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Predicting success of quarterback classes can be quite tricky

With so much guesswork and uncertainty about this year's quarterback draft class, I thought I'd conjure up some recent history about a quarterback group that was projected pretty much as being can't-miss.

The class of 2006 featured Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and Vince Young, who led Texas to a national championship over Leinart's USC Trojans that year. There was also Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler, who arguably was the most NFL-equipped. Young was selected third overall (Tennessee), Leinart at No. 10 (Arizona) and Cutler 11th (Denver). The trio figured to rival 1983, which produced John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly based on talent, leadership, potential, and pro readiness. Remember?

If only we knew then what we now know. Young is about to be cut loose from Tennessee as soon as there is a resolution to the lockout. Leinart already was fired by the Cardinals and ended last season as Houston's No. 3. Cutler got traded from Denver to Chicago and now he's defending himself -- still -- for not finishing the NFC Championship Game because of a knee sprain. At least he got there, though.

Even so, there is going to be no grace period for Cutler in Chicago, and if he starts slow in 2011 it could get ugly. Still, he's a starter, and he's pretty darn good.

The same can't be said about Young and Leinart. Seriously, when trade and free-agent possibilities come up, how often have you heard Young and Leinart mentioned in the same discussion as Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, and Kevin Kolb? Marc Bulger has even drawn more speculation than Young and Leinart -- and they are both 27 and in their physical primes!

Young is going to find work, but maybe not as a starter. Leinart might one day get his shot to start again, but he is viewed as a backup in most circles. Cutler remains a player a lot of teams wish they had, but he's such a polarizing person it will be interesting to see how long his talent can outweigh his persona.

Granted, none of those players were selected first overall, like Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert could be. But before we condemn or question this year's quarterback class, keep in mind things might not always turn out like they seem.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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