First-Round Trio Coming Into Its Own

The golden-boy quarterback class of 2006 is heading into its junior season in the Big Leagues. Back then, much was made of Vince Young's rushing ability, but Matt Leinart promised he was mobile, too. Jay Cutler was also in the mix as a late-riser. Three years later, there is a key accolade that separates the trio. Here's what used to be and what's in store.

Vince Young came first; Matt Leinart came next; and Jay Cutler brought up the tail end. That is how the story went for the first-round quarterbacks of the 2006 NFL Draft. For these signal-callers, the arrangement hasn't changed much.

Young was the first to make an immediate contribution. His first year out, he saw action in 15 games with 13 starts for the Tennessee Titans. He scored more, played more and stayed true to his roots.

Young promised he wouldn't change his style to please the pass-happy league. He stuck to his guns and rushed for more than 500 yards.

Vince Young

Young refused to be labeled a passer or a rusher.

"Whatever it takes to win a ballgame, whatever it takes," he said.

His mentality worked. Out of the three top quarterbacks from that class, he is the only one to take his team to the postseason. In his sophomore campaign, Young was shutout by the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs but was praised just the same. He was the youngest player to start a playoff game at quarterback for the Titans' organization.

Now, Leinart hopes he can give the Arizona Cardinals their first winning season in a decade. The Cardinals named him their starting guy going forward but are growing impatient waiting for him to be the face of the franchise.

It's time to for him to put his money where his mouth was in 2006.

Leinart thought playing at USC gave him one of the best available advantages because of the pro-style offense and the football greats before him.

Here is what he thought separated him from the other guys:

"I just think leadership," Leinart said. "My main strengths are leadership, game management, what I've done in games the last three years, work ethic, and just wanting to win. I've been a winner my whole career. I lost two games, both games by six points. That's the most important thing is I just win, kind of like a Tom Brady type."

Jay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

One key match he didn't win was the Rose Bowl against Young's Texas team. The result was the same in the race to outdo Young for draft positioning. Leinart's name dropped to the Cardinals with the 10th overall selection.

Cutler followed immediately after, but he still had something to prove as he was the only one of the first-round quarterbacks to feel the need to work out at the Combine. Entering his third season, he seems to be the most consistent for his team.

Last season, Cutler started in all 16 games with 3,497 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Broncos took a different approach with Cutler. In his rookie season, he started in the five games he appeared in.

Cutler has one more thing to prove: slow and steady wins the race.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

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