Margin of heir
Time to draft a potential replacement for Brady, Manning, Brees and others?
Every Friday, Mel Kiper writes about the NFL through the prism of the NFL draft.
The 2004 Green Bay Packers were a pretty good football team. They went 10-6 and Brett Favre, who turned 35 that season the day before a Week 5 loss to Tennessee, still appeared to have a lot left in the tank. He threw for 4,088 yards, 30 touchdowns and -- as was always the case -- started every game. Like any 10-6 team that loses a wild-card game, the natural assumption approaching the offseason for many fans is that with a couple tweaks, the team could be ready to contend for a title. If the team could shore up the defense, which was 23rd in the league in points allowed, and maintain offensive momentum (the offense was fifth in points scored), 2005 held some promise.
But on draft day Green Bay's new general manager, Ted Thompson, passed on addressing any defensive concerns in Round 1 once Aaron Rodgers fell to the Packers with the 24th pick. Thompson did land some defensive help later, drafting Nick Collins and Brady Poppinga, but the value of Rodgers was deemed too much to pass up.
In 2005, the Packers went 4-12.
After that season, Thompson fired Mike Sherman and hired Mike McCarthy, and while Rodgers started exactly zero games in his first three seasons, then went 6-10 in his first year as a starter ... well, you get the idea. The bottom line is that at some point, teams must consider who the heir will be to a star quarterback (or even a merely decent one). So with a lot of talk that both the Patriots and Colts could draft a quarterback as early as Round 1, let's take a look at the places around the league where this mindset could come into play, and what the urgency should be on a 1 to 10 scale.
The same age as Favre was when the Packers drafted Rodgers, Manning is entering his 14th season having never missed a game. And while he had his lowest QB rating since 2002, don't point your fingers at Manning. His wide receiving corps was decimated by injuries, the offensive line play was leaky and the Colts couldn't run the ball. There's been talk that Indy could draft Andy Dalton or Jake Locker late in Round 1, but there shouldn't be panic. That said, Manning's greatness is such that his absence would devastate the win-loss ratio. I would address a bigger immediate need in Round 1, but it would no longer shock me to see the Colts consider an heir if they think there's a guy who has the talent, and the patience, to develop for at least a few years.
Urgency level (1-10): 5
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