The quarterback position was expected to be unpredictable in the 2013 draft, but if anyone saw E.J. Manuel as the lone quarterback taken after a trade down from the Bills, well, congratulations. Maybe that person has a future in palm reading.
It’s tough to process right now that a quarterback didn’t go until No. 16. And it was Manuel! The same quarterback that couldn’t beat out Christian Ponder at Florida State. The same quarterback that many draft analysts had rated as a third- or fourth-rounder until Mike Mayock surprisingly put him in his top five positional rankings.
The Bills obviously liked what they saw in Manuel, though. The question is: Would Manuel have been taken this high had Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick not excelled in 2012? Probably not.
Hopefully the Bills realize that it was those players who were special rather than the offense that they ran or the individual traits that they possess. The “mobile quarterback” was looked down upon for so many years because year after year it didn’t work out. Hey, there’s some mobile quarterbacks out there right now that haven’t done very well, like the aforementioned Ponder, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and this guy — you might have heard of him — Tim Tebow.
The problem with Manuel is that he’s still extremely raw, and the mental makeup doesn’t appear to be all there yet. That’s what made Wilson and Griffin so special last season. They weren’t the typical mobile passers in that they had elite accuracy, they had big arms and they had the smarts to run an NFL offense, even if certain aspects had to be simplified. Those were special players put in the right system.
Manuel has a bigger arm than Wilson, but he hasn’t shown the same accuracy and awareness. It would be wise to expect a lot of screen passes coming from Manuel’s arm in his first year in Buffalo, if he’s even given the opportunity to start.
This wasn’t a great quarterback class, but Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley would have been better picks, and they still could be coming out of the second round. The Bills needed a quarterback, that was certain, since Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb were ranked No. 1 and 2 on the depth chart coming into the draft, but they likely would have been better off waiting until the second round like every other team if their choice was going to be Manuel.
It’s not time to completely write off Manuel yet, but the best part of the day for the Bills was the extra pick they acquired after smokescreening the NFL in trading out of the No. 8 pick. They leaked to the media that Tavon Austin was the top player on their board, and then traded their pick to the Rams when Austin was still available.
It’s smart to take a quarterback in the first or second round, but once again, it depends on who that signal caller is. Manuel is a nice player, but he didn’t show anything in his two-plus years of starting to show that he was the best player in this class.