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No sure thing

Young is a project, but he can succeed in right place

Posted: Wednesday March 1, 2006 11:08AM; Updated: Wednesday March 1, 2006 1:19PM
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Vince Young's projected draft status has fluctuated in recent weeks.
Vince Young's projected draft status has fluctuated in recent weeks.
Darren Carroll/SI

It's time to stop whispering, sidestepping the issue and thinking wishfully. Vince Young is a project. There, I wrote it. So now we can stop acting like he's a unique, can't-miss superstar cut from the same mold as Michael Vick instead of a big-time talent who will arrive in the NFL with even bigger questions. This doesn't mean I'm condemning the kid. It only means that I'm willing to start treating him with the same scrutiny reserved for every quarterback capable of earning first-round money.

I'm talking about this today because the criticism is starting to heat up around Young. Depending on whom you believe, Young did or didn't get a score of six on his Wonderlic test during the NFL Scouting Combine, but that really isn't something I care much about it. I don't remember the last time that test accurately predicted how any player would fare in the league. What I'm more concerned about is how prepared Young is to make the jump to the next level.

We're past the point of talking about how great he played against USC in the Rose Bowl. The people who are still flashing back to Young's highlights at Texas are missing the more obvious points, the ones that can also be gleaned by glancing at films from those days. Young's well-publicized awkward throwing motion will be a serious problem in the NFL. His lack of experience under center -- the Longhorns often put him in the shotgun -- will make his transition to a pro-style offense much harder. The fact that there will be larger, stronger and much faster defenders chasing him will be an issue as well. In short, the man could be a flop.

What I find amazing is that few people have started talking about this until this past week, when one test score became the talk of the combine. To be honest, I'm stunned that it took this long for the critics to start circling around Young. But this is what happens when you have freakish physical gifts and a performance for the ages in a national championship game. Most people, even hardened NFL scouts, soak up the hype. The reality, however, is that the further Young gets from that Rose Bowl, the more people are going to start sobering up and nitpicking his game. The more that happens, the more I wonder how he will respond to that kind of scrutiny.