E.J. Manuel started 31 games over four seasons at Florida State—five, if you include a redshirt freshman season in which he was offensive MVP of the scout team. He graduated early and worked on a Master’s degree in international affairs as well as his game, culminating with another MVP performance—this time at the Senior Bowl, where he threw for one touchdown and ran for another to push his draft stock to the top of the quarterback class. There’s no questioning his size (6-4, 237 pounds) or athleticism, or that he has the arm to make all the necessary throws. Physically, Manuel has all the tools to be an elite NFL quarterback.
At this point, however, opinions begin to differ. Some scouts—and, obviously, some NFL teams—have concerns about the reads and checks (or lack thereof) Manuel was asked to make in college, as well as some of his decision-making in the pocket and under pressure. Other scouts—and, obviously, the Bills—were comfortable with his reads and decision-making and thought he handled pressure well.
The obvious comparison—and the one the Bills are likely hitching their first-round pick to—is Colin Kaepernick. Both quarterbacks are athletic and can throw, though Manuel isn’t as fast as the 49er nor is his arm quite as strong. But Manuel has the size, athleticism, and running ability to operate in the trendy read-option offense, and he has enough arm and accuracy to threaten defenses in the passing game as well. While he may benefit from a year of clipboard duty, Manuel may not have that luxury in Buffalo. He does have a coach in Doug Marrone who has demonstrated an ability to adapt his offense to his personnel, so it’s unlikely the Bills will ask Manuel to do things he’s not capable of. And while the Bills were the most aggressive of the bunch, there were plenty of scouts who saw favorable elements in Manuel’s game. If there’s a Kaepernick in this year’s draft, Manuel is the most likely candidate.