Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel is the sixth of nine 2013 NFL Draft quarterback prospects that Buffalo Rumblings will profile this off-season. He helped bring the Seminoles back into the national championship discussion for a time during the 2012 season, and sports a sparkling bowl record, winning all four Florida State bowls during his career - if you count his game against South Carolina as a sophomore, when he replaced an injured Christian Ponder in the second quarter.
E.J. Manuel | QB | Florida State
- 6'4 5/8", 237 pounds
- Started 31 games over four seasons (25-3 record, 4-0 in bowl games)
- Career stats: 600/897 (66.9% completions), 7,736 yards (8.2 YPA), 47 TD, 28 INT
Manuel is the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft. He's the best movement quarterback in the class, combining imposing size with impressive physical skills reminiscent of Cam Newton. Manuel plays well on the move throwing and passing, and can function as a dual threat runner, running both to the outside and for power between the tackles.
He has large hands and can spin the ball with a great ball with lots of velocity. Manuel is accurate, though his stats are highly inflated due to the type of passing game Jimbo Fisher ran for Manuel at Florida State. Manuel can fire the ball into passing windows at all levels of the field, and throws a good deep ball, though he relied entirely too much on 50/50 balls thrown to his athletic receivers.
Manuel's intangibles are top shelf. He's tough, plays through injuries (see the bowl game against Notre Dame in 2011), and will put the team before his own health. He wins big games and inspires his teammates - the 2012 Clemson game is a great example of this ability. Manuel graduated in three years and was an all-ACC scholastic athlete. He's extremely intelligent, carries an easy confidence, and is the type of person a franchise wants as the face of the organization.
For as smart as Manuel is, Florida State did not run a complex offense for him. Fisher designed a predicated read offense where Manuel could make decisions pre-snap with only one or two reads after the ball is snapped. Most of Florida State's route combinations were high-low reads that developed in front of Manuel's field of vision to one side. After his initial reads were covered, he either held onto the ball too long looking for something to come open, or he took off running. He didn't work through many progressions past the second receiver, he didn't call audibles, and has a lot to learn about running an NFL offense at tempo and making fast reads against disguised NFL coverages.
Manuel has some ball handling and mechanical issues. He's got huge hands and could get away with some of the free-ball running he did, but that won't work in the NFL. He's also far from polished in footwork and mechanics. He's able to power the football where he wants it to go in college. Manuel needs a season or two to get his mechanics in order to allow him to remain accurate into NFL passing windows.
E.J. Manuel is a lesser version of Newton without any of the baggage. He the prototypical 21st century quarterback in terms of physical ability. Manuel can run the read option, the current fad in the NFL. More importantly, he can move around and avoid the rush, Ben Roethlisberger style, frustrating the rush and keeping passing plays alive.
Manuel needs lots of time to grow into a quarterback. Right now, he's an athlete playing quarterback. He needs to go to a team with a stable front office and coaching situation where he can develop at a slower pace. He can't run a NFL offense right now without significantly watering down the offense, or tailoring the offense the way Fisher did at Florida State. While Manuel is ultra-smart, there's a difference between studying and making decisions at NFL speeds, and Manuel needs help with the latter. A team that takes Manuel needs to have a long-term development plan. A team that does so could have a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick... or, if they rush him to the field, Tim Tebow.