At least according to Pro Football Focus, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is only the third-best quarterback taken in the 2004 NFL draft.
Manning, infamously taken by the San Diego Chargers before being traded to the Giants, has had a career that likely (and should) land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has a 75.0 average career grade from PFF, the analytics site having generated the number based on his game-by-game performance since his rookie year.
And yet despite being the top pick in that draft, PFF has him ranked third on their Average PFF Career Grade against the other quarterbacks in the 2004 draft class.
The Giants took Philip Rivers at No. 4 in that class, then dealt him to the Chargers along with some other pieces. Also taken in the first round that year was Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The site ranked Rivers (84.6), then Roethlisberger (84.2) ahead of Manning. Ironically, Manning and Roethlisberger have each won two Super Bowls while Rivers has yet to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Perhaps the Giants could have had more success if they held on to Rivers and the three draft picks they sent to San Diego as part of the deal (one of whom was outside linebacker Shawn Merriman, who had a brilliant start to his career before injuries and a performance enhancing drug suspension derailed his trajectory).
Still, the Giants gave up a lot to get a quarterback in Manning who PFF argues isn’t the best of the top three quarterbacks taken in that draft class.
It is a dangerous game to play, of course. The Giants’ two Super Bowl wins were in large part due to Manning, who though perceived as inferior to Rivers and Roethlisberger, has proven to be a big game quarterback and one who has performed well in the clutch.
Perhaps the Giants could have won more with Rivers, but even that is in doubt.
Of the three quarterbacks compared by PFF, Manning has the lowest completion percentage and the most interceptions, obvious arguments against his superiority. But he has the most passing yards and touchdowns of that group in the regular season, numbers that are hard to argue with.
And on an interesting note, Manning’s playoff average of 1.5 touchdowns per postseason game is the highest of Rivers and Roethlisberger. In addition, his 0.8 interceptions per game in the playoffs is the lowest of the group and his playoff quarterback rating and completion percentage are the highest.
All in all, perhaps not a bad trade for the Giants.