Levy dodges speculation on odds of drafting Young

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    Levy dodges speculation on odds of drafting Young

    Bills GM afraid comments about star QB may affect trade possibilities

    Leo Roth
    Staff writer

    (April 22, 2006) — ORCHARD PARK — With the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills never thought they'd be answering questions about the possibility of taking quarterback Vince Young, who led Texas to the national championship with a game for the ages.

    Then New Orleans, which owns the No. 2 pick, signed Drew Brees as a free agent from San Diego. Then scouts started picking on Young's Wonderlic test score, his sidearm delivery and the almost careless way he went about posting a 30-2 record as a starter for the Longhorns.

    Now it's not out of the realm of possibility that Young, the best natural athlete in the draft who most analysts feel has unlimited star potential, could wind up in Buffalo's lap.

    The Tennessee Titans will definitely take a quarterback with the third pick to replace Steve McNair. They like all three of this year's top prospects: Matt Leinart, who led USC to two national titles; fast-rising Jay Cutler of hometown Vanderbilt; and Young, who accounted for 467 total yards in Texas' 41-38 victory over USC in the Rose Bowl.

    The New York Jets need a quarterback to perhaps replace Chad Pennington, a medical question mark, but are expected to take tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, far and away the best blocker in the draft.

    That leaves only the Oakland Raiders, picking one spot ahead of the Bills at No. 7, as a team in need of a quarterback after cutting Kerry Collins. Mercurial owner Al Davis likes Leinart. But if Leinart goes to Tennessee, where he would be reunited with his college coordinator, Norm Chow, then he may opt for the cannon-armed Cutler to revive the downfield passing game he loves.

    That leaves Young for ... the Bills, who still haven't replaced Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

    During a press luncheon Friday, general manager Marv Levy and assistant GM Tom Modrak dipped and ducked around questions regarding Young as if they were the ones running a naked bootleg.

    "I think he's a fantastic athlete, fantastic," Levy said. "I like Vince Young. But I like Matt Leinart, I like Jay Cutler, I like (Alabama's) Brodie Croyle. I like a lot of guys in the draft."

    Levy said he was reluctant to discuss any players the Bills like because it would affect trade possibilities. He indicated that trading down to acquire more draft picks — the team already has 10 — is something the team is prepared to do if the chance arises with another team.

    At the moment, the Bills have three quarterbacks competing for their starting job: J.P. Losman, the team's first-round pick two years ago; veteran Kelly Holcomb; and young free agent veteran Craig Nall.

    "We feel good about our quarterback situation," Levy said. "But I don't want to say what we are or aren't going to do. If affects to a degree what your posture will be when it comes to potential trades. We're not looking to wheel and deal on the trade market, but we're sure not going to close it off."

    When the Bills signed Nall, a backup in Green Bay for four seasons, Levy said he liked the fact he wasn't a first-round pick that had to bear the label of "savior." Levy wrote recently in Bills Digest such situations create "turmoil. All you'd have in that kind of situation would be another rookie season like Peyton Manning's 3-13 or Terry Bradshaw's 1-13 or Troy Aikman's 1-15 with no assurances that you've got another Peyton, Terry or Troy."

    So that means Levy is strongly against adding another rookie quarterback to the mix, even one as special as Young?

    "Again, I don't want to say," Levy said. "You may think there's an obvious thing to read into, and you may be right, but I don't want to say what our strategy is going to be."

    Levy did say that addressing the offensive and defensive lines that have fallen into disrepair remains the team's primary goal.

    Strong indications were given that Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley is the player they are targeting with the eighth pick. The Bills desperately need to shore up their run defense. Texas strong safety Michael Huff, whom Levy compared to ex-Bills star Henry Jones, is another player Buffalo is prepared to pounce on.

    Because Ferguson is the only offensive lineman with top 10 value on Buffalo's board, Modrak confirmed, and he's likely to be long gone by the time the Bills pick, another scenario has them trading down and taking USC tackle Winston Justice a few spots later.

    Levy insisted that a trade down out of the top 10 for more draft picks — who are cheaper to pay — won't be because of owner Ralph Wilson's recent concerns about money until the NFL's new labor deal is finalized. Levy said he's under no edict to watch his spending, even though Buffalo's free agent signings were very modest. "It won't be a move to cheapen down, it will be move that says, 'Hey, there's nobody here that really knocks us out, more than somebody we can get four spaces below,'" Levy said. "In fact, the guy we sort of like right now, my strong guess is he would still be there four spaces below. That's what would motivate a trade down."

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