Draft Series: Quarterback

It's an argument that won't end until draft day.<br><br> One side points to the last three Super Bowls and the fact the highest round a starting quarterback was drafted was the fourth.<br><br> The other side calls it coincidental, and says winning teams must have a difference-maker at the position. There are many from Pittsburgh on this side these days.

The Pittsburgh papers are full of stories about the Steelers' pending choice of a quarterback in the first round. The draftniks think so, too. The consensus seems to be the Steelers will pick Phillip Rivers with the 11th pick of the draft.

The unanimous choice as 2003 ACC Player of the Year, Rivers was a four-year starter at North Carolina State and piled up mind-boggling statistics. He was also named MVP of three of his team's bowl games.

There is a hitch in his giddy-up, or at least his delivery. It's three-quarters. He's been compared to former Cleveland quarterback Bernie Kosar because of an almost side-arm throwing motion. Rivers, 6-5, 229, actually has a stronger arm than Kosar, who was a No. 1 pick in the 1985 supplemental draft.

Legend has it that Kosar, on the last play of a game in 1993, changed the call from then-coach Bill Belichick. Some say Kosar drew it up in the dirt, and it went for a touchdown. Kosar was released within hours.

Rivers may not be as rebellious but he has the moxie. He called most of N.C. State's plays during its waxing of Kansas in the Tangerine Bowl and finished with 475 yards passing and 5 touchdowns.

Rivers didn't just clean up on the sister of the poor. Against three of the best college defenses in the nation last season - Florida State, Ohio State and Maryland - he completed 70 percent of his passes and led the Wolfpack to 106 points. Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert is said to be enamored of Rivers. So are a few others.

"People think I'm crazy, but I think he could be like (Dan) Marino," Tony Softli, the Carolina Panthers' director of college scouting, said a few months ago. "He's got a totally different-looking release, but it's just as quick."

Former Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey agreed.

"With his mannerisms, he reminds me of Marino standing in the pocket," said Gailey, who also coordinated for the Miami Dolphins. "He's got that wide stance and always has the ball cocked or semi-cocked, ready to throw. He can whip it out there to anybody and everybody on the field. He sees somebody open and the ball is gone, right now."

A little Marino, a little Kosar. Anyone else?

"His mind is ridiculous for seeing the field," one personnel man told ESPN.com. "It's a (Joe) Montana kind of thing."


Starter Tommy Maddox will be 33 on opening day and is under contract through the 2006 season. However, his agent is beginning to make noise about re-doing the contract and the possibility of a holdout exists. Back-up Charlie Batch is 29 and entering the final year of his contract. He's a favorite of the front office. Brian St. Pierre, last year's fifth-round pick, enters his second year with one solid preseason performance and two poor ones under his belt.

First round - Rivers, for the reasons mentioned above. The possibility also exists that Ben Roethlisberger, who's generally considered the second-ranked prospect behind Eli Manning, could fall to the 11th pick. Roethlisberger is bigger, faster and has a better arm than Rivers, but isn't nearly as experienced or instinctive.

Fourth round - Josh Harris (6-1 ½, 238) of Bowling Green is the son of former Cincinnati Bengals player M.L. Harris. He's not as polished as other mid-round contenders such as Matt Schaub, but certainly has better long-range potential than St. Pierre because of his tools and work ethic.

Free agent - Scott McBrien (6-0 ¼, 188) of Maryland won 21 games in two years, more than any other at a school with an outstanding tradition of quarterbacks. A former roommate of Marc Bulger's at West Virginia, the crafty left-hander has a strong arm, good mobility and excellent character.

Boise State's Ryan Dinwiddie was once charged with driving under the influence of GHB, or the "date-rape drug." … Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen flirted with 300 pounds last season. … J.P. Losman of Tulane has been compared to Jeff George. … Matt Mauck of LSU will bring the dreaded ex-Cub factor to some team. He'll also be a 25-year-old rookie because of his flirtation with baseball. … Kansas State's Ell Roberson was accused of sexual assault while preparing for this past Fiesta Bowl. No charges were filed, but the detailed police report won't help his chances. … Jeff Smoker of Michigan State admitted to problems with substance abuse.

A scout with the Steelers once said of Pitt's Rod Rutherford, "I'd love to see if he can play linebacker." A position switch might be in order for the Pittsburgh native. Pro Football Weekly calls him "a poor man's Kordell Stewart." Ouch.

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