Will Vandy dandy's soaring stock help 49ers?

What does Jay Cutler mean to the 49ers in the 2006 NFL draft? More than you might think. San Francisco, obviously, has no interest in taking the Vanderbilt QB with its early first-round pick in April after selecting Alex Smith as the No. 1 overall choice in 2005. But Cutler's performance during Senior Bowl and NFL Combine weeks has climbed him up draft boards, and if he hasn't moved among the top five picks, somebody might come calling the 49ers with an enticing offer to take him at No. 6.

The Oakland Raiders reportedly are looking for a top quarterback prospect to fall to them at the No. 7 overall selection behind the 49ers, so the interest in Cutler at No. 6 could be legitimate – and could mean a chance for the Niners to stretch the value of their top pick, which already appears to have guaranteed them an elite prospect in a quality draft if they do indeed pick at that slot.

And, if Cutler does soar as high as a top-5 pick, that will just push another elite prospect down to the 49ers. Cutler performed well during workouts at the Combine, and some analysts now consider him the top quarterback available – ahead of even USC's Matt Leinart and Texas' Vince Young.

Cutler, however, did not come across as well in interviews, according to some NFL sources. See for yourself. Here are some things Cutler had to say on a variety of topics at the Combine, including his career at Vanderbilt, playing quarterback in the NFL and his meteoric rise up draft boards:

Q: Jay, what did you do to get ready for the Combine?

Cutler:
I was down in Orlando before the Senior Bowl getting ready with Tom Shaw and some guys, and after the Senior Bowl went back to Nashville and trained with our strength staff.

Q: Why are you working out at the combine when other quarterbacks aren't?

Cutler:
I wanted to do everything going into it. I asked a lot of questions at the Senior Bowl as to what the scouts thought, what the coaches thought, and everyone said you can't really hurt yourself, go out there and throw and do the best you can. So I am going to go out there and compete. I wish everyone was competing with me, but that's how it goes.

Q: Does that show your competitive nature?

Cutler:
Yeah. You come here to show what you have. All the coaches are here, all the GMs, everyone is here.

Q: How do you explain your meteoric rise up the draft boards?

Cutler:
We got some wins, I think that started it all. We won some fourth-quarter games. I think people wanted to see if I could lead a team to victory. Once that started, the ball started rolling and it just kind of picked up pace throughout the year. I went to the Senior Bowl and did well and hopefully I (performed well at the Combine).

Q: Do you think the NFL prefers mobile quarterbacks or pocket guys?

Cutler:
I think they want pocket guys that can move a little bit. I don't think they are really looking for guys that can get out of the pocket quickly and run around. I mean, you are not going to make a living running around in the NFL. There have been some quarterbacks in the past that have tried to do it, and you are only going to get yourself hurt. Being able to escape from the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly, I think that is one of the things they are looking for, though.

Q: What was your style in college?

Cutler:
A little bit of both. I ran some option the first two years and these last few years we passed a lot more. I was escaping some pressure and getting yards. It was a mixture.

Q: Do you plan on being in New York on draft day?

Cutler:
If I get invited.

Q: What did the win over Tennessee do for your stock and open some eyes?

Cutler:
I think I opened some eyes before that. I think that really made everyone see what I could do on the field. For me personally, it gave me a lot of confidence ending the season.

Q: Have you heard all the talk that the New York Jets, who hold the No. 4 overall selection in the first round, like you?

Cutler:
I haven't talked to them. People are talking about the Jets, Miami, so you never know exactly where you're going to go.

Q: What is it that you feel you need to improve upon?

Cutler:
My footwork. I have been working on that, that has been an issue and been a concern going into the Senior Bowl and coming here, so a lot of little things. I think once I land somewhere they're going to iron those things out throughout the year.

Q: Do you think some of the issues with your mechanics are related to all the pressure you were constantly under from opposing defenses?

Cutler:
Definitely. At times we don't have the front five to block the Floridas and LSUs, so I had to throw off my back foot. I had to move around a little bit and couldn't really get my feet set or my hips in line.

Q: What quarterbacks did you admire as a kid?

Cutler:
Brett Favre, John Elway. Those are two guys that I definitely watched.

Q: Did playing at Vandy help you in some ways with the scouts because you did a lot of good things under tough circumstances?

Cutler:
I got it done without a lot of guys around me. Nothing against those guys, I love them to death, but I didn't have All-Americans scattered across the field and I had to adjust, I had to deal with pressure. I had to deal with getting the ball into tight places, so I think it is going to help me going to the next level, dealing with adversity and being able to succeed through it.

Q: Do you like the gunslinger label?

Cutler:
No. I don't think I am really a gunslinger, I take chances but I think they are calculated chances. I know what I am doing.

Q: Would you rather play as a rookie or watch and learn the first year?

Cutler:
It is a touchy issue, and being a competitor and playing four years, you want to get out there as soon as possible and try and help your team, especially if you go in the first round. There's a lot of expectation there to help the team succeed. But on the other hand, being a quarterback, there is a lot of pressure. Dealing with a new playbook, a new coaching staff, an entirely new league, the intensity and the speed of the game. It could go either way. With either situation I am going to be fine and adjust to it.

Q: What did you measure in at here at the Combine?

Cutler:
6-(foot)-3.2, 226 (pounds).

Q: Coming out of high school, did you ever think the NFL was a possibility?

Cutler:
You dream of it, but it is a long road to get here, especially at Vanderbilt. It is a little tougher road than some other people here.

Q: Why did you fly under the radar coming out of high school?

Cutler:
I don't know. Southern Indiana. Small town. The Purdues, Indianas, Notre Dame, they weren't really recruiting my part of the state, so I slipped under it. But I am happy where I landed. Vanderbilt, I had a great career there. I made a lot of great friends that will last the rest of my life.

Q: Were you disappointed other top quarterbacks didn't work out at the combine?

Cutler:
Yeah, I really am a little bit. But I can't help it. That is their decision. Some people are going to say they are making the right decision, some people are going to say they are making the wrong decision. But they have to do what's best for them. I'd like to see them out there, I think a lot of people would. But I can't help that. And I wish them the best.

Q: What happened during your last three games at Vandy, did light come on?

Cutler:
We started off 4-0 the first four games. We slid a little but toward the end. Those last three games, my career was winding down and I knew it. I had some great help from my offensive linemen, and Earl Bennett, our freshman receiver, probably caught 600 yards of balls. It was fun, I enjoyed it.

Q: Should Vandy get out of the SEC?

Cutler:
What do you mean? We did all right this year. We beat Arkansas, we got robbed at Florida. I mean, we are getting it done. We beat Ole Miss at home. We are getting better recruiting classes every year and we are getting better recruiting classes every year. Coach (Bobby) Johnson is doing a great job. If you ask some of the teams in the SEC, they are not as fired up about playing us as they used to be in the past.

Q: Will money change you?

Cutler:
I don't know. We'll find out soon.


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