What colors will Eli be wearing next season?

By By Josh Taylor/sports writer
December 21, 2003
The talk has already begun. The rumor mill is revving up. There will soon be one question that every sports writer in Mississippi has on his mind. What NFL team will draft Eli Manning?
As your local NFL expert I thought I would give everyone a little fuel for the fire, a tidbit of ammunition in those barstool debates.
Probably the biggest factor affecting what team drafts Manning is how the draft order stacks up. Let's first look at how the NFL decides who gets the coveted first pick.
The NFL draft order is determined by winning percentage. The team with the lowest winning percentage in the previous season gets the first pick followed by the team with the second lowest winning percentage and so on. This makes a lot more sense than the NBA's crazy lottery system.
The only exception to this is that the previous Super Bowl winner always gets the last pick preceded by the previous Super Bowl loser. This is done because it is possible to win the Super Bowl and have a lower winning percentage than a team that lost in the conference championship game.
If two or more teams have the same winning percentage, strength-of-schedule serves as the tie-breaker. Divisional and conference records are used as the next tie-breaker. If two teams are still dead even after all this, a coin toss is used. The NFL loves to use coins to determine the fates of people and teams.
As a side note, non-playoff teams always receive higher draft order than playoff teams, regardless of percentages, records, and coins.
As of December 19th, San Diego has the top pick in the 2004 NFL draft. They have earned this right with a stellar 3-11 record. Their strength of schedule, or lack thereof, propels them ahead of the other NFL cellar dwellers.
Don't panic yet Eli. San Diego already has Drew Brees and Doug Flutie at quarterback. It wouldn't totally surprise me if the Chargers grabbed Manning, but it's not very likely. Since they already have a decent quarterback, a strong running back with LaDainian Tomlinson, and a decent receiver with David Boston, their pick will likely be used to pick up an offensive lineman or perhaps a defensive standout.
Now it's time for panic. The number two spot in the 2004 draft will likely fall to the Arizona Cardinals. The oldest team in the NFL has reminded me a lot of Vanderbilt the past few years. They have amassed a 3-10 record so far in 2003 and don't show any signs of improvement before the season ends.
The Cardinals' quarterback situation looks pretty bleak right now with Josh McCown at quarterback and Jeff Blake at backup. Why can't there be at least one good player in the NFL with the name Josh? This kid is in his second year in the league out of Sam Houston State. His numbers are not that great and neither is his haircut.
Blake is no help either. He is currently in his 12th year in the league. Just like beer and leftover potato salad, he only gets worse with age.
There is a silver lining. If Manning does end up in a Cardinals uniform he will be passing to rookie sensation Anquan Boldin. It is possible that the Cardinals could build a team with Manning. Indianapolis did it. They drafted Marvin Harrison in 1996, older brother Peyton in 1998, and Edgerrin James in 1999. The Cowboys did the same thing with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.
Ironically enough, Emmitt Smith is now an Arizona Cardinal. At least all the Ole Miss fans already have a lot of red clothes.
If Arizona does happen to skip over Manning, the next pick will likely fall to the Atlanta Falcons. This is one team that definitely does not need a quarterback.
Another interesting scenario is the Oakland Raiders with the likely fourth pick in the 2004 draft. Rich Gannon, Rick Mirer, and Rob Johnson are the black and silver's current quarterback stable. That's not very impressive.
Al Davis is not one to pass up a good thing. Rest assured, if Davis can get his hands on Manning, he will. Oakland will soon have to retool a team full of AARP members and what better start than a Manning at quarterback.
A few other teams that could possibly work their way into a high draft pick include the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, and Washington. Any one of these teams could pull off a trade with San Diego for the top pick without the Chargers falling too far down in the order.
Rest assured that wherever Manning goes, he will not necessarily stay there. His father got stuck on a bad team, but that was way before free agency.
Marshall Faulk originally got drafted by the Colts. Take a moment to think about the combination of Faulk, Harrison, James and Peyton Manning. Scary, isn't it.
Simeon Rice originally got drafted by the Cardinals and he managed to get out. The Chargers got Ryan Leaf and look what happened to him. OK, bad example. Bo Jackson was the number one pick in 1986. It wasn't by the Raiders. He started his NFL life as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
Eli Manning is sure to get drafted in the top five in the 2004 NFL draft and he should be just fine wherever he goes, as long as it's not Arizona! But, don't worry too much. Fate and the NFL have a way of giving everyone their shot. If you've got talent then the NFL has the time and Eli definitely has the talent.