Why E.J. Manuel Was the Best Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft
The 2013 NFL draft has come and gone, and now, the "draft community" will go their separate ways. When we reconvene, we'll all be looking for the same thing—"The next E.J.Manuel."
Some analysts will dive right into 2014 prospects in order to track them through the college season. The rest will turn their attention towards NFL minicamps, OTAs and preseason, with an entire 2013 NFL season to follow.
It's the same dichotomy that differentiates an NFL college scouting department from a pro scouting department. All roads will eventually lead back to Mobile and Indianapolis, however, en route to pro days, training facility visits and private workouts through what has become known as "draft season."
The Bills want stability—in their personnel, in their front office, in their scheme and in their culture.
When new head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett came to Buffalo from Syracuse, one thing was certain. Every grimy fingerprint of former coach Chan Gailey was wiped off the screen and the entire hard drive of the organization was re-fragged.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and his $59 million rag arm were shipped off to Tennessee, and a horrible stable of below-average receiving weapons behind star WR Steve Johnson was purged.
Marrone brings with him to Buffalo a conceptual version of the West Coast offense which closely resembles the Bills' K-Gun offense installed in the early 1990s by then-OC Ted Marchibroda. Through his various stops, Marrone has added dashes of his own spice to the recipe, borrowing tidbits from Sean Payton's "Gulf Coast" offense, the pistol and the run-and-shoot.
In drafting E.J.Manuel with the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, the Bills not only got the player to run it, they also set a plan for an entire draft into motion that would give their rookie QB every opportunity to succeed.
By trading down to pick No. 16 from No. 8 and allowing Les Snead and the Rams to select WVU WR Tavon Austin, the Bills picked up additional second- and seventh-round picks that allowed for flexibility in making in-draft moves and targeting value at the skill positions.
After all, what does this offense call for out of a QB? Decisiveness, first and foremost.
The organization showed, unequivocally, that the Buffalo Bills are a team that makes decisions and moves forward. No messing around or getting into trouble being tricky like Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
Was E.J. Manuel a "reach" at Pick 16?
It was no secret the Bills would be drafting a quarterback in 2013. Even if GM Buddy Nix hadn't constantly said as much, the writing was clearly on the wall. The team brought in every QB prospect under the sun for workouts, and of course had years of experience with new Giants QB Ryan Nassib from their successful time together at Syracuse.
The Bills made their decision, and it was a franchise-defining decision. Most importantly, they couldn't care less what anyone thinks about it. Manuel was their guy, and they went and got him.
It's easy to see why.
Manuel was the Senior Bowl MVP and the most impressive quarterback in attendance during the week in Mobile. While new Raiders QB Tyler Wilson was very impressive himself, Manuel seemed to have intangible qualities that cemented his status as tops.
Through the entire draft process, I have never seen E.J. Manuel make the same mistake twice. He is one of the most cerebral, coachable prospects anyone will ever encounter. The comparisons he draws to Russell Wilson as far as work ethic and attitude are dead on.
Manuel is perfectly suited for the offense. Since the beginning, evaluators have said that Manuel is a quarterback who will need the field "cut in half" to start his NFL career. Manuel's accuracy, his ability to roll out and create time and his ability to go through reads will be primary in his NFL responsibilities.
Manuel will come right in with the ability to thrive in a rhythm and timing-based system. His college tape has this attribute written all over it.
Doug Marrone has staked his very career on it—and right off. That's no small commitment. Behind the glitz and glamour of being an NFL head coach lies the cold reality that your legacy is performance-based.
It shows fortitude on the side of the organization and says a number about how Manuel compared to Ryan Nassib as a QB prospect in their system. The Bills could have "reached" in the same way for Nassib, a much "safer" player. A much more "Bills are settling for being mediocre and taking the easy way" player.
The Bills did not take easy way. They chose how they would be designing their destiny, and the design was for plans greater than just bringing in a guy who knows how to run the system. While comfortable, that is short-sighted and wrong.
After all, everyone knows they could have easily been short-sighted and wrong. Taking Ryan Nassib at No. 8 made all the sense in the world. Taking Nassib, their golden boy from Syracuse, at No. 16 after trading down and gaining extra picks made even more sense.
Bills fans should be overjoyed that people are in place who said they wanted to take the best player for their system—even when it wasn't easy. They saw in Manuel what anyone who has been close to him during this draft process has seen:
1) He has elite physical tools. Size, speed, arm and accuracy.
2) He has intellect. In an offense that has long been touted to "make things easy" on a smart QB, the player needs to be sharp as a tack to operate in it. The player makes it "easy," it doesn't just come that way.
3) Manuel seems to have "it." Find me one person who has spoken with E.J. Manuel about the game of football who has not come away impressed, and I will show a person who is simply never impressed. NFL scout or average Joe. Manuel just has a way about him.
Add in the weapons—an offensive attack that has gone from anemic to to possibly very interesting virtually overnight. The ability to address both LB and WR in the first round with Robert Woods was granted via trading down in the first with the Rams.
WR T.J. Graham was a horrible pick in 2012 when the Bills could have had T.Y. Hilton, but in steps Marquise Goodwin, an Olympic speed burner who was forced to wear kid-gloves during his time at the University of Texas.
Finally, a big beast of WR in undrafted Da'Rick Rogers was snatched up by the Bills, leaving the offense with a whole new identity. Suddenly, when facing the Bills, teams will now have to prepare for an offense with weapons everywhere—C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Da'Rick Rogers, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, T.J. Graham and a solid offensive line.
Congratulations, Bills fans. And don't worry about the D-rating that Mel Kiper gave your team's 2013 draft.
E.J. Manuel's gonna go off.
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