Who's No. 5? Packers could have choice of QBs

In the first of a series, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence examines the players who Packers GM Ted Thompson will consider selecting in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Predicting who will fall into the Green Bay Packers' hands when they spend the fifth pick of the NFL Draft on April 29 is nearly impossible.

After all, who knows what the Saints will do at No. 2? Will they use it on defensive end Mario Williams, or will they trade down a couple spots to get linebacker A.J. Hawk? What quarterback will the Tennessee Titans draft at No. 3? The so-called sure thing, Matt Leinart, the wickedly athletic Vince Young, or the guy who's drawn comparisons to Brett Favre, home-state product Jay Cutler? With a lot of money locked into the quarterback position, will the Jets draft another one with the fourth pick?

With all of that indecision, in my next three columns I'll talk about the guys most likely to be available at No. 5, their strengths and weaknesses, how they could help the Packers and, finally, the percentage chance of them being drafted by Green Bay next Saturday.

We start today with the quarterbacks. There's almost no chance Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler all will be available, but don't be shocked if two of them remain on the board.

Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt, 3 percent

Of the top three quarterbacks, Cutler is the least known because he played at Vanderbilt. So, who is this player who led the Southeastern Conference in touchdown passes last season?

"I call him the happy medium. He has Matt's brains, arms and accuracy, and he has Young's mobility and size," said Titans general manager Floyd Reese, whose team almost certainly will draft a quarterback in the first round.

On paper, Cutler has all the tools to be a star. He has a big-time arm and, while he's not Young, he's a capable scrambler.

"From a physical skill set, I think Cutler has the biggest arm in the draft. I think he has a quicker release than either of the other two," the NFL Network's Mike Mayock said. "He's tough. I think he played behind a very poor offensive line without a whole lot of help. ... When I look at that kid and what he did on tape, he can make throws that I don't think the other two kids can make."

The knock? Well, he played at Vanderbilt, so while Leinart and Young won practically every time they stepped on the field, Cutler - with an 11-34 record as a four-year starter - never even sniffed the most minor of bowl games.

Cutler's mechanics are questionable, as well. Too often, when in the face of a stiff pass rush, Cutler commits a quarterback's cardinal sin by throwing off his back foot. At times, because of his arm strength, it works. At others, it leads to turnovers.

"I'd like to see the other guys come in here and not throw off their back foot," is Cutler's refrain. "Back in my early days, you just didn't have a lot of time to throw the ball. You're just trying to make plays out there."

Sounds a bit like, Favre. Hence, the comparisons.

Reese agrees with Cutler's self-assessment.

"How good would he have been if he had played at Southern California or Texas?" Reese asks. "And, what would Matt Leinart or Vince Young look like at Vanderbilt?"

The question to answer if you're Packers general manager Ted Thompson: Does Cutler, because he lost so often at Vanderbilt, have what it takes to turn around the Packers? Or, is that a plus because he won't become rattled by a year or two of losing?

Still, the Packers already have one unknown at quarterback. It's hard to imagine them adding Cutler, despite his enormous set of physical tools, to the mix. Remember, the last QB that drew comparisons to Favre was J.P. Losman, who has floundered in Buffalo.

Vince Young, Texas, 8 percent

Young could go No. 3 to Tennessee, or he could tumble to Oakland at No. 7, or he could fall into the middle of the first round, as teams get scared off by his infamously low Wonderlic score, that hideous throwing motion and his spread-offense resume.

Despite those flaws - and they are considerable - all you had to do was flip on ESPN Classic on Friday night and watch a replay of January's Rose Bowl, when Young ran circles around USC's defense to lead Texas to the national championship. Perhaps never in the history of big-time athletics has one player done so much - and his teammates so little - to win a game of such magnitude.

"I'm not sure there has been a game by a quarterback that has ever been better," said Cleveland's director of player personnel, Bill Rees.

Thompson has said passing over Young could be like when the Portland Trail Blazers passed over Michael Jordan. In this off-season of discontent in Green Bay, drafting Young could energize the franchise. He's Michael Vick, but with accuracy - assuming that awkward throwing style doesn't lead to countless balls getting batted back into his face - and a quarterback's mentality. And regardless of that Wonderlic score, Young's football IQ is on par with Leinart's.

"You sit there in evaluation, when you watching that player, oohing and ahhing when he makes all these lays. That's the guy you're trying to harness," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Perhaps that is part of him ... like (Doug) Flutie. I can remember (Boston College coach) Jack Bicknell saying to me, 'Don't take that element of magic away from the guy just because you want him to be able to do this, this and this. Let him be.'"

On the surface, Young and Favre have nothing in common. But if - and it's a big if - Young becomes an above-average NFL passer and he can stay healthy, he would make the Packers championship contenders for the next decade. The question to answer if you're Thompson: Are you willing to stake your livelihood on the draft's ultimate boom-or-bust prospect?

Matt Leinart, USC, 9 percent

Common sense says Leinart will be long gone by the time the Packers make their pick, but if he lasts past Tennessee at No. 3, then there's a chance he'll be available at No. 5. Remote, yes, but so was Aaron Rodgers falling to No. 24 last year.

Leinart has just about everything you want in a quarterback. Sure, he doesn't have a rocket arm, but neither does New England's Tom Brady.

"I think he's going to be a bigger, left-handed Joe Montana, who'll surgically carve up NFL defenses for years," Pete Fiutak of collegefootballnews.com said.

Most importantly, Leinart is a winner. He finished his college career with a 37-2 record, and he would have won three consecutive national championships had his defense been able to tackle Texas' Young on occasion.

"Film doesn't lie," Leinart said at his pro day. "I think for myself, at least, I've had three years of great film, three national championship games."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden agrees. While Young wows scouts with his athleticism and Cutler wowed scouts during his workouts, Leinart wowed the experts during games.

"I like to look at a quarterback. Get me film of all the fourth-quarter games when they're tight or behind so I can see how he performs when it's on the line," Gruden said. "He did great in that (Notre Dame) situation, the Fresno State game, even the bowl game against Texas. Phenomenal. I like him a lot."

The knocks on Leinart? Because he's considered so NFL-ready, you wonder what his upside is. Also, because he was surrounded by such jaw-dropping talent, some experts wonder if Leinart lifted the players around him or if the players around him lifted Leinart.

The question to answer if you're Thompson, assuming Leinart somehow lasts to No. 5: Is Leinart so far superior to Rodgers that you're willing to spend another first-round pick on a quarterback? Both players boast similar strengths and weaknesses. Is Leinart so much better that it would be worth it to draft another quarterback, and therefore miss a chance to add a player who can help immediately?

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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