Archive for Monday, February 23, 2004

Top 2 QBs certain; draft order unsettled

February 23, 2004


— Eli Manning hopes to make NFL history on draft day. Ben Roethlisberger could change those plans.

The two quarterbacks are jockeying to become the No. 1 overall pick. Manning, who has the pedigree and the polish, would love to follow his brother, Peyton, as the only siblings in league history to be taken with the top pick.

Roethlisberger, who didn't start playing quarterback until his senior year in high school, left Miami of Ohio as a junior with the same aspirations.

San Diego, with the No. 1 selection, will end the debate April 24.

"They're marquee guys," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "Who's slotted where, each organization has to make that determination, and it's too early right now."

Many consider Manning, who played at Mississippi, the more polished player.

Roethlisberger might have more potential.

To Manning, the whole script sounds familiar.

In 1998, older brother, Peyton, and Ryan Leaf were the top two players. Most figured Leaf had more promise, even though Manning had more success in college.

The Indianapolis Colts took Manning at No. 1 -- while the Chargers traded up to select Leaf at No. 2. Six years later, the Colts' decision looks like a no-brainer.

Manning was last year's NFL co-MVP, and Leaf is out of the league. San Diego now is back in the quarterback hunt trying to again decide between a Manning and another fast riser.

"I remember the whole thing with Ryan Leaf," Eli Manning said. "It's weird when you think about it. We're in sort of the same situation, but I wasn't taking notes then."

But Eli Manning has followed Peyton's lead.

Eli returned for his final college season just as his brother did. He finished with 3,600 yards passing and 29 touchdowns. They have the same agent, Tom Condon. And Eli also did not work out during the weekend at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, choosing instead to wait for his pro day.

Roethlisberger has taken a different route.

He left school after his junior season and worked out Sunday at the combine, which scouts view as a positive.

Miami general manager Rick Spielman would not comment on how Roethlisberger did, but said that working out in Indianapolis is something he would consider in player evaluations.

"If they're of equal ability and one is willing to step up and do it and the other doesn't, then it does weigh in your mind," Spielman said.

Still, Roethlisberger is not nearly as well schooled as Manning.

Because he started playing quarterback so late, Roethlisberger ended up at Miami of Ohio. He credits playing shortstop for helping him increase his arm strength and said that playing receiver helped him see the field differently.

"As a quarterback, you're looking at plays develop from the front. As a receiver you see them develop from the back," Roethlisberger said. "I think seeing the defenses from both sides helps me, too."

Roethlisberger threw for 4,486 yards and 37 touchdowns last season, leading his Mid-American Conference team into the GMAC Bowl.

While some question the competition in the MAC, Roethlisberger points to the track record of other conference players: Randy Moss, Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington.

Though Manning knows he is different from his brother, he wants to follow Peyton as the top overall choice, becoming the first brothers ever to be drafted No. 1 in the NFL.

"I try not to listen to things because I've still got a lot of work to do," Manning said.

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