After weeks of speculation and rumormongering, the prevailing wisdom was that Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who played under Bills head coach Doug Marrone at Syracuse, was the leading candidate to be Buffalo's first-round pick at No. 8.
The prevailing wisdom was wrong.
The Bills dropped the first big surprise of the 2013 NFL draft, trading back in the first round before making Florida State's EJ Manuel the first signal-caller off the board.
According to Sharon Katz of ESPN, Marrone listed a number of reasons why the Bills chose the Seminoles star, stating, "He can throw the football vertically down the field, he has a good arm, he can get himself out of trouble, he can create things with his feet, he has good presence in the huddle, he’s accurate and we are excited to have him.”
The 6'5", 237-pound Manuel is likely the most athletic of this year's quarterback crop, but he's not nearly as pro-ready as last year's top quarterbacks were. There's definitely going to be a learning curve as he adjusts to the pro game.
That curve may not be as pronounced as many believe, however, at least according to Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Bills fan Chris Trapasso, whom I asked for his thoughts on the subject:
EJ Manuel is obviously the best suited quarterback on the Bills roster to run the spread/read option, and many expect that to be featured in Buffalo's offense. He played in a complex system at Florida State, so the learning curve may be shorter than initially expected.
The Bills also brought over free agent Kevin Kolb in the offseason after jettisoning 2012 starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, and unless Manuel has a phenomenal camp or Kolb face-plants, it will probably be the veteran under center in Week 1.
With that said, Trapasso put the odds of Manuel playing as a rookie at 80 percent, and I'm inclined to agree. Kolb will likely start the season, but if he gets hurt (a real possibility given his injury history) or the Bills fall from contention, the future will be soon in Buffalo.
Once that's the case, there are going to be bumps in the road, and it may not be fair to expect Manuel to start putting up numbers like Robert Griffin or Russell Wilson, but Manuel has the physical tools to be a solid starter in the NFL.
Projected 2013 Stats: 1,350 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 170 rushing yards, two touchdowns (six games)
Fantasy Value: With Kolb the probable Week 1 starter, Manuel isn't draftable in most fantasy leagues, but he could eventually develop into a serviceable platoon starter, making him worth a late look in dynasty leagues.