Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who should have been the hands-down selection for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. You know how many Division I scholarship offers he had coming out of high school? None.
Yes, it's early to be talking about the draft. But it's Senior Bowl week, and I've almost never been more excited about the draft than I am about the one coming up in April. The complaint last year is that it was a weak top-10 class. This year, it's ridiculously strong. You have three quarterbacks in Cutler, Leinart and Young. You have a future Marshall Faulk type in Bush; his rushing mate LenDale White might be another Jamal Lewis. D'Brickashaw Ferguson could be a future Pro Bowl left tackle. North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams could be another Julius Peppers. Ohio State middle linebacker A.J. Hawk could be another Ray Lewis, and Maryland tight end Vernon Davis could be another Tony Gonzalez.
Yes, I know I'm leaving somebody out.
Don't be shocked if Cutler is the first quarterback taken in the draft. It's not a lock, but Leinart and Young could go behind him. Regardless, I'm not sure that's a negative on either one of those guys, anyway.
In Cutler, maybe we have another Favre or Elway. In Leinart, we might have another Steve Young (minus the athleticism). In Vince Young, he's not Michael Vick fast, but he is 6-5, he is competitive and he is an intriguing prospect.
I'd like to think that there's something for everybody, except there are always busts. I just know the one guy I'd buy stock in right now is Cutler.
So yes, he did say Cutler could
go before Leinart and Young. And yes, he's wrong. For a guy who is talked about to have amazing accuracy and such a powerful arm, he finished the Senior Bowl (his last chance to impress scouts, by the way) with a pitiful performance going 6-19 for 69 yards and an interception. O, and Chris was talking about Jay Cutler's legs being similar to VY's in a way, he ran three times for minus 4 yards. Not impressive.