Vanderbilt QB sees stock soar at combine

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Some analysts rank Jay Cutler as the top quarterback in the draft.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jay Cutler will be leaving Vanderbilt with much more than an excellent education.

He is the current hot topic of the NFL draft, shooting so far up the charts after a strong performance at the combine that some analysts now consider him the top quarterback available -- ahead of even Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

A quarterback from Vanderbilt? Traditionally, the worst team in the Southeastern Conference? A program that last had a quarterback drafted in 1990 -- in the long-defunct 12th round?

Now you know why Cutler was determined not only to attend the combine that concluded earlier this week, but also answer every question and run every drill.

"With Matt and Vince not working out, the spotlight wasn't going to be on them. It was going to have to go somewhere else. That was the reason I wanted to step up and throw and get some of that media attention and kind of ride that wave a little bit," the SEC player of the year said Tuesday.

"You want to try to keep your name positive in the media as much as possible up until the draft."

So what if he nearly rallied the Commodores to victory in double overtime at Florida or beat Tennessee last November for Vandy's first victory in the series since 1982? Young almost single-handedly led Texas to a national championship last season. Leinart left USC with two national titles and a Heisman Trophy on his resume.

But the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Cutler has a strong arm and was smart enough to be accepted by the SEC's only private university.

Cutler started wowing coaches and scouts at the Senior Bowl with his strong arm and decision-making. Not working out at the combine wasn't much of a consideration, and it's paid off with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock calling Cutler the top quarterback in the draft.

"He's a fan of mine, so I'm a fan of his," Cutler said.

Other raves came from Sean Payton, the new coach of the New Orleans Saints, who hold the No. 2 pick overall. He compared Cutler to a young Brett Favre.

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