EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. This NFL offseason he’ll dig into his scouting reports and discover what NFL talent evaluators were saying about players coming out of college. First up is recently retired quarterback Philip Rivers. Here are some of the comments on Rivers from 14 talent evaluators leading up to his 2004 NFL draft:
General manager: Don’t think he can throw the deep ball.
Offensive coordinator: His Senior Bowl was one of the great performances of all time. Phenomenal. His delivery is funky but he can get rid of the ball. Sidearm.
Offensive coordinator II: Special. Makes things happen. Has Brady-like characteristics. Unorthodox delivery but I don’t see it bothering him in games. Outstanding production. Been the MVP in every bowl game he’s ever played.
Personnel director: Those three guys (Eli Manning, Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger) are all Top 15 talents.
Offensive coordinator III: Has a magical personality. Like a coach on the field. Natural leader. Peyton Manning has it. Can look a stranger in the eye. It won’t get too big for him.
General manager II: A Bernie Kosar delivery. I put stock in the guys who perform in bowls. He’s not going to fail. How many quarterbacks can you say that about? Roethlisberger?
Offensive coordinator iV: Under 15 yards his accuracy is Manning-esque, 18-20 yards acceptable but some of his deep balls died. May be the most charismatic kid to come out in the last 10 years. The only question is his flat-out arm strength.
Personnel director II: Everyone talks more about his intangibles than his tangibles. How much better can he be? How much will he improve from where he’s at now?
General manager III: Peyton Manning intangibles. That’s what coaches love. If 50 percent of the position is intangibles, he’s already an A+. The only knock on him is his delivery.
Head coach: My #2 (quarterback). I think he’s going to be a phenom.
Head coach II: Our #2.
Offensive coordinator: My #2.
Personnel director III: My #2.
Scout: My #2.
Scout II: My #4.
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: River started all of his four seasons at North Carolina State, setting an NCAA record for the quarterback position with 51 career starts and posting a 34-17 record. He won the NCAA passing title as a senior in 2003 and left college as the NCAA’s second all-time leading passer in yards (13,484) and sixth in TD passes (95). He completed 72 percent of his passes in his senior season. In his four bowl games alone he was 110-of-161 passing for 1,202 yards, 10 touchdowns and was chosen the game MVP in three of them. Rivers collected a fourth bowl MVP honor at the Senior Bowl. He also was selected as the Alabama state Player of the Year at Athens High School in 1999. He measured 6-5, 229 pounds at the NFL combine. Gosselin rated Rivers as the third best quarterback in the 2000 draft (behind Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger) and the No. 12 player on his Top 100 board. The New York Giants selected Rivers with the fourth overall pick and then traded him to the San Diego Chargers for Manning. San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer coached Rivers at the Senior Bowl and that weighed heavily in the draft-day maneuvering by the Chargers.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Rivers sat his first two seasons at San Diego behind Drew Brees. The Chargers then let Brees leave in free agency in 2006 and turned the job over to Rivers. He promptly quarterbacked the Chargers to a franchise-record 14 victories that season. He would start 14 years for the Chargers, posting a 123-101 record, before signing as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts for one final season in 2020. He took the Chargers to the playoffs six times and the Colts once. He won an NFL passing title in 2008 and was voted to eight Pro Bowls. He did take the Chargers to one AFC title game but never reached a Super Bowl. And that’s the only check mark missing from his NFL resume. He retired as the fifth all-time leader in both passing yards (63,440) and touchdowns (421) behind only Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre. Rivers had his jersey No. 17 retired by North Carolina State and was named to the Chargers’ 50th anniversary team. Funky delivery and all.