It's been a long time coming, but the Bills believe they have their long term quarterback of the future. After swinging a trade with the St. Louis Rams to move down from the eighth overall pick to the 16th, Buffalo took the first quarterback off the board in Florida State's E.J. Manuel.
E.J. Manuel: "I am so proud to be a Buffalo Bill"
"We did a lot of work on these guys and we felt like we knew them about as well as you could from a distance," said Bills GM Buddy Nix. "This guy to us has got the upside to be whatever you want him to be. All these quarterbacks had good qualities we said from the start. I think if we can develop this guy that he's got the physical talent to take you to the dance."
Being the first quarterback selected he was obviously Buffalo's top rated quarterback in the draft class on the Bills' board.
"Obviously we did (like him most)," said Nix. "We think this guy has got a chance. We researched him every way we can and we really like his upside."
With the pick of Manuel he's the first ever quarterback selected by the Bills in team history with their first draft choice. The Bills newest quarterback was elated.
"I'm just so excited," said Manuel. "I'm so proud to be a Buffalo Bill. I'm just proud of my family, my teammates at Florida State, my coaches who helped me get to this point. I'm extremely proud and happy right now."
Manuel posted a 25-6 record at Florida State as a three-year starter. He completed 66.9 percent of his passes in his career with 47 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He also posted a 4-0 record in bowl games during his Seminoles career.
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"Being 21-3 his last three years in that conference… the guy is a winner," said Nix.
The Bills scouting department was as thorough as they could be in researching Manuel. They met with him at the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine attended his pro day, conducted a private workout and brought him up to One Bills Drive for a pre-draft visit. Manuel got a good vibe from the Bills front office and coaches.
"I thought Mr. Nix and the coaches liked me a lot at the Senior Bowl, and then when I met with them again at the combine I felt the same way, and then also when I went out and worked out for them, and then I went up for a visit," said Manuel. "There was a lot of confirmation going on. To me it was just more so a matter of when they were going to take me in the draft."
Blessed with tremendous physical tools, Manuel (6'5" 237) has a big arm and fast legs as he clocked the second fastest 40 time at the NFL Combine (4.65) among quarterbacks. He also has giant hands, which measured at almost 10 and a half inches.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone was concise in explaining what appealed to them the most about Manuel.
"He can throw the football vertically down the field," said Marrone. "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're excited to have him."
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Manuel has the ability to run the popular read option game that came into vogue last season with the likes of Cam Newton in Carolina, Robert Griffin III in Washington and Russell Wilson in Seattle. But Marrone indicated he'll make use of Manuel's physical abilities in other ways.
"You can take him out on the perimeter and elude the rush and make plays down the field, keep his eyes downfield," Marrone said. "That is something that we appreciate and look for in quarterbacks."
Manuel's completion percentage outside the pocket was slightly better than inside as he connected on just over 70 percent of his pass attempts on the edges compared to 66.8 percent in the pocket.
"I thought he did a very good job of keeping his eyes downfield," said Marrone. "I thought he did an excellent job of knowing when to run and not to run. I thought he did a great job when he did run of creating plays and keeping the chains going. That's what I saw on film."
Marrone confirmed that Manuel is now part of the open competition for the starting job at quarterback.
"Every player that we're taking no matter how we take them is entering a competition and at that position I've already said that and that remains the same," Marrone said. "He's thrown into the mix of that competition."
"I know there's more to be done," said Manuel. "I'm going to go work hard and get with Coach Hackett and get ready to go."