Texas' Young leaning toward dodging NFL draft

Vince Young hasn't studied the 2006 NFL draft nearly as much as he has the Southern California defense that he faced in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday evening.

But the University of Texas quarterback and some of the people advising him about his football future have perused the composition of the top 10 teams in the draft. And the makeup of the top 10, especially the franchises with the first five choices in April, might be enough to convince Young to return to the Longhorns for his senior season in 2006.

Young, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, indicated this week that he plans to return to school to complete his eligibility, and sources close to the Texas quarterback confirmed to ESPN.com before Wednesday's game that he is clearly leaning that way.

One reason he would return to Austin, those sources said, is the sense that, despite his enormous potential, Young might not be selected among the top five picks in the NFL lottery. Those sources spoke before Young's 467 total yard, three-touchdown performance against USC on Wednesday in Texas' 41-38 win.

Many of the teams in the top 10 of the draft order have invested heavily in quarterbacks in recent years, and they might not be ready to give up on those picks or inclined to use another high choice on the position. Of the teams in the top five, just one, the New Orleans Saints, who own the second overall pick, have a dire need at quarterback.

The New York Jets, with the No. 4 pick, are uncertain about the physical status of starter Chad Pennington, a first-round pick in 2000 who has undergone two shoulder surgeries in less than a year. But the Jets have a considerable financial investment in Pennington and likely will sign a veteran free agent as a contingency plan.

Three weeks ago, ESPN.com reported that Young and his family, working within NCAA guidelines, were determining the process by which the Texas standout would meet with potential agents and evaluate suitors seeking to represent him. Key players in the process were Houston attorney Major Adams and Young's former high school coach, Ray Seals. But the process has not moved forward much in recent weeks, primarily because it appears Young will eschew the 2006 draft.

Young has not completely decided against going into the '06 draft and could revisit the notion, sources said. Notable is that Texas coach Mack Brown has demonstrated a rare ability to keep underclass prospects from bolting early to the professional ranks. Underclass players have until Jan. 15 to petition NFL officials for inclusion in the 2006 draft.

No matter how Young performs in the Rose Bowl, he and the people counseling him feel he probably won't move ahead of Matt Leinart, his counterpart from Southern Cal, in the eyes of NFL scouts. League talent evaluators privately harbor some doubts about Leinart, especially over his arm strength, but he is still viewed at this early stage of the draft process as the top senior quarterback prospect.

For all his athleticism and playmaking skills, some scouts say there are certain areas of Young's game (like his release point) that need work, and that he would benefit from another college season. There are, however, no guarantees Young will be the top quarterback prospect in the 2007 draft, either, given the presence of Notre Dame star Brady Quinn.

Young, 22, ran for 200 yards and passed for 267 more against USC on Wednesday.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.