Football Outsiders
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2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

by Sean McCormick

In 2004, Football Outsiders published its first "Six Years Later" review of a past NFL draft. That article reviewed the pick of the elder Manning brother as the NFL world prepared for the arrival of the younger Manning brother. Now it's 2010, and we're finally in position to look back on Manning vs. Rivers and the other debates of the first draft we actually got to discuss here at FO.

The top of every draft class is hyped to the moon in the run-up to draft day, but nearly everyone agreed that the 2004 class was something special. It had a Manning and a Winslow. It had the "U." It had top quarterbacks, elite cornerbacks, and explosive wide receivers by the bushel. Yep, by all accounts, this draft class was going to take the NFL by storm. But did it? Let's go back and look at the good picks, the bad picks, and the things every general manager knows now and wishes he knew then. (And if you want to see what reporters and draft analysts thought they knew then -- even though now we know that they didn't know what they thought they knew -- check out the first-ever version of another annual FO tradition, the FO Draft Report Card Report.)

Quarterbacks

Conventional wisdom: There were three elite prospects in this draft class, with each one providing a little something different. Did you want a guy with impeccable bloodlines? All you had to do was select Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, the son of former No. 2 overall pick Archie Manning and the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick Peyton Manning. Did you want a four-year starter whose intelligence and character reminded scouts of a young Tom Brady? North Carolina State's Philip Rivers was your guy. Did you want a 6-foot-5 specimen with an unpronounceable name and the best physical tools of the bunch? There was one of those, too, thanks to Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger.

Highest pick: Eli Manning, Ole Miss, first overall to the Chargers

Best player: The big cliche with picking from the top group of prospects is that you can't go wrong with any of these guys, and while it almost never works out that way, it did in 2004. No quarterback class, not even the famous class of 1983, can outshine the performance of Rivers, Roethlisberger, and Manning, who have combined for three Super Bowl championships, a bevy of playoff appearances and oodles and oodles of yards. Rivers has been the most prolific, Roethlisberger the most iconic, and Manning the most controversial, but it's safe to say that all three players are the centerpieces of their respective franchises. Reporters and draftniks were fairly split over whether or not the Chargers made the right move when they swapped Manning for Rivers and picks. Ron Borges made himself look like, well, Ron Borges when he wrote, "It's not easy to have the first pick in the draft and still blow it, but the Chargers managed to do so." He slapped San Diego with a "D" grade. Pete Prisco and Dan Pompeii, in contrast, loved the trade and approved of what the Chargers did with their extra picks. Midway through the 2006 season, when the Giants were struggling and the Chargers were pounding everyone in sight, this was looking like one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory, but with the precipitous decline of Shawne Merriman, the scales have evened out a bit.

Biggest bust: J.P. Losman, Tulane, 22nd overall to the Bills. After missing out on the studs at the top of the draft, the Bills traded back up into the first round to take the Tulane gunslinger. Losman was small, but had a cannon arm and a reputation for great athleticism. As it turns out, a cannon arm and great athleticism are overrated if you can't make quick decisions with the ball and take sacks like the second coming of Rob Johnson. Losman put together some highlight-reel deep throws to Lee Evans, but he never developed into a dependable field general.

Best value: Matt Schaub, Virginia, 90th overall to the Falcons. Schaub was the best quarterback in Atlanta from the moment he was drafted, but he was doomed to ride the pine behind Michael Vick for the foreseeable future. (How ironic that one looks in hindsight.) The Texans were shopping for a quarterback after deciding they'd had enough of the David Carr experience, and they sent a 2007 second-round pick to Atlanta for Schaub. Many touchdown throws to Andre Johnson later, that move looks pretty good; last year, Schaub even kicked the injury bug and started all 16 games for the first time.

Running Backs

Conventional wisdom: The consensus top back in the class was Oregon State's Steven Jackson, who was considered a franchise back and worthy of a high first-round pick. The only question was if there was a team at the top of the draft whose needs matched up with Jackson's talents. Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones was an intriguing player who had the potential to slip into the back end of the first round, and both Michigan's Chris Perry and Florida State's Greg Jones each had their fans among NFL scouting departments.

Highest pick: Steven Jackson, Oregon State, 24th overall to the Rams.

Best player: Jackson. Once Jackson started to slip, most people assumed the Cowboys would take advantage at pick 23, but Bill Parcells opted to trade down and select Julius Jones in the second round. Oops. The Rams scooped up Jackson with the next pick. Sometimes top backs are lucky to slide a bit in the draft. The position has a short shelf-life, and the backs get to go straight to competitive teams rather than waste their best years getting obliterated behind bad offensive lines while they wait for the team to improve. Jackson no doubt had visions of being the feature back that carried the Greatest Show on Turf through the end of the decade. Instead, the Rams promptly fell off a cliff, and Jackson was left to get obliterated behind a bad offensive line for five years, and without the comfort of a top-five contract to soothe the aches and pains. We're rooting for Steve Spagnuolo to get the Rams turned around quickly, if only to reward Jackson for his thankless service.

Biggest bust: Chris Perry, Michigan, 26th overall to the Bengals. This pick looked fishy at the time, as the Bengals had effective power runner Rudi Johnson already on the roster. Perry was supposed to add a reliable receiving threat out of the backfield for Carson Palmer, but he only appeared in 35 of 80 games due to injuries, and he put up DVOA ratings of -20.8% and -55.2% during the two seasons when he actually caught passes.

Best value: Michael Turner, Northern Illinois, 154th overall to the Chargers. Turner was drafted to provide quality depth behind Ladanian Tomlinson, but he flashed such ability during his limited touches that it was only a matter of time until a team decided to make Turner a feature back. The Falcons made the investment, giving Turner a contract commensurate with a star rather than a rotational player, and in his first season in Atlanta, Turner rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. If Turner can steer clear of future overuse, he figures to throw up impressive stats for several more years.

Wide Receivers

Conventional wisdom: This was considered to be the deepest position in the entire draft, as evidenced by the NFL-record seven receivers who were selected in the first round. Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald was the jewel of the group, a physically dominating talent capable of playing in any offense. Outside of the top five, there were still plenty of options. Wisconsin's Lee Evans and LSU's Devery Henderson were speed receivers capable of getting behind NFL defenders. Texas' Roy Williams and LSU's Michael Clayton big, physical frames to block out defensive backs. Rashaun Woods was a dominant receiver at the college level, but while some scouts marveled at his production, others were concerned that he was a system player who would struggle to transition to the pros.

Highest pick: Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh, third overall to the Cardinals.

Best player: Fitzgerald. With the inevitable aging of Randy Moss, Fitzgerald has emerged as one of the two most physically dominant receivers in the NFL (the other being Andre Johnson). Fitzgerald doesn't have the pure raw speed of other elite receivers, but he has good football speed, as evidenced by his 63-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII. More importantly, he has the best set of hands and the best body control of any receiver in recent memory. He can catch the ball despite a defender having perfect position on him.

Biggest bust: Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State, 31st overall to the 49ers. Woods looked the part of a big-time wide receiver at OSU, setting Big 12 records in receptions, yardage and touchdowns, but his professional career went off the rails almost immediately and never recovered. In his first mini-camp, there were whispers that Woods wasn't smart enough to pick up the offense. He finished his rookie season with only seven receptions for 160 yards and spent his sophomore year on injured reserve with torn ligaments. The 49ers decided they'd seen enough and traded Woods in 2006 to San Diego for cornerback Sammy Davis, but Woods didn't even make it out of the Chargers' training camp.

Best value: Bernard Berrian, Fresno State, 78th overall to the Bears and Jerricho Cotchery, North Carolina State, 108th overall to the Jets. Berrian's ability as a deep threat was somewhat obscured by the poor quality of his quarterbacks, but he had a breakout season during Chicago's 2006 Super Bowl run and was able to parlay that into a six-year, $42 million contract with the Vikings. Cotchery doesn't make that kind of coin, but he's been a steady performer since assuming a starting role in 2006.

Tight Ends

Conventional wisdom: With the emergence of the pass-catching tight end who could split wide or play on the line and attack the seam of a two-deep zone, teams started to place a higher premium on the position. That higher premium meant that teams were willing to consider drafting tight ends in the rarified air of the top five or six picks in the draft -- a place traditionally reserved for quarterbacks, left tackles, defensive ends, and whatever receiver Matt Millen happened to covet that year. The test case for how high a tight end could go was University of Miami star Kellen Winslow, who was the son of a Hall of Famer and a better talent than fellow-Hurricane Jeremy Shockey ever was. Herm Edwards declared Winslow to be the best player in the entire draft. While no other tight end prospect was close to getting a green room invitation, there were several highly regarded prospects, including Florida's Ben Troupe, Ohio State's Ben Hartsock and Georgia's Benjamin Watson.

Highest pick: Kellen Winslow Jr., Miami, 6th overall to the Browns

Best player: Chris Cooley, Utah State, 81st overall to the Redskins. One could make an argument for Winslow, who has been dynamic when he's been healthy and paired with a competent quarterback, but you could count the times that has happened on one hand (and still have four fingers left over). Instead of the star-crossed "soldier" with his broken fibulas and staph infections (not to mention motorcycle accidents), we'll go with Cooley, a two-time Pro Bowler and blogosphere all-star. Cooley first emerged as a quality receiving threat out of the H-back position midway through his rookie season, and he maintained his production until last season when he was sidelined by a broken ankle.

Biggest bust: Ben Troupe, University of Florida, 40th overall to the Titans. Troupe was considered a poor man's version of Winslow when he came out of Florida, but he was never able to climb above second-string on the Tennessee depth chart, and after brief and undistinguished stints with Tampa Bay and Oakland, Troupe washed out of the league altogether.

Best values: It sure isn't Winslow, who cost the Browns first- and second-round picks and then gave them only two full seasons and two near-total injury washouts. Cooley, clearly.

Offensive Line

Conventional wisdom: Iowa's Robert Gallery was the next great tackle prospect, a superb technician who would make a seamless transition to the pros and add his name to the list of highly drafted success stories like Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones and Orlando Pace. After Gallery, there was a major drop-off, as there were question marks with every other tackle prospect and a paucity of interior line talent. Arkansas' Shawn Andrews was a giant road-grader with nimble feet, but his weight issues were a major red flag for interested parties. Miami's Vernon Carey was a solid player on an elite offensive unit who didn't project clearly to a position. It was thought that he might be a left tackle, might be a right tackle, or might fit best at guard.

Highest pick: Robert Gallery, Iowa, second overall to the Raiders.

Best player: Chris Snee, Boston College, 34th overall to the Giants. Snee was engaged to coach Tom Coughlin's daughter at the time the Giants opted to select him at the top of the second round (then general manager Ernie Accorsi said he would not have made the selection if Coughlin was uncomfortable with it), and it would be easy to criticize Coughlin for showing signs of nepotism if the pick didn't pan out. But the pick did pan out, as Snee grabbed hold of the right guard job as a rookie and has shown no signs of relinquishing it. Snee was named All-Pro in 2008 and 2009, and he helped the Giants post the best ALY between the tackles in 2008.

Biggest bust: Robert Gallery. Draft experts used names like Anthony Muñoz and Tony Boselli to show that that left tackle was the safest position in the draft and to justify taking Gallery with a top pick, but they conveniently left out the name Tony Mandarich'. But Mandarich is the player whose pro career has most closely resembled Gallery's. Gallery's technical skill and the relative dearth of quality pass rushers in the Big Ten camouflaged the fact that he simply wasn't quick enough out of his stance to take away the outside edge from NFL defensive ends. The Raiders flipped Gallery back and forth between left and right tackle, desperately trying to find a position for him. In the end, they accepted reality and shifted him inside to guard, where his slow feet would be less of an impediment. Like Mandarich, Gallery has developed into an acceptable interior player, but that's not exactly what you're looking for from the second pick in the draft.

Best values: Jake Scott and Jacob Bell have both been consistent and productive interior players in the AFC South, and both players were selected after the fourth round. Both players were in demand in last year's free agent crop, with Bell moving from Tennessee to St. Louis, and Scott sliding into Bell's old spot with the Titans.

Defensive Line

Conventional wisdom: This was not one of the stronger defensive line crops in recent memory, and despite the high demand for pass rushers, there was no lineman who was expected to go anywhere near the top of the draft. The best prospect was probably Oklahoma's Tommie Harris, a lightning quick three-technique defensive tackle with a propensity for showing up on the injury report. Miami's Vince Wilfork was a mountain of a man with the build to play the nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme. USC's Kenechi Udeze and Ohio State's Will Smith were both well-rounded defensive ends who didn't have the pure pass-rushing skills to be taken in the top half of the round. Jason Babin did have those skills, but he was considered a wild card because of the low level of competition he faced at Western Michigan.

Highest pick: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma, 14th overall to the Bears.

Best player: Vince Wilfork, University of Miami, 21st overall to the Patriots. The Belichick-era Patriots have a well-deserved reputation for trotting out aging veterans on defense, but that's only true of linebackers and defensive backs. Wilfork completed New England's starting trio of young first-round linemen, sliding immediately into Ted Washington's spot and proved every bit as stout at the point of attack. The Patriots just committed $40 million dollars, including $18 million guaranteed, to make sure that Wilfork will continue to man the center of their defense for another five years.

Biggest bust: Kenechi Udeze, Southern California, 20th overall to the Vikings. Udeze went one pick before Wilfork, and at the time, he seemed like a perfect fit for the pass-rush starved Vikings. Udeze played well as a rookie, notching 36 tackles and five sacks, but a knee injury cut short his sophomore season after only three games. Udeze started for another two seasons, but he was never able to improve on his rookie sack total. In 2008, Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia, a development which forced his retirement from football.

Best value: Darnell Dockett, Florida State, 64th overall to the Cardinals and Corey Williams, Arkansas State, 179th overall to the Packers. The Cardinals made it three-for-three in the 2004 draft when they selected Dockett at the top of the third round. The Florida State defensive tackle was undersized but proved to be extremely disruptive, as he proved to a national audience during an MVP-caliber performance in Super Bowl XLIII. Corey Williams played well enough in his first few seasons in Green Bay to convince Cleveland that he was a blossoming star and worth trading a second-round pick for, but he proved to be a bad fit as a 3-4 end in Cleveland's system, so they traded him to Detroit this offseason for nickels on the dollar . Jim Schwartz's scheme should be a lot friendlier for Williams, who could easily rebound to the form he showed as a Packer (sticking Ndamokung Suh next to him wouldn't hurt).

(Ed. Note: Yes, as noted below in the comments, the original article completely forgot Jared Allen. Sorry about that.)

Linebackers

Conventional wisdom: The top two linebackers on the board were a pair of Hurricanes, each with a distinctly different skills. Jonathan Vilma was a fast but undersized middle linebacker whose instincts reminded draft analysts of Ray Lewis. D.J. Williams had prototype size to go along with his blazing speed and was devastating in run support, but there were some questions about how instinctive he was. Georgia Tech's Daryl Smith, Oklahoma's Teddy Lehman, and Auburn's Karlos Dansby were considered second-round prospects.

Highest pick: Jonathan Vilma, Miami, 12th overall to the Jets.

Best player: Karlos Dansby, Auburn, 33rd overall to the Cardinals. Dansby proved to be a tremendously versatile linebacker who rarely needed to come off the field. He is equally adept at run support and pass coverage and is a willing and capable blitzer. After being franchised by the Cardinals for two consecutive years, Dansby entered this offseason as the second-most attractive player on the free agent market behind Julius Peppers. Miami quickly rewarded Dansby with a five-year, $43 million contract, and they'll play him on the inside of their 3-4 next to Channing Crowder.

Biggest bust: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma, 37th overall to the Lions. Lehman was a star for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, winning the Dick Butkus award as the nation's top linebacker his senior season, but he simply could not hold up to the pounding of the NFL game. After starting all 16 games his rookie season, Lehman's career degenerated into a long string of injuries and ineffective seasons. He bounced around from Detroit to Tampa Bay, back to Detroit, to Buffalo, and finally to the UFL.

Best value: Dansby.

Defensive Backs

Conventional wisdom: This was considered to be a very strong group of cornerbacks, with both top-end talent and depth. Virginia Tech's DeAngelo Hall, South Carolina's Dunta Robinson and Ohio State's Chris Gamble were the headliners. Players like USC's Will Poole, Oklahoma's Derrick Strait, Montana State's Joey Thomas and Arkansas' Ahmad Carroll added depth to the group and convinced teams that they could find potential starters at any point during the first day. The crown jewel among the secondary players, however, was Miami's Sean Taylor. Taylor was the mirror image of his teammate Kellen Winslow Jr. -- a big, fast, rangy safety who had the ability to lock up the new breed of tight ends with close man coverage or to drop back and play centerfield in a Cover-1 look. Many scouts thought Taylor to be the most talented player in the draft. Georgia's Sean Jones and Iowa's Bob Sanders were also quality safety prospects, likely second-round picks.

Highest pick: Sean Taylor, University of Miami, fifth overall to the Redskins.

Best player: Bob Sanders, Iowa, 44th overall to the Colts. Taylor never did revolutionize the position, but he did turn out to be an excellent player -- until he was tragically murdered in his Miami home during the course of a robbery. Otherwise, he might have had a longer career and more value than Sanders, the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year. The knock on him at Iowa was that he was undersized and potentially too fragile to hold up in the NFL. He has done nothing to disprove that notion.

Biggest bust: Ahmad Carroll, Arkansas, 25th overall to the Packers. Carroll's nickname coming out of college was Batman, but he should have been called Robin considering the way he constantly had yellow flags tossed in his direction. Carroll was a walking pass interference call during his stay in Green Bay. He's currently the fifth corner in New York behind such luminary talents as Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman.

Best value: Gibril Wilson, Tennessee, 136th overall to the Giants. Wilson looked like a pretty sweet pickup for the Giants early on, a second-day selection who came on and became a competent starter for four seasons, chipped 11 interceptions and a half-dozen sacks along the way. Good value, right? Needless to say, this convinced Al Davis to make him the third-highest paid safety in the NFL. He spent a year cleaning up the mess left by the rest of the Raiders' poor run defense, then got cut. The Dolphins snapped Wilson up, gave him a spin for a year, then decided they'd seen enough and cut him as well, which just goes to show that once you go through the Al Davis vortex, you may never fully recover.

Special Teams

Conventional wisdom: Not a banner year. The reigning award-winners were Jon Nichols of Ole Miss (Lou Groza Award) and B.J. Sander of Ohio State (Ray Guy Award).

Highest pick: Nate Kaeding, University of Iowa, 65th overall to the Chargers.

Best player: Chosen with one of the picks acquired in the Manning-Rivers trade, Kaeding ranked among the league's top placekickers but inexplicably melted down during this year's playoff game against the Jets. Don't take specialists in the third round, people.

Biggest bust: B.J. Sander, Ohio State, 87th overall to the Packers. Green Bay inexplicably traded a fifth-rounder to Miami to move up and grab Sander, who despite winning the Ray Guy Award had only started for one year in college. It was the only time since 1985 that a team has traded up in order to select a punter. Sander spent his whole rookie year inactive, was the worst punter in the league in this second season, and never played in the league again. Don't take specialists in the third round, people.

Best value: Josh Scobee, Louisiana Tech, 137th overall to the Jaguars. Scobee's field-goal performance has been up and down, but he's been one of the top kickoff men in the league for six years. Scobee's been about 98 percent of the player that Kaeding has been, and all the Jaguars needed was the patience to wait two and a half rounds. Don't take specialists in the third round, people.

Past articles in this series:

Comments

203 comments, Last at 30 Mar 2010, 7:30am

1 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Typical mainstream media article ignoring the Jacksonville Jaguars as part of a conspiracy against the small market teams. I demand that Reggie Williams is given his rightful place as biggest WR bust of the 2004 draft, or at the very least an honourable mention.

5 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I was actually going to argue for Michael Clayton, for no other reason than Clayton had a great rookie season and then basically fell off the planet. The guy proved he had the talent to play in the NFL, and then threw it away. And then got a contract extension.

Sure, you can say Rashaun Woods couldn't play, but Clayton could. He just chose not to after his rookie year. That makes him a bigger bust, IMO.

9 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Reggie Williams may or may not be the biggest bust as a wide receiver from this draft, but he is definitely the biggest brain fart by an organization:

#9 Reggie Williams
#11 Ben Roethlisberger

Thank you Shack Harris!

138 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Options:

1) Yes. Yes they were. Take the best available player and if that leaves you with a glut of talent at the most premium position in the game, you've got some excellent trade bait once you've decided which guy to go with.

2) Of course not. But they *should* have traded down, knowing there were other teams who wanted Roethlisberger at that spot, and if they couldn't do that in time, they should have called the other teams' bluff and taken him anyway, then shopped him around on the day.

2 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

The link to the Draft Report Card Report doesn't work.
Looking back, the Cardinals really cleaned up in that draft.

4 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

From the report card: 'As for which writers were right and which writers were wrong when it comes to the six teams that caused the most disagreement, come back in April 2010 for Michael David Smith's article "The 2004 Draft, Six Years Later."'

Or in March 2010 for Sean McCormick's article of the same name ;)

6 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I'm not quite ready to call the talent, percieved or actual, in the 2004 QB-class higher than that of 1983. Yet, anyway.

8 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I agree. 11 Super Bowl appearances and 3 first ballot HoFers.

Even with their success thus far the 2004 QB class still have an uphill climb. I would say that Roethlisburger was most likely to make the HoF, but he may have deep-sixed his chances with his extracurricular activities.

16 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I think especially with how both the Steelers and the Giants relied on their defenses for their championship seasons. It was not the QB play that got them that far. Although Ben did play much better in his second.

22 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

My view is that Rivers, although he hasn't yet done enough to merit even consideration for enshrinement, is such a good player that he will in all probability get in unless he suffers a serious injury in the next few years. Roethlisberger will get in as a result of being a very good but not great quarterback on some outstanding teams, much like the last Steeler QB to go to Canton. Manning won't make it unless the Giants win some more championships, nor should he (whether they do or not). I highly doubt that he will be one of the best five quarterbacks in the league at any point in his career, never mind as often as a Hall of Famer should. I certainly think he's hugely unlikely to ever have a dominant season. Lack of peak performance alone should exclude him from consideration.

27 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I'm not sure why Eli gets such hate from the fan base. He's been one of the top 16 quarterbacks in the league virtually every year he's played, thrown 20+ touchdowns every full season, cut his interceptions down somewhat since the Super Bowl year, and this year had his best season as a pro, despite a cast of characters at wide receiver who were mostly just out of diapers. And he's not old; at his age, many quarterbacks are just getting into their prime.

If his receivers develop a little bit and his offensive line recovers, he could easily be a top 5 QB next year. I still think he's a better quarterback than Rivers when I'm -watching- football rather than looking at numbers, and I'm confident that he will be a successful quarterback for years to come.

36 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Why does Eli get hate from the fan base?
- His dad said/leaked that he didn't want to play in SD, which at the time was like the Detroit Lions of the NFL before the spectacular drafts they put together.
- He's a Manning.
- He plays in New York
- He's quiet and not a super-likeable, sound byte, alpha male that fans usually like... Like say Brett Favre.
- His career started off slow, and picked up steam
- The strengths in his game are less visible... ( this is a biggie)

Eli Manning is what, about 27 years old? Remember the argument against the Giants last year? That they had no receivers? How'd that work out? Steve Smith did better than pretty much anyone would expect, and Mario Manningham who was a raw and not very good WR put up respectable numbers even though he was NOT a good WR.

Eli Manning should be able to play at least at this level until he's what, 35 years old? That means maybe 8 to 10 more seasons of good QB play for the Giants. He runs a complicated offense and now has young WR's who can and should continue to mature. I'd argue that RB is more fungible in the Giants offense ( and not just due to the line) than most teams but because of the QB's impact.

Big Ben's skill set seemed to be more NFL ready as he was more of a scrambler, big guy, and played for a team that made his transition about as easy as possible. Rivers landed on a good team, and has has good talent and coaching his career.

46 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Eli's 29. I don't deny that he's a good quarterback, I just think that it's likely he's already pretty close to being as good as he ever will be - and that puts him somewhere in the Kerry Collins-Drew Bledsoe part of the quarterback spectrum. Not a bad use of the first overall pick, but not a superstar, not a hall of famer, and not as good as Rivers or Roethlisberger. A guy who'll go to a few pro bowls in his prime, but never get serious all-pro consideration. I agree that the mental side of his game is largely excellent, but he's just not an accurate or consistent enough passer to ever be truly elite. Rivers' passes may look horrible, but they go where they're meant to. Eli's too often don't.

67 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Kerry Collins and Drew Bledsoe are pretty far apart in my spectrum. Through year five, Bledsoe had accumulated AV (pfr) of 46 and Collins a 26. They finished with 137 and 104 respectively.

I think Eli's career path is above theirs at the same point.

Eli's was about the same (47) but he had scored a stellar zero in his first season-- meaning that over the other four Eli had scored higher on average. Bledsoe's next year was nothing special while Eli's was a fairly substantive step forward (AV not yet available, though).

Two of the three (Rivers, Eli) appear to me to still be improving-- and the other is the one that I would choose as my QB if 1) I had to pick, and 2) I could convince myself that he's not going to implode off the field.

I agree with your delineating between superstars and hall of famers. Not every superstar is a HOFer. I think that clearly, all three of them (Eli, Rivers, and Ben) are comfortably in the superstar class-- obviously we differ in opinion there.

Eli gets downgraded, I think, because he is not his brother and because of his hang-dog look when he screws up, but mostly because he's the little girl with the curl. When he's good he's very very good, but when he's bad, he's horrid. I say it often- he makes throws that only the great ones can make, and he makes throws that only the horrible quarterbacks make. He's actually a pretty unique player.

71 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

By "Collins-Bledsoe" I meant .Collins to Bledsoe. - I see them as the endpoints, with Bledsoe obviously at the upper end and Collins at the lower. Also, note that Bledsoe and Collins were both younger than Eli when they entered the league (a lot younger, in Bledsoe's case). Bledsoe through his age 28 season had 89 AV. What I'm saying is that Eli's combination of arm and smarts will allow him to be an effective player for a very long time, racking up a bunch of yards, AV, career DYAR or whatever other counting stat you like. He may very possibly combine Bledsoe's longer and higher peak with Collins' greater longevity, allowing him to surpass both. However, I don't think he is accurate enough or consistent enough to ever be a truly dominant player. Maybe you're right - maybe that does/would/should make him a superstar. I still think he's clearly the least likely of the three to merit enshrinement in Canton.

Roethlisberger's a really tough player to assess because his style of play is so unusual. Rivers just looks wierd; Roethlisberger is wierd. I can easily understand why opinions of him vary so wildly. He's more valuable to the Steelers than either of the other two would be, but I think almost every other team in the league would rather have Rivers, and I think Rivers is more valuable to the Chargers than Roethlisberger is to the Steelers. I also think that given his tendency to hold onto the ball (and hence get hit), his reliance on his physical skills, and his apparent nose for trouble off the field, he is likely to have a much shorter time as a first rate starter remaining than the other two. He's a seriously rich man's Daunte Culpepper - look what happened to Culpepper when he got injured.

74 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Eli has also played his entire career in the Meadowlands, maybe the windiest stadium in the league, which has contributed somewhat to his having less impressive stats. It will be interesting to see if the new stadium makes a difference, and, if so, how much of one.

76 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Good point. I'm interested as to when we will start to see stadium-effect analysis on NFL passing games. Seems like (and I made this argument in favor of Quinn going from Cleveland to Denver) that there will always be some passers who are completely different players in some environments than others.

Eli's game against the Redskins in Week 15, 2007 comes to mind. The wind was as bad as I've ever seen it, and he and Todd Collins were dreadful. The Redskins eventually took the game out of Collins' hands and won, while the Giants kept throwing it with little success, and lost.

87 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Great Points about Eli Playing in a hard stadium for QB's. I'd say Chicago and the Meadowlands were probably 1 and 2.

Phillip Rivers was playing in sunny San Diego his whole career so he has an advantage over Big Ben and Eli stats wise. He might have better stats but he doesn't have rings like the other two. NJ and Pitt are both cold, but the wind in the Meadowlands make it horrible.

I bring up that Giants game with the wind, but the FO don't control for that and that's a major problem. How can you judge QB's playing in freezing weather with super strong winds? The other major game that comes to mind is the week 17 Patriots/Bills game a few years ago where I guess the Patriots didn't even throw 1 pass in the second half because there were like extreme winds in Buffalo. Neither DVOA or traditional stats take that into consideration, but gamblers do.

The point about it all too is that Eli has a better career QB rating on the road if I'm not mistaken. He can get the unimportant stuff out of his mind, and he's in more ideal weather conditions in virtually every road game he plays in.

In reality, a guy like Cutler with a super strong arm is ideal for Chicago because the weather will affect him less. Eli's arm is above average so the wind hurts his game because he throws downfield as much as anyone. Then again Pennington had the weakest arm in the league but he threw mostly short passes.

96 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

If it is so easy to play in sunny southern california then why was brees a shadow of his new orleans self when he was playing here? Goes to show that weather didnt affect him and if it did it was even harder to put up good stats than it is in new orleans. Dont come back with the weak ass argument that he had no players around him..... he had gates and LT. Im not bashing brees, i think hes underrated. There are 4 quarterbacks that are the cream of the crop and its Brady, Brees, Manning and Rivers. Eli in the same sentence as Rivers is just absurd. Im sure since Dilfer has a ring he is also a better pro than Rivers. Give me a break. Heres the argument people like you make.

Steve kerr is a better nba player than karl malone because malone didnt win any championships. Robert horry needs to be in the hall of fame because he has 6 rings. Russel is the best basketball player ever because he won 8 straight titles (what about his teammates? does that make them #2-#12 on the all time great list?)

The championship discussion is only made by losers. Its the cap off of the discussion and frankly whenever i hear it i just think "man that guy is an idiot". Everyone has that friend that whenever you talk about your team doing better this year they remind you that the steelers have the most championships. Most of the nfl fans werent watching football in the 70's and whoopty freaking do im glad you got to enjoy that victory that they had before you were born or started to follow football. Everyone knows the championship discussion is a joke, thats why whenever they start bringing up championships they get a smirk on their face and the conversation switches from intelligent to retarded.

I heard a stat on here where some guy was defending eli. Hes been in the top 16 his whole career or something like that. Really?!? ha. how many top 5's? Basically you are saying he is an average - above average quarterback in the nfl. Sorry but Rivers was up for MVP the last two years. That means he was atleast in the discussion as the #1 quarterback and last year he finished third for qb voting and second this year. Eli will never get close to an mvp because its not within his variance. Even if everything goes perfect in a season for him he will still finish 16th-10th among quarterbacks. He is not good.

115 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Yeah he was awesome when he was getting benched for doug flutie and leading the team to the #1 overall pick. He had 1 good season in san diego and 1 above average season in san diego. He had 0 total awesome seasons in san diego. you are crazy.

120 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

awesome constitutes throwing for 3100 yards? how many quarterbacks played awesome this year? heres his stats for 2002 -2005.

2002: 21st in dyar, 25th in dvoa, 3201 yards, 17 td's, 15 int.
2003: 41st in dyar, 40th in dvoa, 1984 yards, 11 td's, 15 int.
2004: 7th in dyar, 4th in dvoa, 3166 yards, 27 td's, 7 int.
2005: 8th in dyar, 9th in dvoa, 3421 yards, 24 td's, 14 int.

Brees has not once thrown for less than 4300 yards in new orleans.... which is 900 more yards than his BEST season in san diego. His lowest finish in dyar while with new orleans is 5th.... which is better than his BEST season in san diego. His lowest finish in dyar while with new orleans is 12th.... but his other 3 years in new orleans he finished 2nd, 3rd, and 3rd in dvoa. I can do td's and int's as well but it will just make you look like even more of a buffoon.

If any of his seasons in san diego happen while brees' is in new orleans people would wonder what the hell is wrong with him. Maybe its not so easy to throw a pass in san diego as you thought since Brees couldnt do it with nearly the effectiveness as Rivers.

122 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

i don't know why you brought up 2002 and 2003, when i already said i wasn't talking about those years.

i don't know why i'm bothering, but it is easier to post world-beating dyar and raw yardage numbers when one is putting the ball up a league-leading number of times, which brees has done twice in four years in no. a fourth place finish in dvoa doesn't qualify as a great year?

by the way, i think rivers is a wonderful quarterback, and you make me embarassed to be a charger fan.

[oops--edited to say 2002 and 2003, got year wrong]

123 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

you never said you werent talking about 2002 and 2003. you said that he was awesome in san diego. Well earth to dave, he was in san diego from 2001-2005. Come on dont change the argument after the fact. He didnt play much in 2001. He was awful in 2002-2003. He was good in 2004. He was above average in 2005.

My point for saying this stuff isnt to bash brees. He is a great player. He didnt play great in san diego, and my opinion is that he would have played great in san diego if it was as friendly to pass there as most readers are implying. Rivers shouldnt be penalized cause its sunny where he plays. He isn't in as pass friendly of an offense. He is averaging close to 70 less pass attempts per year than manning since hes became a starter. Despite this, he still is putting up better numbers than manning.

125 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

i didn't mean he was nothing but awesome in san diego. my bad.

but the differences between his last two years in san diego and his four in new orleans can easily be attributed to his reps.

or, if you wish, you can attribute it to his having had difficulty passing outdoors for half his games in sunny san diego, and i certainly won't stand in your way because it's not a conversation i care to be involved in.

157 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I was the one defending Eli.

First, Rivers has only been "in the conversation" for the MVP the last two years as far as you were concerned. As I've said before (maybe in this thread), he isn't even top 5 in the discussion if one isn't a Chargers fan in particular (last year: Brees, Brady, Manning, Warner, Favre). And that's leaving out Revis, DeMarcus Ware, and Chris Johnson.

Second, there's a big difference between "above average" and a top 16 ranking many years in a row. There are guys in the Hall of Fame who haven't managed four consecutive top 16 seasons. Manning, Rivers, and Roethlisberger are all franchise quarterbacks... and that's all. Any team should be happy to have one of them, but none of them have proven to be particularly special yet.

158 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I'm a Pats fan and Brady did not play very well last year. He maybe put up OK numbers (thank you Tennessee, thank you Wes Welker) but there were several games where he looked pretty bad. Definately not MVP worthy. I think if you hypothetically swapped Brady for a bizarro Rivers that new the offense last year the Pats would have been better, not worse. For what it's worth.

177 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

He played against tough pass Ds so that explains the stats but I still maintain that if you watched the games he looked rusty and timid much of the time. Threw off his back foot a lot the first half of the year and missed some easy throws high. Majority of his production was on long drives that were constant 7 yards over the middle to Welker over and over, drives that couldn't sustain themselves and died out. Ineffective in the red zone (I think this is a product of the offense). Can't remember him throwing, let alone hitting, a single fade all year. Seemed off on the deep ball with a few exceptions. Bubble screens seemed more clamped down on than the previous years. Didn't seem to make the same clutch throws that he has in the past but wasn't helped out by his receivers a few times (Galloway, Faulk bobbling 4th and 2, Edelman dropped one or two). And in general, his accuracy seemed off. It wasn't so much that he was straight missing guys after the first 6 games or so but he wasn't making the perfect throws that we're accustomed to seeing. Guys were having to stretch out to make plays on 3rd and long, and that contributed to drops.

All that being said, I think he was just shaking off the rust and expect him to be back to form next year. But I think people are catching up to the spread and I think it's damn near useless inside the 20. I had more faith in the Pats ability to score from the 30 than the 15 last year.

183 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

DYAR and DVOA were part of what I was referring to, but more than that was his performance in the Buffalo game, which was the first time (and I watched 2007) that I've thought he might actually be as good as Peyton Manning. The throws to Ben Watson were so good that it just didn't matter what the defenders did; like Peyton's lob to a quadruple-covered Dallas Clark in the Super Bowl or Michael Jordan shooting a fadeaway.

I think that Brady really needs a consistent set of receivers because what he does well is break down defenses. The failure of the Joey Galloway Experiment and Welker's injuries hurt him more than most quarterbacks because he isn't a great technical player like Manning or Warner. He's more similar to Drew Brees; dependent on scheme to create big plays, but accurate and consistent on short throws. That's why the Ben Watson seam routes were so impressive - Brees throws half his picks trying to hit that.

It's true that he was inconsistent, but against great defenses with an ever-changing group of receivers, he had a tough sell.

186 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I think that Brady really needs a consistent set of receivers.

J-A-B-A-R G-A-F-F-N-E-Y :(

His stats were never that good but for 3 years he seemed to come through when everyone else was covered. I'd be real pleased with Moss, Welker, Gaffney, and Edelman.

83 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Actually that would make Eli Manning more like a Donovan Mcnabb but with a ring.

- Both guys are very smart or smarts is a big part of their game
- Both guys are inaccurate
- Both guys have their fair share of haters
- Both guys value was very misunderstood
- Neither guy was ever like a top 3 QB
- Mcnabb gets hurt a lot, Eli starts every game
- Eli's teams always make the playoffs ( except last year), Mcnabb similar
- Both guys have really only had one big play WR ( ok now 2 for Mcnabb).

They are both good smart players ( that were underrated by many) despite being drafted high. I think in the comments so far people overrate how pretty of a ball you throw, but underrate that Eli/Mcnabb make the correct reads and CHOOSE the right player to throw the ball too. THAT's that hard part. Anybody can throw a spiral, not everybody can read an NFL defense when you are being bum rushed by 4-7 250 to 320 pound beasts.

75 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Part of those "drafts they put together" involved picking up a better quarterback and multiple high-value picks from the Giants in the 2004 draft. Agreed that SD used to be a talent-void wasteland, but there is no move that better signifies the end of the dark years in San Diego than that trade.

Mind you, a lot of that talent was already in place at the time of that trade, but I'm thinking that the Chargers don't reach the heights they did in 2006 and 2007 without both Rivers and Merriman (even though it's likely Brees would still be there if not for Rivers).

53 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

I think people really underestimate just how efficient Big Ben was early in his career. Yes the Steelers didn't ask him to throw much, but when he did he was getting 10 yards a pop.

Also he played legitimately great in the 2005 playoffs until the Superbowl. Everyone only remembers the last game though.

145 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

It's hard to see that the '04 class would ever equal the '83 class.

The '83 class has two legitimate candidates for Best QB Ever. And then there's Jim Kelly, who I would still rate as better than any of the '04 QBs.

Roethlisberger's career is flagging (and his off-field antics are ridiculous). Eli cannot be counted on to perform at an elite level. Rivers is probably the best of the three (even though he's the one who hasn't won a Super Bowl), but he's not quite smart enough to be a big-time QB in the playoffs, it seems.

162 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Interesting thing about that 'best QB ever' type of debate-- have you looked at Elway's numbers next to Eli's through the same point in each's career?

Eli's completions percentages are better, but they are close. Their yardage is extremely close. Eli threw 23 more TDs and 8 fewer interceptions. Their adjusted net yards/attempt are very similar through age 28, with Eli having the advantage. Eli's sack rate is lower. They don't have AV up for Eli's 2009 season yet, but it looks to me as if the difference between their AV through their 6th season will be almost entirely due to the Blutarsky Manning put up in his rookie year (or, alternately, due to the contribution of Elway's legs).

Please note that I am not saying that Manning is as good as Elway. Obviously, some of the above stats are partly explained by differences in eras. I am just noting the similarities in their statistical profiles as passers through age 28. Now, if Manning can win another Super Bowl and win some more playoff games with late heroics, play 10 mostly injury free more seasons, and have some of his best statistical years to come, then...

ETA: actually, Eli shows up in Elway's list of similar players after years 4 & 5 of their careers (and I am sure he'll be in the list of similar players after year 6 once they add 2009 to the comps).

171 Re: 2004 NFL Draft: Six Years Later

Manning - not great, yet.
Roethlisberger - great
Phillips - great?

Elway - HOF
Kelly - HOF
Marino - HOF
(Eason) - good, not great.

The 3 2004 QBs need to add something before they can outshine the 1983 class.