Will greatness come in threes?

Will greatness come in threes?
by Craig James, Yahoo Sports
April 13, 2004

Craig James
Yahoo Sports
Cris Carter's draft analysis:
Overview | AFC: East - North - South - West | NFC: East - North - South - West

Craig James' draft analysis:
Overview - QBs - WRs - More offense - Defense

That 1983 NFL draft was special – not only for me as a seventh-round pick but for all football fans because of the talent across the board. A lot of great players at several positions (Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green and so on) came out of that draft, but people remember it mostly because of the six first-round quarterbacks, including three (John Elway, Jim Kelly and No. 27 pick Dan Marino) who became superstars.

Quarterbacks also will steal the show at this month's draft.

Sure, the 2004 draft has a lot of depth and talent at wide receiver. But this draft will be judged by the ultimate successes or struggles of the three marquee signal callers: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

I voted for Manning to win the Heisman Trophy last season. Roethlisberger has all the credentials in the world. I think both are great.

But the truth is that Rivers has proven in tall company that he is the best guy on the field – in the huddle, running, reading defenses, you name it.

To heck with his mechanics. People finally have gotten over that obstacle about Rivers' arm delivery. They just see that the guy wins and that he makes plays.

The San Diego Chargers need to make a decision on one of the three quarterbacks and take him. It's that simple. They can't feel snakebit. They can't worry about what happened with Ryan Leaf and the Michael Vick trade and the picks that got away.

The Chargers should listen to their gut, decide who they think is the best player for them and select him.

Fitzgerald heads a solid receiver corps
My colleague Cris Carter is right on when he talks about the third or fourth receiver selected having a better chance to succeed right away than receivers who go earlier – to worse teams.

Still, Larry Fitzgerald will improve whichever team that selects him, even if it takes that team some time to develop into a contender. It's probably a toss-up as to who is the best receiver out there with the quality in this draft, but I'm going with Fitzgerald.

Jackson, Gallery are immediate impact players
The best running back on the board is Steven Jackson of Oregon State. He is physical and he has speed, and he's not just a tackle-to-tackle runner. Because he is a strong runner already, Jackson shouldn't struggle to adjust to the NFL game.

Whoever gets Jackson should improve a bunch in a hurry.

The same might be said for the New York Giants if they can get their hands on Robert Gallery, the tackle from Iowa. They have been looking for a stud offensive lineman to lead them for a long time – even in their Super Bowl year three seasons ago. He would be a huge addition for them.

The perennial draft question: Can some great college players thrive in the pros?
Maurice Clarett will be a name to watch. I don't think he is a guarantee to succeed in the NFL. He must overcome a lot of obstacles. He needs to prove he can stay healthy. He has to demonstrate he can handle all the questions about his state of mind and about his court challenge of the draft-eligibility rule. Picking him early would be a huge risk.

This is a strong draft. We won't really know how strong until guys like Clarett and the third-, fourth- and fifth-round selections get out there and show what they can do at the NFL level. Will a guy like Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma turn out to be great in the pros like he was in college? Players like him can go a long way toward improving this draft's depth and quality.

But this draft will be about the big three.

Send Yahoo! Sports analyst Craig James a question or comment for potential use in a future column.


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Updated on Tuesday, Apr 20, 2004 12:04 pm, EDT

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