Visible Draft Expert Outspoken on QB Decision

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, a former NFL player and son of a football coach, revealed – in-depth – his supporting arguments for his divergent and outspoken opinions on the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft. It's an opinion Vikings fans might want to listen to.

Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler. Those are the names making many of the headlines in chatter leading up to the 2006 NFL Draft.

They are three quarterbacks who might all be drafted in the top 10 picks this year. Most of the controversy surrounding those three revolves around the question of who will be picked first – Young, the athletic Texas product, or Leinart, the pro-style USC signal-caller. Rarely is Jay Cutler, the tough Vanderbilt product, listed as top prospect.

Still, one of the country's fast-rising draft analysts, Mike Mayock of NFL Network, thinks Cutler, the man who is thought to be the object of any trading up by the Vikings on draft day, is the top professional prospect among this year's quarterback class.

Mayock's fascination with Cutler started when a high-ranking NFL scout alerted Mayock to Cutler.

"As I threw on a couple of September tapes and a couple of his junior tapes, I fell over," Mayock said. "I couldn't believe the arm strength, the release, the toughness. What really stood out to me, and this is all the way back in September now, the fact that he stood in there, got smacked in the face and consistently delivered the football. My perception on this kid is biggest arm in the draft, quickest release in the draft, he's a three-time captain, he's a smart kid, he's a tough kid. Does he have some technical issues that he's got to clean up? Absolutely. But I have watched every one of his game tapes. Senior Bowl to me reinforced the arm strength and the difference between him and everybody else. And he's more athletic than people think.

"So I don't take anything away from Leinart or Vince Young, who are very special in different ways. But I think four years from now, you're going to look back and see that this kid is the best of the three."

Mayock, a former draft pick of the Steelers who played for the New York Giants, isn't concerned about his bold analysis. He sounds quite confident in his praise of Cutler.

"I'm the guy that last year thought that Aaron Rodgers was going to fall to 24 and I got laughed at pretty heavily the week before the draft. And Aaron Rodgers fell to 24," Mayock said. "So to me, compared to that, this is nothing. What I'm telling people is what I truly believe, and he might not be the first quarterback to go. I'm not trying to say he's the first one off the board. What I am trying to say is that I think he's going to be the best pro."

That's good news for Vikings fans that believe Cutler is in the Vikings' draft-day sites if they can swing a reasonable trade. The team has indicated it might consider trading up, and the logical assumption is that Cutler is their man if they are able to trade up on April 29.

Mayock's supporting arguments for Cutler vs. Leinart or Young ran deep.

"Every tape I've watched – I've watched too much tape of these three quarterbacks, and nothing's changed my opinion throughout the whole Senior Bowl, Combine, Pro Day. I'll tell you how bad it is, guys. I was watching Pro Day workout tape (last week), and just to see if I'm missing anything. The bottom line to me is Cutler, he's going to be the best pro. Vince Young, I have reservations on, not because he's a great athlete and a great kid, and I could care less about the Wonderlic. But I do have a concern about whether or not he'll ever get to the next level as a sophisticated NFL quarterback. And in 40 Super Bowls, there's never been a scrambling quarterback that's won a Super Bowl. Matt Leinart, I have a ton of respect for, given the fact that he understands when and where to throw the football. As a former defensive back, those guys always scared me. He's got average arm strength, great leadership, great touch and accuracy. But for a top-10 pick, I want my top-10 quarterback to have a better arm than Leinart."

"I watched Vince Young. What I see is a very simplified offense, that right option offense. He's got one, maybe two reads. If it's not there, he tucks the ball and he goes. Now, when that internal clock of his goes off and he's in the pocket, whether that pocket has broken down or not, he's out the gate. And I can put some Ohio State tape on for you and I can show you where the pocket is perfect, but he will not look for a secondary or third receiver, because that clock has gone off in his head and he says, it's time to get out of here. When a defense forces him to pull the ball down and not scramble for big yardage, his efficiency goes way down. So in my opinion – and this is really the crux of it – if you've got a top-5 quarterback or just top-5 pick in the draft at any position, if you miss with that pick, you set your franchise back three or four years, given the salary cap structure. It's even more so at the quarterback position. So you can't afford to miss. … My point is if I'm the general manager, I'm not pushing all my chips out to the middle of the table and betting my franchise on (Young) turning into an advanced throwing quarterback in the NFL. I could be wrong, but that's my opinion."

The Vikings have had visits with Cutler and Young, and another quarterback that wouldn't be a first-round pick, Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst.

Whitehurst could be the Vikings' choice in the second or third round if they don't get Cutler in the first round. And Whitehurst was one of the quarterbacks Mayock mentioned when asked about guys at the position who aren't first-round prospects.

"There's a medical issue on him with his shoulder, but he's a big, good-looking prototype drop-back passer that can throw the heck out of the ball, (but) he's been inconsistent. (Brodie) Croyle from Alabama is a guy who can be a solid backup in a certain type of offense, can be a starter down the road," Mayock said.

Finally, Mayock mentioned a few other quarterback prospects whose stock could be on the rise or eventually make a difference in the NFL.

"I'll tell you a guy that's moving up charts a little bit is Kellen Clemens from Oregon," Mayock said. "Got hurt, missed a lot of his senior year. He's thrown the ball extremely well on his pro day. A guy like Campbell or Tarvaris Jackson from Alabama State, who is kind of raw, I think they are two logical guys. And Clemens is a third- or fourth-rounder in my opinion. Tarvaris Jackson a fourth- or fifth-rounder. Clemens could step in earlier. Tarvaris Jackson is a developmental guy."

"… Then a couple of interesting kids to keep your eye on is Darnell Hackney from UAB – reminds me a lot of the backup down in Jacksonville, David Garrard – and then there's Bruce Eugene from Grambling. If he doesn't make it at quarterback he maybe make it at guard because he's 6 feet, 262."

There are plenty of options, and we'll find out in less than a week how the Vikings had them stacked and which one – if any of these – end up in purple.

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