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saintz08 04-19-2004 12:01 PM

McCarthy picks Manning
Today: quarterbacks

Saints offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy did not hesitate when asked how he would spend the No. 1 pick of the 2004 NFL draft.

Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning or Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger?

"Eli is clearly the best player," McCarthy said. "I don't know how you pass up a guy like Eli. I think he's a franchise quarterback. Those guys are hard to come by. But both Eli and Ben have a chance to be Pro Bowl players."

Manning and Roethlisberger are the consensus top two quarterbacks in this year's draft but they are not the only highly touted ones.

Most analysts predict North Carolina State's Philip Rivers will be selected in the bottom half of the first round with Tulane's J.P. Losman possibly going late in the first round or early in the second round.

Of the four, Manning appears to be the most finished product and could handle the many demands placed on him as a rookie starter on and off the field.

That decision rests with the San Diego Chargers, who have the No. 1 overall pick. Oakland, Arizona, the New York Giants and Washington round out the top five.

In March, Chargers officials flew to the home turfs of Manning, Roethlisberger and Rivers for personal visits and workouts.

"If we feel there is a top quarterback with the first pick, that's the decision we'll make," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "We're looking for a quarterback and if there's somebody there we like, absolutely we'd make the pick."

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