With the No. 16 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills have selected Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel. They did so after executing a trade down from the No. 8 overall pick with the St. Louis Rams.
This pick will undoubtedly be sold as a reach; time may prove that to be true, but more immediately it's a huge surprise, given that most of the pre-draft rhetoric regarding the Bills and the quarterback position centered on Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley. Instead, it's the ultra-talented and highly inconsistent Manuel that is the hand-picked franchise quarterback for Buddy Nix and Doug Marrone.
It may have been Marrone's influence that swayed this decision in Manuel's favor. Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reported last night that Manuel was Marrone's preferred quarterback prospect, citing his superior physical talent and fit within the read-option chunks of Nathaniel Hackett's offense as rationale. Unlike Nassib and Barkley, however, Manuel is probably not a quarterback that's going to walk into a starting job - though as a first-round pick, that will probably be the expectation.
The 6'5", 237-pound Manuel is a rare athlete, showing off 4.65-second speed at the Combine in February and possessing excellent arm talent. He also has top-notch intangibles. In his two years as a starter with the Seminoles, Manuel sported a 21-5 record, had two bowl wins (plus a third in 2010 replacing injured starter Christian Ponder) and completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 6,058 yards (at 8.7 yards per attempt) with 41 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Still, he played in a fairly basic offense with limited pro reads under FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, and was easily the most inconsistent passer among the big names at the quarterback position in this draft class. His upside is immense, but he is going to need a lot of coaching.
Manuel's arrival in Buffalo could be good news for Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson, the two veteran signal callers fighting for a starting job. Buffalo is betting that its new coaching staff can work out the kinks in Manuel's game and help him realize as much of his immense potential as possible, but penciling him in as a starter is a huge stretch.
This, by the way, is the first time in franchise history that the Bills have selected a quarterback with their first pick in a draft. Time will tell if the new regime and their hand-picked quarterback can lead the Bills out of the abyss and, for starters, end the franchise's 13-year run without a playoff berth. Until then, let these five words marinate in your brain... "E.J. Manuel: Bills franchise quarterback."