Eli’s comin’

Apr 20, 2004 6:47 AM

The NFL Draft is not the Super Bowl, but Las Vegas is football starved and will treat Saturday’s festivities like an all you can eat buffet.

"We’ve gone 60 days without football so it’s a big deal here," said Tony Nevill, race and sports manager at New Frontier. "Our phone will be ringing to see who the Raiders picked. The process is like the birth of a baby. Every team is hoping to find a golden egg."

This year’s "egg" could be Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, slated to be selected first in the draft by the San Diego Chargers. Manning, brother of Peyton and son of Archie, has been wooed by the New York Giants who are scheduled to pick fourth.

"It’s hard to determine the impact of a draft right away," Nevill said. "A player like Manning could be a 2-3 year work in progress. Troy Aikman won one game when he came into the league with the Cowboys. He turned into a Hall of Fame player. I’m not sure we have that type of impact player in this draft."

Mike Seba, noted oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, said that new prices to win the 2005 Super Bowl will come out within 48 hours of the draft once the top picks are known. Defending Super Bowl champ New England is the current favorite at 5-1, followed by St. Louis at 6—1.

"Usually by Monday (April 26) we will update, but it shouldn’t be anything drastic," Seba said. "Personally, I think Manning will go to San Diego. It’s evident that Drew Brees is not the answer and how many times do you get the top pick in the draft?"

Of course the Chargers are still haunted by the Ryan Leaf debacle when they chose the former Washington State QB as the top pick several years ago. Maybe San Diego will decide among several outstanding receivers including Roy Williams (Texas), Mike Williams (USC), Larry Fitzgerald (Pitt) or Kellen Winslow (Miami), whose dad was a standout TE with the Chargers.

"I think Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio QB) is better than Manning, but most publications have him rated fourth behind Philip Rivers (N.C. State) and J.P. Losman (Tulane)," Seba said. "We’ll just have to see."

The top five teams in the opening round are San Diego, Oakland, Arizona, N.Y. Giants and Washington. There’s bound to be a few trades in the works, which could have more of an impact on future odds than the first round selections.