on April 26, 2013 - 12:40 AM
, updated April 26, 2013 at 7:44 AM
The Buffalo Bills picked a quarterback Thursday night with the elite size and physical ability to develop into a great player.
Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, a 6-foot-5, 237-pounder, was taken by the Bills with the 16th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Buffalo traded down eight spots from the eighth overall pick and in return got extra second- and seventh-round picks. The Bills now have the 41st, 46th and 78th picks tonight, when the second- and third rounds are held.
Manuel is the quarterback in the draft with the best ability to be a passing and running threat in the mold of budding NFL stars Robert Griffin III of Washington and Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco.
However, Manuel is far from the kind of polished product Griffin was when he entered the league last season.
“We feel good about the upside,” Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said.
“He can throw the football vertically down the field,” said Bills coach Doug Marrone. “He has a good arm. He can get himself out of trouble. He can create things with his feet. He has good presence in the huddle, he’s accurate and we’re excited to have him.”
Nix said Manuel’s strong arm was a quality he viewed as especially important in Buffalo.
“I’ve said this before, I think you need to be able to play in the wind and the cold,” Nix said. “He’s got huge hands, and he’s really strong. As far as arm strength, he might depend on that a little too much. He may need some refining as far as some touch. But as far as arm strength, there’s no question. He is a huge man.”
Manuel was a two-year full-time starter for Florida State but filled in his first two seasons for Christian Ponder, now with the Minnesota Vikings.
Manuel compiled a 25-6 record over four seasons while completing 67 percent of his passes. He also quarterbacked the Seminoles to four straight bowl wins.
“I’m just so excited, man,” Manuel said by phone from New York City. “I’m so proud to be a Buffalo Bill. I’m just proud of my family, all the people, my teammates at Florida State, my coaches who helped me get to this point. I’m just extremely proud and happy right now.”
In picking Manuel, the Bills passed over Syracuse University’s Ryan Nassib, who many had connected to Buffalo because Marrone came from Syracuse.
Nassib knows the Buffalo offense and arguably showed a little more poise under pressure in the pocket than Manuel.
However, Manuel clearly has superior athleticism to Nassib and a “higher ceiling,” as NFL scouts like to say. Manuel was the second fastest quarterback in the draft, running the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, and he had the best vertical jump, at 34 inches.
He has the size to stand tall and shrug off pass rushers in the pocket. He has the quickness and mobility to elude the rush and buy time.
Asked what excited him most about coming to Buffalo, Manuel talked about Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
“The system that Coach Hackett was teaching me when I went up to Buffalo and met with him – that’s probably what intrigued me the most,” Manuel said. “I actually called my agent as soon as I finished with him and said, ‘Man, I hope Buffalo takes me because I feel like I can fit into the system perfectly.’
“I just think the fact it’s a progression offense, but at the same time it’s a quick-pace offense, and it’s something that a lot of teams haven’t seen in the league,” Manuel said. “I know Coach Hackett is a very smart, intelligent coach, and he’s very innovative, so I know he’s going to have a lot of creative things coming up.”
The Bills also like Manuel’s intangibles. He carried a 3.3 grade-point average and graduated with a degree in communications in December 2011. He’s about halfway toward a master’s degree in international relations.
The questions on Manuel concern his performance against top competition and his ability to deal with pressure in the pocket.
In seven starts against top 25 teams, Manuel was 3-4 with six touchdowns and nine interceptions.
He looked especially bad late last season against fifth-ranked Florida, completing 52 percent of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions. Florida had the fifth-ranked defense in the country. Conversely, he was awesome against 11th-ranked Clemson, hitting 27 of 35 passes for 380 yards and two TDs.
Manuel usually relied on reading half the field, not scanning the full field. He needs to prove he can develop the anticipation needed to be consistently accurate in the NFL.
“We spent a lot of time with all these guys, brought 'em in here and talked protection and routes and reads,” Nix said. “I talked to his head coach. I talked to his quarterback coach, his coordinator. This guy was further along than most of them as far as knowledge of the game.”
The Bills do not need to rush Manual into the starting lineup right away with Kevin Kolb in the fold. ...