Prospect(s) of the Week: Eli Manning/Rex Grossman

This weeks edition of the "Prospect of the Week" concentrates on a pair of highly rated junior quarterbacks that go head-to-head this Saturday in Oxford as the Gators visit 'Ole Miss. The only thing hotter than the weather could well be this duel at quarterback.

Prospect(s) of the Week: Rex Grossman & Eli Manning

Since sharing time as the Florida starting signal caller in '00, Rex Grossman has shined displaying a terrific combination of brains to run the complicated offensive system implemented by Steve Spurrier and physical skills to make all the throws required in the scheme. A first team All American last season, Grossman was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and finished second in the Heisman balloting. Averaging an amazing 354-yards passing per game, he was still completing 65.6% of his throws, ranking first in the nation with a pass efficiency rating of 170.8 and leading a team that rarely had to come from behind. Numbers don't always tell the story but the level of competition faced by Grossman on a weekly basis did write the book and lighting up defensive secondaries the likes of South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida State, not to mention Mississippi State, was astounding.

On the other hand Eli Manning came to Oxford with many a trumpet blaring as his name alone made him a coveted commodity. After playing sparingly behind Romero Miller as a red-shirt sophomore, Manning set or tied 17 school passing records last season as a full-time starter, completing 63.5% of his throws with 31 touchdowns and only nine picks. Facing much of the same competition Grossman did in 2001, Manning did not have the luxury of quality and quantity in the ranks of the pass catchers, blockers or even ball carriers as did the Florida quarterback. The fact that he was handed the ball and anointed the man for the job made Manning's season even more impressive. So which one is a better pro-prospect? Upon closer inspection their likenesses are creepy.

Physically and mentally gifted, Grossman throws with solid techniques and shows tremendous poise in all aspects of his game. Buying as much time as necessary for his wide outs, he never panics under pressure, stepping up to avoid the rush and holding the ball until the last possible moment before getting the pass off, even if it means getting clobbered in the pocket. Grossman's timing, wherewithal and connection to his receivers is almost clairvoyant and he constantly knows where are on the field they will be. Two aspects of his game that really stand out are his downfield accuracy (compared by a few scouts to that of Kurt Warner) and the amazing ability to stay calm as the pocket around him collapses, at situation in which Grossman never rushes or shows bad judgment.

Likewise, Manning is an intelligent and instinctive quarterback that implements terrific fundamentals into his passing game. He patiently scans the field, going through his receiver progressions and not releasing the ball until he's found the open receiver. His timing and pass placement are outstanding as he leads receivers on crossing routes or puts the deep ball out in front of targets, letting them run to the throw. Manning spreads the ball around to all his receivers, making quality decisions and rarely forcing his throws into coverage as he takes what the defense gives him, passing the ball to the safe underneath routes.  Coupling his understanding of the game, command of the offense and minimal experience behind center in big time college football, Manning is a complete quarterback.

The arm strength of neither quarterback would be classified as "strong" but rather adequate, and though both can complete the long pass neither Manning or Grossman have the ability to drive the ball downfield with speed. However both understand the position and are mentally alert quarterbacks, which overrides any potential weakness in their throwing.

So who's the better prospect? Grossman has the experience of successfully playing in multiple offensive sets, leading his team every step of the way. Manning has the experience of being around top quarterbacks since he was born, something NFL scouts take into consideration.

Once again, who's the better NFL prospect? Well, to this point Eli Manning, though Grossman supporters justifiably have a valid argument. Whichever teams' select these signal callers in future drafts (which may not be as near as people think) the end result will be a quality passer that can lead a franchise to victory for close to a decade in the NFL.

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