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Talented QBs at top of draft

4/16/2004

Here is how ESPN.com rates the top eight quarterback prospects in the draft:

  • Eli Manning (Mississippi)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4 ¾, 221 pounds, 4.92 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Won the Maxwell Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2003, was named SEC Player of the Year, and was a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, Walter Camp Foundation Player of the Year Award and Heisman Trophy. Holds 45 school passing and total offense records. The fifth player in school history to throw for 10,000 yards. Fifth in SEC history in total yards and third in touchdown passes. Hit 829 of 1,363 passes for 10,119 yards, with 81 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions. Played in 43 games and started 37 of them.
    Upside: Not quite as gifted as his older brother, but you've got to love the bloodlines, and there are actually a few things he does better than Peyton Manning. Strong fundamentals, very bright, scored a 39 on the Wonderlic test but that intelligence also translates into football smarts as well. Sound mechanics, gets back quickly into his setup, a fine release and good touch on the intermediate routes. Holds the ball high and gets it out of his hand with a compact delivery and with some RPMs on it. Good ballhandler and can carry out the play-action fake. Will buy time in the pocket by sliding around. Good overall pocket presence. Decent enough feet. A patient player, good leader, makes the people around him significantly better. There aren't a lot of NFL prospects on the Ole Miss roster and he managed to rally people up.
    Downside: Might have a little stronger arm than Peyton, but not as accurate, and doesn't have his brother's natural charisma, although that is picking nits. Isn't quite as obsessed with study habits as is his brother but certainly is no slouch. Takes some chances and will throw the ball into coverage trying to make something happen.
    The dish: For the Manning family, the beat goes on, as Eli will likely be the first player off the board.

  • Philip Rivers (North Carolina State)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-5, 229 pounds, 5.08 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Started an NCAA record 51 games, including two before starts were recognized as a record, and posted a 34-17 record. Won all four bowl appearances and was the MVP in the Senior Bowl. Second in NCAA history in passing yards and fifth in touchdown passes. The first player in ACC history and seventh in NCAA history to post three seasons with 3,000 or more passing yards. Completed 1,087 of 1,710 passes for 13,484 yards, with 95 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions.
    Upside: What's the adage about experience being the best teacher? No quarterback in NCAA history started more games or took as many snaps. Super-competitive player and a charismatic leader who fosters confidence and plays like he never expects to lose. Really a courageous pocket passer, a guy who hangs tough as he works through progressions, and will take a hit to deliver the ball. Sees the field and makes great decisions. Uncanny accuracy, completed 63.6 percent of his career attempts. Consistently delivers the ball to receivers when they are in stride, and can run after the catch, rarely hangs a receiver out to dry with an errant throw. Poised under pressure and knows how to manage the huddle. Loves to study, hates to lose, a load of intangibles. Tough and incredibly durable.
    Downside: Everyone talks about his mechanics, specifically his unorthodox delivery, and it has to be factored into the equation. Has an inconsistent release point and holds the ball very low. Not the most fluid athlete around and doesn't run very well.
    The dish: A top-shelf prospect, not too far behind Manning's grade on most boards (including that of San Diego), and people are going to be surprised at how early in the first round he is chosen.

  • Ben Roethlisberger (Miami-Ohio)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4 7/8, 241 pounds, 4.77 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Rewrote the Mid-American Conference and school records books. Started in all 38 of his appearances and completed 854 of 1,304 passes for 10,829 yards, with 84 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions. His 11,075 total yards are a school record and he is the third MAC player to throw for 3,000 yards three different years. Punted 24 times for an average of 40.1 yards and had 17 kicks inside the other team's 20-yard line.
    Upside: Big guy with a big arm. Zips everything with good velocity and accuracy. Holds the ball high and has an over-the-top delivery. A consistent release point, rarely drops down, and the ball comes off his hand with lots of rotation. Because he is so tall in the pocket, and throws with an overhand motion, doesn't get many passes blocked. Good pocket presence and feel. A better athlete than people think, nice footwork, and can buy himself time to throw. Notable touch, can drill the ball in the small spaces when needed, or "feather" it over linebackers and safeties. Solid passer on the move. Has improved in reading coverages. Sturdy player who can take a hit and get back up. Decent punter and showed at the combine he can fill that role in an emergency. Excellent character and work habits, very coachable and wants to be good.
    Downside: Didn't begin playing quarterback until his senior season in high school, so has just four years of experience at the position, and still has work to do. Not yet as finished a product as Manning or Rivers. Is deliberate at times and, in an effort to allow receivers to uncover, will hold into the ball too long. Not a great rhythm or timing passer. Will lose focus at times and must continue to develop recognition skills. Played from the shotgun formation a lot and will have to get more comfortable working from under center.
    The dish: Scouts are always going to be a little shy about taking quarterbacks from a smaller school and conference, but Roethlisberger seems to be the real deal, a guy who might evolve into a special player. The perception in the league is that he is beginning to slide a bit, but there is little doubt he'll be taken by the middle of the first round.

  • J.P. Losman (Tulane)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-2 ¼, 224 pounds, 4.69 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Began his college career at UCLA, transferred to Tulane in 2000, and was the backup to now-Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey for two years. Ranks in the top 10 in 18 different offensive categories at Tulane and is among the top 10 in 10 different Conference-USA categories. Completed 570 of 987 passes for 6,754 yards, with 60 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions. Started in 27 of 38 appearances.
    Upside: Easily the best athlete, most mobile guy among the top quarterbacks, and might have the premier deep arm of the bunch. Excellent accuracy on the run, out of the pocket in general, and a good scrambler who likes to take on defenders when he turns upfield. A quick arm and live release, can really drill the ball on the slants, and can gun the thing deep with very little effort. Good mechanics, fundamentally sound footwork, gets back smoothly into his plant. Enough natural arm strength to throw off the back foot and still get the ball to the receiver. Hardly surrounded by superior talent and upgraded the skill level of those around him in most games.
    Downside: Fiery and demonstrative, even mouthy at times, and occasionally will rub some people the wrong way. Will hurry some throws and will bail out of the pocket too soon when he sees protection beginning to falter. Needs to work on his touch. Worked out of a run-and-shoot offense for the most part, so will have to refine his skills in a more conventional passing game and get better from working under center.
    The dish: Very nice skill set. Depending on how quickly the top three prospects go off the board, he could get into the second half of the first round. If a team gets him in the second round, it has made a very handsome choice, indeed.

  • Matt Schaub (Virginia)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-5 5/8, 243 pounds, 5.0 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Fast developing player who was named the ACC Player of the Year for 2002. Holds several Cavaliers passing records. Played in 40 games and started 30 times. Has 716 completions in 1,069 attempts for 7,502 yards, with 56 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions.
    Upside: Accurate "touch" passer who completed nearly two-thirds of his attempts. Good size and, given his vertical vantage point, can see the field well. Kind of a late bloomer on the field, but a smart kid who studies hard and knows the game, and who had to wait for his physical skills to catch up to his football acumen. Fluid motion and has surprisingly good accuracy on plays that require a half-roll. Patient and poised, doesn't rattle, will wait for something to open up.
    Downside: Lacks deep-ball strength and might be best suited to a West Coast offense. His ball will wobble some after 25-30 yards and can't drill the thing in the small spaces. Will push the ball off his shoulder at times and throws into coverage. Too often stares down his receivers and doesn't look the safeties off. Not very elusive.
    The dish: Has developed nicely but still has work to do before he will be considered a player with starting potential. Might get into the bottom part of the second round, but is more likely a third-round pick.

  • Luke McCown (Louisiana Tech)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-3 7/8, 208 pounds, 4.69 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Ranks second in NCAA Division I-A history in passing yards and also touchdown passes. Completed 1,088 of 1,827 passes for 12,994 yards, 88 touchdown passes and 65 interceptions.
    Upside: Nice size, durable and started 44 consecutive games. Good athlete who can move out of the pocket and throws well on the move. Solid timing passer, accurate with the deep out and the long ball up the seam. Squares up, throws with his shoulders always in alignment, natural thrower. Fundamentally strong in his footwork. Comes from a very good quarterback bloodline. Studies hard, analytical in the film room, natural leader. Has improved every season and really emerged in the offseason.
    Downside: Played in a shotgun-style, "spread" offense, so his numbers were probably a bit inflated. Like some other quarterbacks in the '04 pool, will have to improve skills in working from under center. An elongated release and the ball doesn't always get out of his hand as quickly as you'd like. Not as accurate as he should be, will throw too much off balance, and the ball sails on him. Doesn't look off defenders enough.
    The dish: Has come a long way, really turned heads at the combine and at his "pro day" workout. Should be chosen in the third or fourth round.

  • Cody Pickett (Washington)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-3 ½, 233 pounds, 4.81 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Because of medical redshirt, played five seasons. Following in the footsteps of his father, became a talented rodeo performer and spent his summers pursuing that. Completed 792 of 1,373 attempts for 9,946 yards, with 53 touchdown passes and 42 interceptions. Had 14 games with 300 passing yards and also had 14 completions of 50 yards or more.
    Upside: Deceptively better athlete than his gangly build hints. A ball-control passer who is accurate in the short zones. Throws the intermediate routes with zip and spiral. At his best when he is throwing rhythm and timing passes. Adequate running skills. Doesn't mind taking on defenders.
    Downside: When he throws the long ball, seems to reach back for something extra, and is tardy in his delivery. Has a strange looking motion on the deep pass, where he curls his wrist, and that makes him look even more deliberate. One of those guys who has a lot of wasted motion and will pat the ball before he throws. Inconsistent accuracy.
    The dish: Has some tools and size, needs to work much harder, figures to be middle-round selection.

  • Josh Harris (Bowling Green)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-1 ½, 238 pounds, 4.72 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Started 32 games and his 24-8 record represents the best winning mark for any Mid-American Conference quarterback who started at least two seasons. He is the lone player in MAC history to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark in total offense for a season. Completed 627 of 1,028 pass attempts for 7,503 yards, with 55 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions. Rushed 596 times for 2,473 yards and 43 touchdowns. Also had six catches for 113 yards and four touchdowns and returned four kickoffs for 94 yards in 2000. One of just two players in NCAA Division I history to throw 40 touchdown passes and also run for 40 touchdowns in a career. Only the eighth player to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 2,000 yards.
    Upside: Superb athletic skills in a squat, compact body, can elude the rush and make something happen. Poised player who maintains discipline and just has the knack for authoring big plays at crunch time. Quick feet and can elude defenders once he turns upfield and is darting through the secondary. Good enough arm strength. Solid touch on the swing and flat passes.
    Downside: Shorter than ideal and, while he's got a live body, is built a little more like a tailback. Stiff and deliberate in his throwing motion, and while there is no discernable "hitch," the ball doesn't come out quickly or with much velocity. Even on intermediate routes, not very "fine" and will force receivers to reach for the ball. Locks onto intended receivers. Doesn't scan the field very much, gets impatient, and won't work all the way through his progressions.
    The dish: Might never be much more than a career backup but his natural playmaking skills, toughness and leadership skills should get him chosen in the middle rounds.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.