Where Will Peyton Manning's Replacement Come From?
Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play at either the college or pro level. He has two Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl win, four MVPs, five All-Pro selections and 11 Pro Bowl selections to prove it.
But even the great Manning can only play for so long. He's already 35 years old and has shown signs of dropping off in the last couple of years.
Don't get me wrong, I still think Manning can play at a high level for a few more years, but with the quarterbacks available in the 2012 draft class, now might be the best time to draft his successor.
Drafted players will be cheap this year, and the Colts could get a first round quality player late in the second or a high first round quality player late in the first. Either way, I expect them to draft a quarterback early in the 2012 draft.
So who will it be? Here are five possibilities:
1. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
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The Good: Landry Jones is just about as talented as they come. He took over for an injured Sam Bradford in 2009, managing to still lead his team to an 8-5 record, including a win in the Sun Bowl. He put up a pedestrian 3,198 yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in a spread system.
Last year, his team was 12-2, and he threw for 4,718 yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with 65.6 percent accuracy. That's a big improvement, and now Oklahoma is the top ranked team in the country.
The Bad: Chances are that Jones will be drafted early in the first round. If the Colts have a worse year than expected, they could get him in the first without moving, but more likely than not, they'd have to trade up to get him.
Either way, they'd have to sacrifice a first-round pick for a player who won't start until Manning decides to retire. That may not be something Irsay is willing to do.
The Ugly: He is a spread quarterback. Historically, quarterbacks that play in a spread offense do not have an easy transition into the NFL. Still, Jones may be one of the exceptions, and if he'll learn under Manning for a few seasons, I have no doubt that he'd succeed.
Ryan Lindley, San Diego State
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The Good: Ryan Lindley is a four year starter, like Manning, and has the perfect size to be an NFL quarterback, standing 6'4" tall and weighing in at 215 lbs.
He's also rated as the fourth-best quarterback prospect by nfldraftscout.com, but would be available at the bottom of the first round (or maybe even the second), where the Colts will likely be picking.
Last year, he threw for 3,830 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
The Bad: He plays at a small school to small school competition. Stepping up to NFL level competition might be too much for him, even if he learns under Manning for two or three years.
The Ugly: A completion percentage of less than 58 percent—and that's playing against Mountain West teams.
Lindley is a little raw as a passer and needs better accuracy. He'd be a project.
3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
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The Good: Tannehill is a converted wide receiver, but has done an outstanding job at quarterback for Texas A&M. Last year, he only played (as a quarterback) in seven games, but A&M won six of them.
In that seven game stretch, Tannehill completed 152 of 234 passes for 1,638 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. That's very promising for a first time quarterback.
The Bad: Tannehill has only started seven games. Until the 2011 season ends, there's no way to know how good or bad he really is. Even then, he's only a one year starter who had the benefit of a great running back and wide receiver duo to make him look better. We just don't know.
The Ugly: Like Landry Jones, Tannehill operates a spread offense. Spread quarterbacks don't do well in the NFL, so drafting Tannehill would be a risk. However, also like Jones, Tannehill would have the benefit of learning under one of the greatest quarterbacks of the modern era working in his favor.
4. Dan Persa, Northwestern
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The Good: I'll be the first to admit I'm a little higher on Persa than others, but even looking at the situation objectively, he's a great quarterback. Last season, he completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 2,581 yards, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
The number of yards and number of touchdowns may not be that impressive, but you've got to love how accurate he is. Add to that the fact that the Colts could probably get him late on day two, and he looks like an attractive option.
The Bad: Persa went down with a season ending injury against Iowa. Any time that a player gets a season ending injury, it's a concern. If he plays as well as he did last year in 2011, expect those concerns to take a back seat.
The Ugly: His height. Persa is a far less than ideal 6'1" tall. While there are shorter quarterbacks in the league (Brees and Vick are each 6'0" even), there aren't many.
Still, being only one or two inches undersized is not an enormous drawback, but it is one that can't be coached up or changed.
5. Kellen Moore, Boise State
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The Good: I'll just put up his stats, as they speak for themselves. 38-2 record as a starter, 10,867 yards, 99 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions. He also completed 71.3 percent of his passes last year.
He'll also be on the board for a long time, so the Colts could use all their high picks on other needs.
The Bad: His height. He's only 6'0" even, and while I said that there are other quarterbacks that short, Moore is still a very long shot. He also weighs 186 lbs. soaking wet, which is another issue.
The Ugly: Did I mention his height? I did? OK; just making sure.
He also plays in the WAC, and though Boise has played its share of tough opponents, those games are few and far between. Great numbers might be easy enough to put up when your most dangerous division rivals are Hawaii and Nevada.