Draft Review: Peyton Manning

Won Super Bowls with two different franchises

GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: As the son of former Pro Bowl quarterback Archie Manning, the second overall pick of the 1971 NFL draft, much was expected of Peyton — and he delivered. He was among the last of the great quarterbacks to stay in college all four years at Tennessee. He won the Maxwell Award as the top player in the nation in 1997 and the O’Brien and Unitas Awards as the top quarterback. He also was the SEC Player of the Year and an academic All-America. Manning posted a 40-5 career starting record and left Tennessee as the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards (11,201), completions (863), completion percentage (62.5), interception percentage and total offense. His 89 career touchdown passes ranked second in SEC annals to Danny Wuerffel’s 114. Manning measured 6-5, 230 pounds at the 1998 NFL combine and there was a healthy and spirited debate during the draft season as to whom was the better quarterback, Manning or Washington State’s Ryan Leaf. Contrary to those who want to rewrite history, the league was split right down the middle between the two quarterbacks. As many teams favored the bigger (6-5, 261), stronger-armed Leaf as did the fundamentally-sound Manning. But Manning was viewed as the more-ready-to-step-in-and-play right now. Leaf was viewed as having a longer-term upside. In his first attempt at a Top 100 draft board in 1998, Gosselin ranked Manning No. 2 and Leaf No. 3. Florida State edge rusher Andre Wadsworth was No. 1. The Indianapolis Colts selected Manning first overall, the San Diego Chargers chose Leaf second overall the Arizona Cardinals took Wadsworth third. Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson went fourth.

Here are comments on Manning from four talent evaluators leading up to the 1998 NFL draft:

Scout: Good-time player. Excels when things are going well. But gets too excited, too wound up and will makes mistakes. Panics and breaks down.

Personnel director: No flaws as a person. The sure thing. An impact quarterback. Will know and do the things he needs to do to be successful.

Offensive coordinator: What are his weaknesses? He’s not a good runner but he avoids well enough. Good arm strength, good release. Smart. Accurate. What else are you looking for in a quarterback? All the intangibles are there.

Head coach: Quicker decisions, more accurate passer than (Ryan) Leaf. Has been in the spotlight and can handle it. Can handle bad games better than Leaf.

HALL OF FAME RESUME: Peyton Manning is what a first-ballot Hall of Famer looks like. He played 17 seasons, was named NFL MVP a record five times and won Super Bowls with two franchises (Colts and Denver Broncos). He was voted to 14 Pro Bowls, was a seven-time first-team all-pro and won three NFL passing titles. He was named to the 2000 all-decade team and also the NFL’s 100th anniversary team. Manning set league single-season records with his 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns for the Broncos in 2013 and ranks third all-time in both passing yards (71,940) and touchdowns (539). He also won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2005 for his contributions on and off the field. There was about a 95 percent chance of greatness for Manning coming out of college. There’s a 100 percent chance he’ll have a bust in Canton in his first year of eligibility.

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 here for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed the top draft prospects coming out of college. 

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