For a while I had been a strong advocate of trying to trade for Nick Foles who I think will definitely be available at some point as he is simply a bad fit for the Eagles. However recently I have become intrigued by the prospect of drafting E J Manuel. Whilst he is potentially an excellent fit for Kelly’s offense and indeed Kelly tried to recruit him for Oregon, recent news that all of the Eagles coaching staff attended Smith’s pro day plus Jeff Lurie for the first time since the Eagles drafted McNabb makes me believe that Smith won’t last until No8. And even then I’m not convinced he is the best long term prospect.
1. Personal Talent
EJ has an excellent arm and all around physical talent. He has a skill set which is coachable and has shown to have the intelligence and work ethic to improve. This is why we employ a QB coach. For me there are issues with the other prospects which EJ does not share. Glennon and Bray are statues and pure pocket passers lacking the escape ability if the pocket collapses. We might as well trade for Foles in this case and at least get some starting experience. Wilson doesn’t have a good an arm and tiny hands making him a potential fumble risk, whilst Barkley reflects the worst of both worlds – an average arm and a pocket passer lacking the mobility to escape. He might start earlier but there is a ceiling to his talent. Nassib is difficult as he’s clearly run Marrone’s offense but has many of EJ’s flaws such as inaccuracy on certain passes.
2. Team Talent
I look at Smith and wonder how much having a decent line and two very good receivers in Austin and Bailey helped. Barkley had Lee and Woods, whilst Wilson had Hamilton and decent runners in the backfield. Bray had an Aladdin’s cave of talent at WR to perform with. Manuel is much the same as Nassib and Glennon in having to make use of limited talent around them. In the case of Manuel, was it a simplified offense for him specifically or the offense in general? And whilst Barkley missed Kalil protected his blindside, Manuel lost two starting OTs in Datko and Sanders.
It cannot be underestimated how a player performs between their Bowl Game and getting drafted. EJ has stepped up to the plate leaving others in his wake. He was the MVP at the Senior Bowl whilst the likes of Wilson and Nassib were poor. He has interviewed well. He has handled what are arguably the most important 3months of his life without a single blot.
In terms of toughness, this is a guy who played a won a bowl game ON A BROKEN LEG. He may run too quickly because of a lack of talent around him not because of Gabbertesque tendancies. But have Barkley, Glennon and Wilson have been sacked silly? The fear is this sort of damage might result in Trent Edwards Mk2. And in terms of intelligence he did take over Ponder's offense and run with it. Most rookies have issues of going through all their reads, zeroing in on WRs, forcing the ball into coverage etc
He has also coped with emotional trauma with his mother receiving cancer treatment yet he kept this quiet for most of his senior season. Pressure comes in a multitude of different forms.
It can be highlighted that he has had a few shockers, such as the game against Florida. But then Geno Smith took a 5-0 start and led the Mountaineers to a 7-6 finish, Wilson I believe was benched, Glennon had a melt down in the bowl game against Vanderbilt, Barkley regressed when not surrounded by top talent and lets not even mention Landry Jones’s ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.
Best of all though is price. If Smith goes to the Eagles, then there is a strong chance that Manuel will be there at No41. We can either grab another elite player at No8, or trade down with the 49ers and take a WR at No31 and a replacement for Levitre at No34 giving any QB the best opportunity to succeed.
No41. EJ Manuel
When we look at the 2011 class, the QB taken 5th has arguably been the second best QB taken before we even mention how the 6th QB could end up being the best in class