NFL Scouts on Vince Young
Scouts agree UT's Young has NFL star quality
But the question is at which position?
By JOSEPH DUARTE
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
At 6-5, 230 pounds, Vince Young is an exceptional open-field runner with speed, acceleration and cut-and-miss ability.
AUSTIN — Professional scouts rave about Vince Young's rare gifts, a combination that borders on the unstoppable and unpredictable.
The University of Texas junior quarterback has the moves of a running back and the speed of a wide receiver. Young has been called a righthanded version of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick because of how difficult he is to defend.
The same pro scouts who dissect — and try to keep up with — his every move on the field spend the same amount of time putting his flaws under the microscope. His inconsistent arm angle and release point are at the top of the list. So are his decisions and touchdown-to-interception ratio.
"Obviously, he's a tremendous athlete, but as a quarterback, he has a long way to go," said Dan Shonka, publisher of Ourlads.com, an Internet scouting service based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Young has experienced the high-pressure environment at UT, but expectations are higher than ever going into this season. The Longhorns are forecast to make their most serious national title run in at least two decades. Young's Heisman Trophy candidacy could take off and end before the halfway point of the season. And what about finally beating Oklahoma?
As for his long-term future, Young can't dodge questions about whether he'll turn pro after this season or return in 2006.
His decision — and performance this season — most likely will influence whether he's destined to become an NFL quarterback or the next quarterback-turned-receiver.
"I'm a quarterback for life," he said. "I like guys saying, 'He can't do this, he can't do that.' "
Scouts, who spoke to the Chronicle on condition of anonymity, call Young an exceptional runner in the open field with his blend of speed, acceleration and cut-and-miss ability. None question his leadership ability and many point to Young's five-touchdown Most Valuable Player effort in the Longhorns' Rose Bowl win over Michigan as his coming-out party.
Accuracy a question
Young's accuracy is a concern even though he completed 60 percent of his passes the past two seasons. To correct glitches in his delivery, Young spent part of the offseason working with former NFL co-MVP and mentor Steve McNair of the Tennessee Titans.
UT coach Mack Brown said Young threw with more confidence and velocity than ever in spring workouts. And some scouts want to see how Young responds to losing his best receiver (Roy Williams) and running back (Cedric Benson) in successive years.
"The criticism is not really valid that he's not a good passer," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "When he makes some bad throws, he makes some really bad throws and is so far off target you wonder if he can play in the NFL. He has to eliminate those awful throws and questionable decisions.
"But whether he creates with his arm or legs, at the end of the day, who cares?"
Pro scouts agree on one thing: There is not a more exciting quarterback in college football than the 6-5 junior from Madison High School. Last season Young became the first Texas quarterback to pass and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. More importantly, he's a proven winner with a 17-2 record as a starter.
With Texas trailing 35-7 in the first half against Oklahoma State last season, Young engineered the biggest comeback in school history, leading the Longhorns to 49 consecutive points, and he displayed last-minute heroics against Kansas.
Keep 'em guessing
Young is a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare. Game-plan around Young's scrambling ability and he'll show you he's not afraid to throw the deep pass. Or he can simply hand off.
"He's as feared with the ball in his hands as any quarterback in the history of the game," Kiper said. "He's a righthanded Michael Vick. Had there been no Michael Vick, Vince Young would have been the greatest multidimensional quarterback to ever play college football."
The concern among scouts is asking Young to do too much with his legs.
"If he's not an effective passer, it's asking a lot for a quarterback to beat you with his legs," one NFC scout said. "People like for quarterbacks to throw the ball. If he can be effective with his throwing motion, I'm fine with that. (2004 first-round pick) Philip Rivers has a funny throwing motion."
Although Vick possessed a stronger arm than Young at the same stage, at least two scouts say the Pro Bowl quarterback for the Falcons is not a pure passer and is a "work in progress" despite being in the NFL for four seasons.
Draft position might be too early to determine, but Kiper projects Young as a potential first-round pick in 2006 or 2007. Some teams might select Young based solely on his athletic ability, others might take him as a project to refine his quarterbacking skills. Others might attempt to convert him to wide receiver a la Matt Jones, the former Arkansas quarterback taken late in the first round by Jacksonville this spring.
"He may not want to hear this, but he might be a wide receiver in the making," one AFC scout said. "He could project as a wide receiver in our league. But I think first and foremost everybody will give him an opportunity to be a quarterback."
The scout adds Young is on par with any of the top receivers to enter the draft and some of the league's established dual-threat quarterbacks.
Staying or leaving?
Young says his decision whether to enter the NFL draft after this season will be based on several factors. He needs 43 credit hours to complete his degree in education, something he promised his mother, Felicia, he would finish. He'll seek advice from McNair, with whom he has developed a close bond. Some of UT's top players such as Ricky Williams, Roy Williams, Benson and Derrick Johnson have put million-dollar payouts on hold to complete their college eligibility.
"The choice is up to Vince. It's his life," Felicia Young said. "I've told him football won't be there forever. I would prefer for him to finish school and go from there."
The scouts agree.
"It would help Vince to be there two more years at quarterback," Shonka said. "If being an NFL quarterback is what he wants to do, stay at the University of Texas and concentrate on the fundamentals of quarterback play."
I agree with the last statement about staying in school. He needs consistency, maturity and to develop better decision making skills. Could be a smarter/bigger version of Vick, the next Matt Jones or the next Ryan Leaf. Great athlete - absolutely. Great Pro QB prospect - TBD.
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