Mario Manningham: Round Three (Pick 95), 2008
Manningham’s story is unlike most of the players you'll find on this type of list; he wasn’t an unknown commodity and he didn't come from a small school. On the contrary, he was a well-known and popular player from one of the biggest football schools in the country. "Super Mario" decided to forgo his senior season at Michigan, but still managed to rank in the top ten in terms of receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in school history. He was considered by most to be a first round prospect.
But then a series of red flags scared most teams away. Aside from some boneheaded antics on the field (do yourself a favor and watch this six second video), Manningham scored a dreadful Wonderlic score (six out of 50) and a surprisingly slow 40-yard dash at the combine (4.59). It is also rumored that some teams removed him from their draft boards entirely because he tested positive for marijuana use. Manningham initially denied using the drug, but then sent a letter to all 32 teams admitting his lie. If every player who smoked weed and then denied it was taken off of every team's draft board, the NFL draft would never last past round four.
Like the Giants have often done, Reese took a gamble on what he knew was a fantastic talent with overblown character concerns, and won big. The talent and speed he’s shown on the field just go to show you why combine numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. The fourteenth receiver taken in the 2008 draft, Manningham has had ups and downs. Still, his character has never been in question, and he's never had a DeSean Jackson-like mental-breakdown on the field. He has had some problems with the playbook, but it hasn’t kept him from being a valuable asset to this team. Although he was often overshadowed by teammates Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and Victor Cruz, Manningham would have been the #2 receiver on most teams, and even the #1 on some. Thirteen receivers were taken before him, but
A good argument could be made that Manningham and Steve Smith should be flip-flopped on this list. Although Manningham was never as good as Smith’s best year, I gave him the edge because he was taken 44 picks later (in a different draft), and because their numbers per season are comparable...and maybe because that catch is still fresh in my mind. But ask me again in a week and I might change my mind (this isn’t exactly science).
Set to become a free agent, Manningham has almost surely played his final game in a Giants uniform. And even despite the occasional wrong route or miscommunication, his magical play in Super Bowl 46 has carved a special place in Giants lore, as well as in fans’ hearts, for the connection known as “Manning to Manningham.”