Draft Review: Eli Manning

One of three Mannings to go in the Top 2 of an NFL draft

GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Following in the footsteps of an All-America father (Archie) and an All-America brother (Peyton), Eli Manning became a three-year starter at Mississippi and only the fifth quarterback in SEC history to pass for 10,000 career yards. He left Ole Miss as the school’s all-time leading passer and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2003. He won the Maxwell Award as the top player in college football and both the O’Brien and Unitas Awards as the top quarterback. He also finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Manning posted a 24-13 record as a starter at Ole Miss with seven fourth-quarter comeback victories. Eli measured a shade over 6-4 and weighed 221 pounds at the NFL combine with a 4.9 clocking in the 40-yard dash. Gosselin rated him No. 1 on his Top 100 board and San Diego drafted him first overall in the 2004 NFL draft. But Manning refused to play for the Chargers and was traded to the Giants for quarterback Philip Rivers, the fourth overall pick of the same draft, plus future draft picks. Ben Roethlisberger was the 11th overall pick of the same draft.

Here are comments on Manning from five talent evaluators leading up to his draft:

Personnel director: He’s not Peyton. His draft stock is all about his last name for him.

Offensive coordinator: My #1 QB. Just a little bit better than Roethlisberger in his game management. A little more poised, a little more polished, a little quicker reactions. If you stack the quarterbacks from the last few drafts, David Carr would still be No. 1 (2002) but Manning would be ahead of Carson Palmer (2003).

Offensive coordinator II: My #1. Manages the game very well. What you see is what you’re going to get. He’ll be like Peyton – he’s smart with the ball and knows where to go with it. He’ll play early in this league.

Offensive coordinator III: Lacks the prototypical arm of a (Drew) Bledsoe but has enough of an arm and his accuracy is tremendous. You see the mannerisms of Peyton, so you give him the benefit of doubt.

Head coach: I’ve got a slight reservation. You wonder how much of the luster on him is Peyton. He’s got football savvy but he’s not a terrific athlete.

HALL OF FAME RESUME: Eli wasn’t Peyton, who won a record five NFL MVP trophies, but he did win as many Super Bowls (two) as his more celebrated brother. And Eli made the plays in the biggest game of his life to win those Super Bowls – the pass to David Tyree and the helmet catch that set up the winning touchdown in the 2008 Super Bowl upset of the New England Patriots and the sideline pass to Mario Manningham that set up the winning TD in the 2012 upset the Pats. Eli retired after the 2019 following a 16-year career. He ranked eighth in NFL history in passing yards (57,023) and ninth in touchdown passes (366). He was a two-time Super Bowl MVP and a four-time Pro Bowler. He is the all-time leading passer in Giants history and his jersey number 10 has been retired by the franchise. But Manning only managed a .500 record for his career (117-117), taking the Giants to the playoffs just six times in his 16 seasons.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin has resurrected his college scouting reports for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed the top draft prospects coming out of college.


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