Many quarterbacks have come and gone since Jim Kelly’s departure from the Buffalo Bills without living up to their believed potential. That’s what made the NFL draft this year so exciting for Bills fans.
The Bills had the eighth overall pick going into the draft, and many wondered if the Bills would go after a quarterback. With the Bills in dire need of a franchise quarterback, many analysts and fans thought the team would select Geno Smith from the University of West Virginia, the No. 1 rated quarterback of this year’s draft class. Others thought the Bills would select Ryan Nassib, quarterback from Syracuse Universtiy who has strong ties to new head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
But the Bills surprised everyone when they traded back to the 16th pick and selected EJ Manuel, quarterback from Florida State University.
Manuel is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, and known for his strong throwing arm. Manuel is not polished enough to be an NFL starting quarterback, but he may have the biggest upside of any QB selected this year: He’s a very good runner with the football. Many comparisons have been made between Manuel and NFL stars Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick, all known for their stellar ability to run the ball.
The Bills hopefully have selected their next franchise quarterback in Manuel, who has strong ties to Bills’ great Bruce Smith. They come from the same hometown in Virginia, and Smith has been a mentor to Manuel.
Manuel seems excited to come to Buffalo and work with the Bills. He appears to be intelligent on and off the field. He received All-ACC academic honors and has even begun taking master’s level courses at FSU as a fifth-year senior. Manuel respects coaches and teachers, and is a very humble player as evidenced by his presence during interviews with the media.
Another position where the Bills need help is at wide receiver. The Bills hope they have found that player in Robert Woods, their second-round pick from the University of Southern California. Also at receiver, the Bills chose Marquise Goodwin from the University of Texas in the third round.
The Bills also picked up ex-Tennessee Volunteer Da’Rick Rogers as a rookie free agent. He has had off-the-field issues but has the potential to become a tremendous talent.
The Bills seem to be geared up for speed next season with their draft additions to go along with running back C.J. Spiller. But the main question is: Can Manuel perform as an NFL quarterback? Can he lead the Bills to the promised land?
Wesley Watson is a sophomore at Lancaster High School.