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Colts, Pats can be selective in finding heir apparents at QB

In the last month, the Colts have staged private workouts with quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton, and the Patriots spent one of their 30 allotted in-house visits with quarterback Jake Locker.

Safe to say, those players wouldn't qualify as "drafting for need" for the Colts or Patriots.

But would Indianapolis or New England really pull the trigger on one of the aforementioned triggermen and, implicitly, start the clock on the end of the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady eras?

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No, it's not likely. And it's most certainly worth mentioning that both the Patriots (with picks at 17, 28 and 33) and Colts (22) could be in prime position to prey on teams looking to leapfrog one another from the top of Round 2 to get Kaepernick, Dalton or Locker at the bottom of the first round.

But don't dismiss it out of hand.

Brett Favre was 35 years old when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers. Joe Montana was 30 when the 49ers traded for Steve Young. Donovan McNabb was 30 when the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb. Rodgers was a first-round pick, Kolb wasn't far off from being one (36th overall) and Young cost San Francisco second- and fourth-round picks.

In the end, those teams were rewarded for their aggression and moving early on an heir apparent rather than risking being too late.

I did some reporting on this very subject last summer when I was still with The Boston Globe. At that time, free of worrying about the annual draft espionage, several executives talked freely on the subject. This is the answer that consistently came back to me: It's never a bad idea to draft and develop a quarterback, almost regardless of the situation. Never.

"Andy (Reid) has always told us, 'If you have an opportunity to draft a quarterback, that's what you do,'" Eagles general manager Howie Roseman told me back then. "We're in the business of doing that, and it's paid off for us in the past. We developed A.J. Feeley. We took him in the fifth round, and then a couple years later, he's doing a great job in the preseason and has an opportunity to start a couple games, and we're able to turn around and get some good value for him."

The Eagles are again in a similar position. Having moved on from McNabb a year ago, their plan was to turn the first-team spot over to Kolb after his three-year apprenticeship. Everyone knows what happened from there -- Kolb got hurt, Michael Vick came in, and the rest is in the books.

Does that make the Kolb pick a failure? Hardly.

Kolb has started seven games for the Eagles, five of which came in meaningful games in the place of an injured starter. He threw for over 300 yards in three of those five games, and the Eagles went 3-2. So Philadelphia got quality depth and a safety net for McNabb, as well as the leeway to take a chance on a player like Vick.

And now? They can get a first-round pick for Kolb back in a trade.

Not bad business at all.

The best case scenario for the Eagles, of course, is if the situation turns out like it did for the 49ers with Young or the Packers with Rodgers. But the Philadelphia example shows that it makes sense -- particularly as a starting quarterback gets older and there's conviction in a certain prospect -- to find youth at the position, because it can pay off in a number of ways.

"We were blessed that Aaron fell to us at 24," said Seahawks GM John Schneider, who was the personnel analyst to Packers GM Ted Thompson when the organization drafted Rodgers. "He was clearly the highest-rated guy left for us. It was one of those things. We didn't go in saying we had to replace Brett with a young guy.

"Every year, we're looking for a young quarterback and we put our board together based on talent by position. And it just happened in that year, that it was Aaron. It could've been someone else in previous years -- J.P. Losman would've been a consideration the year before."

Green Bay has set the example in this regard in more ways than one.

Investing in quarterbacks behind Favre was a regular practice during his 16-year career in Green Bay, although drafting Rogers was slightly different given his status as a first-round pick. Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks were all drafted by ex-Packers GM Ron Wolf, developed by Mike Holmgren and then traded down the line for draft picks.

What having Brady and Manning does for the Patriots and Colts is allow them to be selective and patient over the next few years in looking for a successor. That's a critical advantage in a business where too often quarterbacks are taken because teams are rushed or pressured into finding someone to play the position.

The chances are that the Patriots and Colts do have it in mind that those early picks could be valuable chips to lure teams who lack patience, particularly if Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are the only quarterbacks off the board when the draft moves into the 20s.

But what if the Patriots, at picks 17 or 28, really believe Locker could be a star after learning from Brady? What if the Colts view Dalton at No. 22 as the perfect fit to succeed Manning?

The Patriots and Colts in that situation owe it to themselves to not only consider the possibility, but also strategically plan for life without a legend.

"You eventually have to groom a replacement. The question is, 'When is eventually?' " Polian said last summer. "As a player grows in stature, as Peyton has, you have to begin to think about when the time comes in the future when he won't be playing anymore.

"Then, the question becomes, 'Who?' -- and just when you can get him. And that drives it more than anything."

Is it unlikely that the time is now? Sure it is.

But it's certainly not impossible.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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