1. First round, 16th overall: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
I would venture to say that most people figured when the Bills traded down in the first round of the drat, they were doing so in order to position themselves to take former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who has obvious connections to new head coach Doug Marrone. But, that clearly wasn’t the case, and the Bills took a guy who believed all along he was a first round pick. The Bills made E.J. Manuel the first quarterback selected, and I’m intrigued by the move, to say the least.
When I evaluated Manuel, I saw a guy who makes good decisions, who has excellent athletic ability, and who can provide an NFL team with a solid leader. To be honest with you, I saw what I thought to be a solid first round pick. Still, Manuel is a bit raw in his game. He needs work as an overall pocket passer, but the way the league is moving, you need more of a playmaker at the QB position who can be a pocket passer but also be versatile enough to make plays with his legs. I think Manuel can be that guy.
The Bills are in no hurry to get Manuel on the field as of now. On paper, their QB situation is fixed for the next couple of years with Kevin Kolb in the fold. I think Kolb can be a capable starter for this team, but the moment he struggles, I think the fans and coaches are going to want to see what Manuel can do.
Make no two ways about it, Manuel is the future of this franchise. The Bills made this year’s quarterback class their baby, and the winner of the derby for them was Manuel. This is a guy who has as high a ceiling as any prospect in the draft. He only has two years of starting experience, so the Bills should bring him along slowly. This guy can be a star in the NFL if the timing is right.