At nearly 6-6, Oregon State QB Sean Mannion is a traditional pocket passer from a pro-style offense.
As college football continues to evolve, many teams have transitioned from traditional offenses to up tempo, spread schemes. While the change has led to increased offensive success, quarterback responsibility has been altered. Because the NFL has not followed college football's offensive changeover, it has become increasingly difficult to project aspiring quarterbacks for the pro level.
"It's harder now to evaluate these quarterbacks just because of the spread system," said Kelvin Fisher, Bills Director of College Scouting. "Their percentages are up high, their yardages are up high just because they're throwing five yard passes and everyone else is doing the work so yeah, it is definitely harder to evaluate and when you do see that quarterback playing in a pro-style offense, you get excited about it."
One of the few prototypical drop-back passers in the 2015 class, Sean Mannion will likely have an easier adjustment period than most other rookies. The son of a coach, Mannion has spent the last four years in a complex pro-style offense. Looking ahead, Mannion believes this can help ease his transition to the NFL.
"I felt great in our offense," Mannion said. "We did a lot of stuff from under center, different personnel groupings, different protections, run-actions, that type of stuff. It was all great for me as a player. I can't speak for what that may or may not do for me in comparison to the other guys, but I feel great in the offense. I think it can show what I do at the next level."
A natural passer of the football, Mannion leaves Oregon State as the most statistically decorated quarterback in school history. A four-year starter, Mannion owns 18 Oregon State passing records. His 83 career touchdown passes rank him first in school history and seventh in Pac-12 history. Even more impressive, he ranks eighth in Division I history with over 13,600 career passing yards.
His size and experience is unquestioned, but Mannion's flaws continue to raise doubts across NFL organizations. Mannion turned the ball over at an alarming rate in college. His 30 fumbles and 54 career interceptions are largely attributed to his lack of mobility. Although he generally demonstrates adequate arm talent, the 22-year old has been known to struggle under pressure. In an effort to hone his skills, the former Beaver has trained with Jordan Palmer, a six-year NFL veteran.
"We've been working a lot on footwork," Mannion said. "That's something I always feel that I can sharpen up on. Really being quick on my drops with no wasted steps. I feel like that really carries over into a lot of different areas of playing quarterback. It can improve accuracy, it can help you get the ball out quicker, it can help you with your release, see the field, make better reads."
If Mannion can develop and learn in the right system, NFL media draft analyst Mike Mayock believes he has a chance to carve out a successful pro career.
"He's got to accelerate everything he does from his reads to his physical movement skills," said Mayock. "He reminds me a lot of Mike Glennon when he came out of N.C. State. Glennon went in the third round. I've got Mannion going either in the third or fourth, and I think he's a guy that could, with development and strength, turn into an interesting quarterback."
The success of recent third round picks Russell Wilson and Nick Foles are a testament that good quarterbacks can be found anywhere on the draft board. Even former Pro Bowl and current Bills signal caller Matt Cassel was a seventh-round pick. Although the 2015 quarterback class has been labeled as weak, a chance remains that a diamond in the rough can be found later in the draft.
"There's a possibility," said Bills general manager Doug Whaley. "We think there's some guys out there who we think may have a chance. Will they be there where we value them? We're not sure. That's the thing about drafting. Everyone says, well you could have gotten this guy or that guy. You can never say for sure this guy's going to be there unless you're at the number one pick."