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Red flags on Matt Leinart and Vince Young

Posted by Doug on April 28, 2006

The difference between the draft chatter you get here and the draft chatter you get everywhere else is that I admit I have no idea what I'm talking about. Still, it's Draft Eve and I can't resist sharing my impression on two of the most talked-about prospects in the draft.

I am not one of these never-ever-use-a-high-pick-on-a-quarterback guys, but I would not use a high pick on either of these two. Vince Young, in my opinion, has several small red flags, and Matt Leinart has one very big one.

First let me say that I don't have anything against either of these two. Quite the contrary; I have much appreciation for anyone that lays a beatdown on the Sooners and these two guys have certainly done that in the last two years. Aside from that, I am indifferent about Leinart. But Young I like. He's a lot of fun to watch and I hope he has a long and successful career so that I can watch a lot more of him.

Young's red flags are the ones everyone talks about: the funny release, the lack of experience in a pro-style offense, and the Wonderlic rumors. Each of these, considered individually, is not a big deal. If his only red flag was one of these, I'd take him at #1 without hesitation. But the three of them add up to a bit of concern in my mind. Were I an NFL GM, I'd certainly be a bit scared of the possibility that he'd kick my tail for the next 15 seasons with the team that picked after me, but I wouldn't take him.

Leinart, on the other hand, has no small red flags. He looks like the perfect prospect. He throws a pretty ball and does so with a scout-approved motion. He has a strong arm. He has big game experience and experience working with an NFL offensive coordinator. He even showed some impressive raw athletic ability at USC's pro day.

But I can't get past the fact that he came back for his senior season.

Please understand, I'm not saying his choice was the wrong choice for Matt Leinart the human being. I think it was a cool thing to do. If he were my son, I'd have been proud of his decision to return to USC and play another season just for fun. But if I'm considering paying him 20 million dollars to quarterback my NFL franchise, that's not an attitude I want to see. He very likely would have been the #1 pick in last year's draft. But unlike, say, Peyton Manning, he had the national championship. He had the Heisman. He had nothing to gain but fun. Gaining fun is what most 21-year-old people try to do; I understand that and I generally approve of it. But I don't think it's what Tom Brady would have done in the same situation. I don't think it's what Joe Montana would have done in the same situation. I don't think it's what Peyton Manning would have done in the same situation (yeah, you heard me, I said the same situation. I'd argue that Manning's situation was almost the exact opposite of Leinart's.).

I'll leave you with this question:

Suppose you're the Titans or the Jets or whoever, some team that's looking for a quarterback. While you're on the clock, God himself calls your war room phone and tells you that Leinart will have a career almost identical to Drew Bledsoe's. He unfortunately remains tight-lipped about everyone else. Do you take Leinart or not?

When you look at Bledsoe's career, there is a lot to like: he is currently the 7th-most prolific passer of all time by yards and 13th by touchdowns. He has won two AFC championship games (though both have asterisks). He has been to four Pro Bowls and has generally been a very solid quarterback for 13 years. But something is missing. He never has seemed --- to me anyway --- like a player you'd trade a top five draft pick for.

I unfortunately have not received any calls with inside knowledge about Matt Leinart's future. But the lack of fire/intensity/urgency/whatever revealed in Leinart's decision to return to "school" is evident in Bledsoe's personality as well. My gut tells me that Drew Bledsoe is Matt Leinart's upside.