Young likely out of Ravens' reach

Team covets Texas QB but needs to trade up to have realistic chance of drafting him

April 23, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Six days before the NFL draft, there has been some speculation that a top quarterback such as Texas' Vince Young or Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler could fall to the middle of the first round.

There's little question whom the Ravens are wishing for at No. 13.

Young is the passer most coveted by the Ravens, a league source said. The Ravens, however, are realistic about the odds that Young or Cutler will last beyond the first dozen picks.

"The chances that one of those guys would be there [at the 13th pick] is very, very slight," director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said.

Young is projected to go as high as No. 3 to the Tennessee Titans and likely won't last past the Oakland Raiders at No. 7. To move in front of the Raiders, the Ravens would have to give up their second-round pick, which is their only other first-day selection.

There have been a few observers who feel the hero of last season's national championship game could slip out of the top 10 after becoming the most studied player in this year's draft. There are questions about Young's low aptitude test score at the scouting combine, a funky sidearm delivery and minimal experience operating from under center.

But Young has brilliant star potential with the ability to take over games with his arm or legs.

"Young is a different breed," coach Brian Billick said. "He really doesn't fit into that [Michael] Vick category. He has the size, the accuracy and the throwing action. He's a spectacular talent but he doesn't look like anybody else. So that tends to make us all nervous. He gets downgraded for that."

Young doesn't foresee having to adapt his style much to fit the pro game.

"It's been winning ballgames," Young said, "so why try to change something that's not only helped myself but also helped the guys around me as a team?"

As far as the Ravens are concerned, there seems to be more hesitation regarding Cutler.

A four-year starter at Vanderbilt, Cutler managed an 11-35 record including a loss last season to Middle Tennessee State. Coming from a traditionally poor football school has become a red flag for NFL teams.

"That's why I would be concerned with Cutler," Billick said. "He's a good, young man who is intelligent. But he's not really been under the spotlight on a consistent basis."

If Young is not available in the first round, the Ravens still could take a quarterback on the first day (especially if they can acquire a third-round pick). The most likely candidates are Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst and Oregon's Kellen Clemens.

Whitehurst is projected to go in the second round but could fall to the third or fourth round. He has outstanding size (6 feet 5), arm strength when healthy and pedigree (he's the son of former Green Bay Packers quarterback David Whitehurst).

There is a question about his arm since undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder after the regular season. Whitehurst did come back to play in Clemson's bowl game and estimated his arm at 75 percent at a college all-star game in late January.

Clemens likely won't be taken higher than the third round and could slip as far as the fifth. He doesn't possess a great arm and is inconsistent on his deep throws. He could be a very effective passer in a West Coast system that relies on short, quick and accurate throws.

His biggest strength is his leadership. He is known for being a vocal presence in the huddle who studies the game and expects the same from his teammates.

"Both of those guys have very, very good potential in the NFL," DeCosta said.

Heading into the draft, the Ravens are in a transitional stage at the quarterback position. They have just two on the roster, Kyle Boller and Brian St. Pierre.

So, even if the Ravens manage to obtain a veteran such as Steve McNair, they likely need to pick up another quarterback in the draft whether it's early or late.

"We're going to create some more options for the quarterback position," Billick said. "But my resolve and confidence in Kyle Boller has not changed."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Quarterback prospects

A look at the quarterbacks who could be available for the Ravens in the first, second and third rounds of next weekend's NFL draft:

First round

Quarterback, School Ht. Wt. Skinny

Vince Young, Texas 6-5 228 Amazing athlete is biggest question mark in draft.

Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt 6-2 225 Could this one-time fast riser be in line for a surprising fall?

Second round

Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson 6-5 222 Polished passer did not finish games well.

Brodie Croyle, Alabama 6-3 204 Strong arm but has long history of injuries.

Third round

Kellen Clemens, Oregon 6-2 223 Smart, vocal leader lacks prototypical NFL arm.

Other quarterbacks who are projected to be taken on the second day (rounds 4-7): Tavaris Jackson (Alabama State); Bruce Gradkowski (Toledo); D.J. Shockley (Georgia); Omar Jacobs (Bowling Green); Drew Olson (UCLA); Marcus Vick (Virginia Tech).

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