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Colts, Pats on different paths to find successor for star QB

The teams with the NFL's two best quarterbacks, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, have very different ideas on timing when it comes to lining up potential successors to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

For the Patriots, there apparently is no better time than the present, given their selection of Ryan Mallett in the third round of last week's draft.

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Whether the former Arkansas star actually becomes Brady's eventual replacement remains to be seen. There are plenty of skeptics who predict his slow feet and dubious off-field conduct will prevent it from happening, but at least the Patriots took a stab.

The Colts, meanwhile, chose to sit out the "Great Quarterback Rush of 2011," during which seven signal-callers were taken in the first three rounds (including four in the first).

Did either club make a mistake with what it did or didn't do?

Given the sterling reputation of the respective decision-makers for the two teams, the answer has to be an unequivocal no.

The Patriots did their usual stock-piling-of-picks routine, and ended up with nine choices in the draft. That gave them the leeway to use a selection on a quarterback.

And Mallett looks like he could be an exceptional third-round value. He might very well have the best arm of any quarterback in the draft. He is the son of a football coach, and has an exceptional understanding of the game. His off-the-field issues can't be overlooked, but they aren't likely to be a problem under the iron-fisted control of Bill Belichick and in a locker room with Brady and other veterans having zero tolerance for bad behavior by a newbie.

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Rather than select someone who could one day take over for Manning, the Colts invested three of the five picks they had in providing help for their four-time NFL Most Valuable Player. They used their first two choices on offensive linemen, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo and Villanova's Ben Ijalana, and a fourth-rounder on a running back, Syracuse's Delone Carter, who has the power to be a force in short-yardage situations.

Some Colts followers might be saying, "Yeah, but look at what the Patriots did." It's an understandable response. But Colts vice chairman Bill Polian -- who had a major hand in guiding a draft overseen by his son, GM Chris Polian -- has a strong enough track record for making player-personnel decisions that Indianapolis deserves the benefit of the doubt.

The same is true for those who wish to second-guess Belichick. If Mallett washes out, his selection will be deemed a mistake, but not a huge one. A failed third-round pick isn't exactly a crisis.

But there will come a time when Brady and Manning run out of magic. At that point, it will be fair to judge whether Belichick and Bill Polian demonstrated the right timing with regard to finding successors to the two best quarterbacks in the league.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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