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Giants went all-in on Eli Manning in 2004 despite heavy cost

Breaking down one of the riskiest draft moves (pick or trading picks, trading back, etc.) by the New York Giants over the past 25 years:

Round/overall selection: First, 4th

Did the risk pay off: Without question. At the time, dealing the No. 4 overall pick, that year's third-rounder and a first-rounder and a fifth-rounder the following year to get Eli Manning, who was taken No. 1 overall by San Diego, felt like an awful lot. And there have been times during Manning's career when there's been some legitimate question about whether he was even better than Philip Rivers, the quarterback the Giants took at No. 4 as a condition of the deal with the Chargers. But no Giants decision-maker, fan, coach or teammate can dispute the decision to bet it all on Manning, who has started every single game for them at quarterback since midway through his 2004 rookie season and helped deliver two Super Bowl titles along the way. The Giants saw an opportunity to secure a player they believed would be a true franchise quarterback -- reliable as a performer on and off the field in their tough, demanding market. Manning has delivered on multiple levels, and last offseason, they signed him to yet another contract extension that should keep him with the team at least through 2018. If you'd laid out, on draft day 2004, Manning's exact career as it has unfolded, the Giants wouldn't have hesitated to make the move. Heck, they might have offered more.

Was there a safer move: Rivers, obviously, is a very good player and likely would have been a fine pick at No. 4. But the story goes that the Giants' second choice was Ben Roethlisberger, who ended up going to the Steelers at No. 11 overall. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings as well, and the case can be made that he has been a better player than Manning. But he hasn't been as durable, and the early part of his career included some ugly off-field issues the likes of which Manning has never had. Part of what the Giants liked about Manning was their belief that he'd never cause them off-field headaches, and he has not.