Peyton Manning is finally No. 1.
Randy Moss, however, fell all the way to No. 21, when the Vikings decided his talent was worth the risk.Manning, who entered Tennessee four years ago with hopes of winning a Heisman Trophy and a national championship, did neither in college. But he was chosen first in the NFL draft on Saturday, picked by the Indianapolis Colts in a close call over fellow quarterback Ryan Leaf.
"I realize the pressure," said Manning, whose father, Archie, was taken No. 2 overall in 1971 and spent 12 of his 14 NFL season on a losing team in New Orleans. "But I think it's exciting to be a part of going in and trying to make a turnaround."
Manning would have been first last year, had he come out then.
The rest of the top four went as expected: Leaf was chosen second by San Diego; Florida State defensive end Andre Wadsworth, third by Arizona; and cornerback Charles Woodson, the Heisman winner, fourth by Oakland.
Moss, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver with a history of trouble off the field, originally was expected to go in the top five. Instead, he slid down to 21st, past New Orleans at 7 and Dallas at 8 until he was chosen by Minnesota.
Moss, who played two seasons at Marshall after going through Notre Dame and Florida State got off to a dubious professional start Saturday: He failed to show up for a scheduled news conference in West Virginia.
Still, the Vikings expect him to mature under coach Dennis Green and fellow wide receiver Cris Carter, a team leader.
"This is a young man who is a great player who made some mistakes," Green said of Moss. "We think his life is ahead of him. The glass is full."
The biggest suspense of the day was the choice of Manning or Leaf, although the Colts had indicated they were leaning to Manning. Expected trades failed to materialize, perhaps because the asking price was too high after San Diego gave two No. 1's, a No. 2 and two players to move up one spot for Leaf.
"Both players are good players, as I've said repeatedly. Because of his experience and maturity level in the game of football, Peyton fit best for us," said Bill Polian, the team's new president.
That left San Diego to take Leaf, who left college after his junior season and was considered by some teams the better long-term prospect. There were indications that he wanted San Diego, and San Diego general manager Bobby Beathard wanted him.
It was just the third time that quarterbacks have gone 1-2 in the draft. The last time was 1993, when Drew Bledsoe went first to New England, followed by Rick Mirer to Seattle.
The previous time was in 1971 when Archie Manning was chosen by the Saints with their second pick, after New England drafted Jim Plunkett. Houston then took Dan Pastorini with the third pick.
Even Polian conceded this year's choice was close. The deciding factor may have been Jim Mora, the Colts' new coach, who coached in New Orleans for a decade, knows Archie Manning and had Peyton work out with the Saints.
"If you put a grade point average on these players with 8 being the tops, you're talking about a 7.3 and a 7.4 on a scale of 8," Polian said. How do you choose between those two?"
Beathard eagerly snapped up the 6-foot-5, 254-pound Leaf - he likes big quarterbacks and had taken Jay Schroeder, Mark Rypien and Stan Humphries in Washington. Leaf will replace Humphries, the Chargers' starter the past five years who is retiring because of concussions.
"I don't know that this is a surprise to anyone," Beathard said. "Bill Polian said he was going to keep it a secret. We stand by what we said at the beginning, that we'd be excited with either one. We're thrilled to get Ryan, and we're ready to get going."
Leaf, who has relatives in the San Diego area, clearly was happy.
"I would have been fine going to play for Indianapolis, but I really wanted to play for the Chargers," he said. "Sure enough, Indianapolis came through and picked Peyton, and I was able to come to the city I wanted to, the city that has supported me so well the past month already. I'm really anxious to see what goes on."
Arizona, which had traded down one pick with San Diego for two No. 1's, a No. 2 and two players, took Wadsworth, considered the best pure player in the draft, and Oakland took Woodson to help a secondary that started two 36-year-olds at the corners last season.
After the Raiders took Woodson, the Chicago Bears, who wanted to trade down, took Curtis Enis, the Penn State running back.