Riding Off Into The Sunset, The 2004 QB Class


The 2004 quarterback draft class may go down in history as one of the most successful QB draft classes of all time. With three elite quarterbacks all declaring for the 04’ NFL draft. Eli Manning was drafted first overall to the San Diego Chargers, yes you read that correctly the San Diego Chargers. Then Phillip Rivers was selected fourth overall to the New York Giants, no this is not a joke. Finally Ben Roethlisberger was then selected eleventh overall by the Steelers. All three of these likely future Hall Of Fame quarterbacks have had long successful and illustrious careers, but unfortunately they are reaching or possibly have already reached the end of their days of being dominant game changing quarterbacks. That isn’t too say they don’t each still have something left in the tank, but honestly their best days are likely behind them.

Before we carry on, let’s address this Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers Bizarro World scenario for our younger readers out there. Regarded as one of the most memorable trades in NFL history it took place nearly 14 years ago, when the Chargers dealt Eli Manning, the first overall pick in the draft to the Giants for Philip Rivers and three draft picks. It changed the landscape of the NFL for years to come, and the effects of that deal are still being felt today. The reasoning behind the trade was Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers, and threatened to sit out the entire season. Seeing no other options, the team granted Manning his wish, dealing him to New York shortly after making him the top pick.

The writing appears to be on the wall for these three elite signal callers when currently all three of their teams list quarterback as one of their top draft needs. I would anticipate by the beginning of the 2019 season that at least two out of theses three, possibly all three of them may no longer be starting for their current teams. Realistically more than one of them may be placed in a mentoring role for this upcoming season. It’s highly unlikely any of them are replaced this season as starters but this very well could be the last season that all three members of the top of the 2004 QB draft class are in the league together.

Eli Manning - Let’s take a look first at the incredible career of Eli Manning. The first thing that stands out for Eli Manning are his two Super Bowl wins over the New England Patriots, say what you want about him he is a two time Super Bowl champion. From the eye test alone it appears that Eli is going downhill quickly, hence Giants fans screaming for them to draft a potential franchise quarterback with the second overall pick in this years draft. But the numbers say otherwise, as the table displays manning has been model of consistency. The Giants have been surrounding him with offensive weapons like OBJ, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and what’s left of Brandon Marshall, which will account for his late career statistical consistency. Manning will play this season as a 37 year old and is due to make over 23 million in 2019 and is becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020. So in my personal opinion the Giants will draft one of the big three quarterbacks and this will be Eli’s last season as the Giants starter.

Eli Mannings Career Stats

Phillip Rivers - It seems only fitting to move onto Phillip Rivers next as him and Eli have a career long connection due to the blockbuster trade. Rivers is nearly a full year younger than Eli is and as the Giants are doing the Chargers have been surrounding Rivers with an array of offensive weapons over the past few seasons. Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry, have all been added over the past few drafts, and will assist in Rivers avoiding a sharp and steep late career decline. Rivers has a nearly identical contract situation as Manning does with a nearly 23 million dollar cap hit in 2019 which is unacceptable unless he plays light out this year, and becoming a UFA after the conclusion of the 19’ season. I would love to see the Chargers draft Lamar Jackson and allow him to develop behind Rivers this year, handing him the reins next season. As the following graph displays Rivers has been extremely consistent similarly to Manning and Roethlisberger have been over the past several years,  Rivers has shown very little statistical decline as you can see.

Phillip Rivers Career Stats

Ben Roethlisberger - Lastly but certainly not least is Ben Roethlisberger, who was selected shortly after Manning and Rivers but very well could turn out to be regarded as the best of the bunch. Roethlisberger who like Eli also has two Super Bown rings and is the youngest of the group but has publicly contemplated retirement on more than one occasion. Ben has taken considerably more punishment over his career than Eli, and Rivers has. He has been sacked 97 more times than Rivers and 118 more time than Manning has over the course of their careers. Keep in mind that doesn't include all of the times a sack wasn’t registered but Roethlisberger finished the play flat on his back. Roethlisberger has only managed to play all 16 games three times in his career and is always playing hurt it seems. Like him or hate him the guy is a warrior, and has played through some unbelievably painful injuries over the years. There hasn’t been a significant statistical decline for Roethlisberger either as the following table displays. With the NFL’s best receiver Antonio Brown also not getting any younger and the ongoing uncertainty that is Lev Bells contract who knows what this offense may look like a year from now. Ben is also due over 23 million in 2019 becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020, so barring a huge season that cap hit may be a tough pill to swallow for the Pittsburgh management team.

Ben Roethlisberger Career Stats

I personally consider it an honor to have been able to watch these phenomenal quarterbacks, over the course of the past decade as they developed into likely Hall Of Famers. Then when you factor in how incredible Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers have been it’s been an unbelievable ten to fifteen year run for the quarterback position. As fans, and fantasy players we have been spoiled for a long time, so it’s easy to critique and criticize the younger generation of QB’s for what can only be described as developmental growing pains. I hope that all three of the 2004 draft class quarterbacks are inducted into the Hall Of Fame in the same year, that just seems appropriate considering the similar career trajectories they all shared. Best of luck to the trio of them in 2018 and hopefully beyond.