Posted: Monday February 27, 2006 7:12PM; Updated: Tuesday February 28, 2006 3:26PM
I don't know whether Young will be a good NFL quarterback, but I do know this: If Matt Leinart had scored a 6 on the Wonderlic (he in fact did the opposite, scoring a 35), it would certainly have raised some eyebrows, made for some good fodder on message boards, but at the end of the day, he'd still be going No. 2 in the draft. That's because the NFL doesn't have the same kind of doubts about Leinart that they do about Young. They're fairly sure Leinart can throw. They know he can run a pro-style offense because that's exactly what he did at USC. From his prototypical build to his conventional drop-back style, everything about Leinart screams "safe pick."
Young, on the other hand, scares the living bejesus out of NFL types, because NFL types detest things that don't fit into their tried-and-true blueprints. There's a reason some people call the NFL the "No Fun League" -- and why many of us who prefer the college game find it hard to sit through an entire pro game. By and large, all 32 teams run variations of the same exact offense. They use the same formations. And they use the same age-old truisms when evaluating players -- depending on the position, they must be a certain size, run a certain 40 time and, in the case of a quarterback, look, act and throw like Dan Marino or John Elway.
Young, of course, does not fit that mold and is therefore considered a "risk." So the Wonderlic fiasco gives GMs a perfect excuse to pass on what most rational observers would consider to be a player of rare talent. I won't go so far as to say it's a racial thing (the wholly unconventional Michael Vick did go No. 1 overall, and a 12 on the Wonderlic didn't stop Donovan McNabb from going No. 2), but the NFL clearly remains highly skeptical of so-called "running quarterbacks" at a time when mobile QBs and spread offenses are becoming increasingly prevalent at the college level. That NFL types are so in love with Cutler -- who, even with an All-SEC senior season, wouldn't have registered on too many top 10 lists of college quarterbacks last season -- speaks volumes about their severe conservatism.
You'd have to be pretty simple-minded to suggest that Young's 467 yards against USC -- the same team that, according to my colleague Don Banks, could have 12 to 14 players drafted in April -- were due entirely to his ability to run fast. Texas' shotgun, zone-read offense was based on the same principles as the one last year's No. 1 pick, Alex Smith, ran at Utah. Smith, of course, was a near rocket scientist who graduated in 2˝ years, which must have alleviated the 49ers' concerns about his ability to make the transition. Maybe bombing a 50-question test means Young can't do the same. To the scouting departments of the Texans and Titans, however, I'd recommend using any or all of these three alternative measuring tools before making up your mind:
1) Talk to him
2) Talk to some of the USC (or Oklahoma, or Ohio State) defenders in the draft who played against him, and ask whether they think he gets easily confused.