Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Jan 2009

ESPN INSIDER: Comparing the QB Class of 2004

Here's a little something extra for those of you who subscribe to ESPN Insider, running similarity scores on the Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger in advance of this week's playoff games. You may be surprised to learn which former Jets quarterback ends up similar to all three -- and especially Roethlisberger. Again, this requires ESPN Insider subscription.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 08 Jan 2009

18 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2009, 6:43pm by Independent George


by E :: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 6:50pm

FO material on ESPN that requires Insider? Booooo

I think a Premium subscription should come with an Insider guest pass or something so that we can read this content (or maybe it should be reprinted in the FO premium section). I'm not saying that you guys don't have the right to charge for some content - but I hate the idea of paying twice (FO and ESPN).

by Waverly :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 12:57am

It's official -- the Outsiders have become Insiders.

by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 1:26am

With all due respect, it would be one thing if we were charging for articles on FO Insider and then pulled articles from there and placed them on ESPN's Insider. You're not paying for Insider for articles.

As for the "subscriber-wall teaser", we have two options. We can either write articles for ESPN Insider and not link them on the site so that they're buried, or we can write articles for ESPN Insider and link them on the site so that people know where they are. I suspect the latter would be more useful.

by E :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 11:06am

As a person who does not (and would not) pay for ESPN Insider, I almost wish I didn't know that you ever wrote this piece, and then I wouldn't feel bad that I'm not reading it. So I (selfishly) choose the former. Anyway, didn't mean to offend -- I think it's more a compliment of your great work that not having access to this one article upsets me -- and in the end maybe it's better this way -- as a Giants fan, I can sit back comfortable in my knowledge that Eli is clearly the best of the class, without giving FO the chance to dispel that notion. Ignorance is bliss.

by Independent George :: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 7:32pm

I've mentioned this in the comments before, but the 2004 Draft Class may go down as one of the best draft classes ever. I'm really looking forward to the 'Five Years Later' article on this class. Look at the top 15 taken that year:

1. Eli Manning
2. Robert Gallery
3. Larry Fitzgerald
4. Phillip Rivers
5. Sean Taylor
6. Kellen Winslow
7. Roy E. Williams
8. DeAngelo Hall
9. Reggie Williams
10. Dunta Robinson
11. Ben Roethlisberger
12. Jonathan Vilma
13. Lee Evans
14. Tommie Harris
15. Michael Clayton

This class was so good, even Matt Millen didn't screw it up. Only Gallery and Reggie Williams can really be called busts (and Gallery has been serviceable since moving to Guard). Jared Allen, Will Smith, Vince Wilfork, Stephen Jackson, Chris Gamble, Chris Snee, Bob Sanders, Michael Turner, Matt Schaub, and Patrick Crayton are all from this class, too.

by James-London :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 6:26am

"Only Gallery and Reggie Williams can really be called busts

DeAngelo Hall disagrees with you.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Independent George :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 6:43pm

Is he really a bust, though? I'll agree he's overrated, but that doesn't mean he's terrible. The book on him is that he gambles too much, and uses his athleticism to cover mistakes in reading the offense; the flip side is that he really is athletic enough to get away with it (usually). No, he's not Nnamdi, but neither is he Jason David.

by Jon :: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 8:15pm

What a shame for Eli that when he finally puts it together, his top WR gets in trouble and he has to make chicken salad out of Domenik Hixon and the corpse of Amani Toomer.

I think the combination of a subpar receiving corps (don't forget, Jacobs can't catch either) and Coughlin's preference to run the ball really do a number on his stat padding. Giants fans aren't going to sit and wonder what might have been with Rivers, but it'd be interesting to see what Manning could do in nice weather in that offense. It sort of reminds me of that old Bill Walsh quote about wanting Phil Simms back in '79.

This offseason, I'd love to add a big receiver like Britt or DHB in the draft, and maybe get another TE who can catch better than Matthews. Yeah, yeah, why mess with what's working. I don't want to see the Giants running Go routes down the sideline like they did back when Hufnagel was OC, but when Ward leaves, they probably will have to pass more.

by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 1:41am

but when Ward leaves, they probably will have to pass more.
If Ward leaves, the Giants just increment by one and use Ware.

The kind of receiver the Giants need can't really be drafted. You can draft people to become that guy, but if you need a #1 deep threat receiver now, your #2 will have to step up or else you get a free agent or trade. A rookie who isn't an utter freak of nature can't make that kind of impact his first year.

by Stevie :: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 8:28pm

Wow Im going to rush out and but ESPn insider RIGHT NOW

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 9:46pm

That's really tacky, that subscriber-wall teaser on FO.

Not having read the article, I think Roethlisberger was just a good successful #11 pick. Rivers vs. Manning is a wash, but Rivers + Kaeding + Merriman + Polk vs. Manning is insane. So I think SD got the best deal out of their pick because of good drafting and a so-so rookie season by Manning (that's what left the 12th overall available for SD to get Merriman), but NYG didn't get killed either, and PIT did pretty much what they were supposed to do. I think Roethlisberger deserves mention in the crowd because of his rookie ring (a pretty impressive feat). I suspect we'll still be watching the other two long after Big Ben retires, though.

by Matt W (not verified) :: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 10:22pm

Roethlisberger got a second-year ring, which is still pretty impressive. It seems pretty like all three top-15 QBs turned out OK.

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 1:48am

Oops. Yeah. Off one year. Even so, he did go 15-1 in his rookie year. Rivers did something like that too, 14-2 in his first year as a starter. Rivers also cost the Chargers Drew Brees, but they picked up a comp-3rd that turned into, umm, Anthony Waters. It's too soon to call Waters a bust, but he's not worth Brees (then again, I would have said the same of Brees in 2003). Still, I think SD came out ahead. That was a boatload of picks, and they got three stars, a credible fill-in and a project-in-progress for the price of two stars.

by dcaslin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 11:23am

I'd suggest tagging the title to indicate that it's ESPN Insider content. That way people who really hate ESPN Insider don't waste 2 clicks getting teased but everyone knows the article is out there. Maybe EI: Comparing the QB Class of 2004...

by Eli (not verified) :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 1:00pm

What, no analysis of JP Losman?

The 2004 QB class stands in sharp contrast to the 2003 class:

Carson Palmer (could still be good, but given team and injuries...)
Byron Leftwich
Kyle Boller
Rex Grossman

by randplaty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 2:08pm

Good article. Seems like Rivers has the most impressive list of comparables.

by turtle553 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 2:48pm

I can't see the list, but I'm guessing Eli is now compared more favorably than when during his rookie year, he was being compared to Ryan Leaf and a bunch of other stiffs as his ceiling.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Fri, 01/09/2009 - 4:40pm

O'Brien took 62 sacks in his sophomore season and posted the highest passer rating of his career. He really is like Big Ben.

That being said, the similarity scores for Ben and Eli just seems to be a list of good, but not great (with the exception of Brady) quarterbacks. I don't know how much this says about each player's performance so far, much less their future.

Roethlisberger has obviously dropped the most in the prestige of his similar quarterbacks. Remember, after his rookie year he was most similar to Joe Montana, Dan Marino, etc. Conversely, Manning has risen the most. I wonder how much each player's fate has to do with their own actions, rather than the decline/rise of their respective running games and offensive lines.

Roethlisberger's line has dropped considerably, while Manning's has been consistently at the top of the ratings. The Steeler's running game has dropped in DVOA over the years, while the Giants have risen to the top of the rankings.