Friday, April 23, 2004

More Draft

I heard on Mike and Mike in the Morning today on ESPN Radio that Eli Manning really is prepared to sit out for a year if he's drafted by the Chargers. That's a bold move on his part, and really says how much he doesn't want to play in San Diego. I can't imagine he'll be nearly as coveted in next year's draft after taking a full year off, and being taken later in the draft could cost him millions of dollars.

Of course, the ultimate irony would be if he sat out a year, and then got drafted by San Diego again the following year anyway. At what point would the madness end?

It just drives me crazy that the Mannings (Eli and his father Archie, himself a former NFL quarterback) have tried to influence the draft. So the Chargers suck. That's why they're first in the draft, and that's why they're going to give you a fat contract if they decide to pick you. It's how the draft works. You're supposed to go there and help them get better. Play out your contract, and leave when it expires if you don't like it. It's called "paying your dues," and I don't think Eli Manning should be exempt from it just because his family has a history of successful NFL quarterbacking.

All that aside, I still think San Diego should trade the pick or at least take someone else with the first pick. You just don't know what's going to happen if you pick Manning, and there are plenty of other worthy choices out there. The Chargers have plenty of needs, and Drew Brees will be a serviceable quarterback for them if it comes to that. If they really want a quarterback, as I said yesterday, I doubt Manning is their best choice anyway.

Here's another thing that bugs me crazy about the NFL draft. Since the end of the college football season, Ben Roethlisberger has dropped a bit in terms of draft status, while Manning and Philip Rivers have risen, to a point where Roethlisberger will almost certainly be the third quarterback taken. Between the end of the season and the draft, they have all these combines and workouts where the players show off for scouts--doing sprints and bench-presses, throwing the ball in shorts and t-shirts with no pass rush, etc. This causes some players to come out of nowhere and rocket to the top of the draft, whereas other players drop down the board. The same thing happens, to a certain extent, with college recruitment of high school players. I think this is why there are so many first-round picks that never really amount to anything. Teams are basing decisions on athletic ability, potential, and measurables, and never mind if the kid can actually play football or not. There are so many intangibles to playing football that I can't believe anyone thinks that basing decisions on these workouts is a good idea. Sure, they should factor into the decision, but the main component should always be watching tape of actual games and seeing how they play the game. What a concept.

Of course, some people have suggested that Roethlisberger has slipped due to questions about the level of competition he played against in college. Give me a break. Anyone who knows a damned thing about college football knows that the MAC isn't that far off from the "big boys" anymore. I know there used to be a significant gap, but that gap is closing. With the recent conference re-alignment, I'd take the MAC right now over the Big East, which somehow will still retain its BCS affiliation.

In the long run, I think Roethlisberger and Josh Harris--both MAC players--will be the jewels of this draft's quarterback class.

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