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Don't mess with Texas players

Young, Huff carry stigma of soft Longhorns in NFL

Posted: Tuesday February 28, 2006 11:05AM; Updated: Tuesday February 28, 2006 12:25PM
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Vince Young hopes to break a trend of highly touted Longhorn players who have been disappointing in the NFL.
Vince Young hopes to break a trend of highly touted Longhorn players who have been disappointing in the NFL.
Darren Carroll/SI

Within NFL personnel circles, Texas quarterback Vince Young is this year's flashpoint for the renewal of an old debate: Why do so many highly touted Longhorn players seem to be such risky bets when it comes to the upper echelons of the draft?

Young, the celebrated and ridiculously gifted centerpiece of the national champion Longhorns, is considered a top-five pick in this year's draft and one of the more unique talents in recent draft history. And yet the track record of underachieving UT players who have gone early in the first round still looms over him.

Though Young already has many fans among NFL coaches and personnel officials, there are questions about his unusual throwing motion and how he would fit into a more traditional NFL-style offense. Now there's even controversy surrounding whether he did or didn't score painfully low on the league-administered Wonderlic intelligence test at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week.

But the bigger picture is that Texas has produced so many first-round disappointments in recent years that the very widely held perception within the league is that many Longhorns stars aren't ready for the rigors of the NFL.

Texas has had two players drafted in the first round in four of the past five years and is expected to make it five out of six this year with Young and safety Michael Huff. All told, seven Longhorns have been taken in the draft's top 10 in the past nine years, the best mark in college football over that span.

But consider some of the names on that list:

• Running back Cedric Benson went fourth to Chicago in 2005, but a contract holdout and a midseason knee injury kept him from making an impact for the playoff-bound Bears.

• Receiver Roy Williams was selected seventh by Detroit in 2004, and while his numbers have been decent (99 catches, 1,504 yards and 16 touchdowns in 27 games), he has only four 100-yard receiving games, and his impact has been far less than the Lions had hoped.

• Offensive tackle Mike Williams went fourth to Buffalo in 2002 and was released by the Bills last week after four disappointing seasons in which his play was often characterized as either too soft or sub-par. Williams represents a major draft bust for Buffalo. 

• Cornerback Quentin Jammer was selected one spot behind Mike Williams, going fifth to San Diego. Jammer has been a starter for the Chargers and has been solid if unspectacular most of the time. But for a No. 5 overall pick, his impact quotient has been disappointing.

• Offensive tackle Leonard Davis was the second pick in 2001, just behind Michael Vick. Davis, however, was moved to a less demanding guard position in his first three seasons with Arizona and only switched to the pivotal left-tackle slot in 2004.

• Running back Ricky Williams saw the New Orleans Saints give up their entire draft for the right to choose him fifth in 1999. Williams has been a very productive pro when he has played, but his story has had more than its share of setbacks amid the successes.

• Cornerback Bryant Westbrook was taken fifth by Detroit in 1997, but he has never come close to living up to that lofty draft slot.