By BBD Writer Eric Samulski
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we begin the debate: I’m not suggesting that the Bills draft Manuel over Matt Barkley or Geno Smith. Based on where the Bills are likely to draft, both of the top quarterbacks are likely to be off the board. When it comes down to the third quarterback, Manuel’s name is added to a list that includes Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray, and Logan Thomas. If you go through all of Manuel’s attributes, I believe that he’s the best fit for the Bills and has the most long-term upside at the position.
Quarterbacks get hit. It’s not a mystery in football. However, one hit on a brittle quarterback can ruin a team’s entire season. This has become an increasing concern with more athletic defenders and more mobile quarterbacks. Just think about the collective gasp that was heard throughout all of Washington when Griffin got his bell rung earlier in the season. At 6’5” 240 pounds Manuel is built to take hits. He’s also consistently been in the lineup throughout his career at Florida State, missing only two games since taking over as a starter in 2010.
Whether Chan Gailey returns or not, mobile quarterbacks are certainly an asset to an offense. They add another dimension that defenses need to plan for and can also create another avenue to bail out on offense when the pocket collapses or receivers are covered down field. Manuel has 4.5 speed, which is impressive for his size; think a younger version of Roethlisberger. He has the same pocket presence as Big Ben, consistently stepping up to make defenders miss. He also has exhibited some good field awareness when he breaks out for runs. He’s made some smart cut backs, notably in the Wake game, that netted him extra yards and touchdowns.
Perhaps his most impressive attribute, Manuel has completed 60% of passes in every year since he’s been at Florida State. They’re not dink-and-dunk passes either. He’s averaged over nine yards an attempt during his career. Additionally, he’s continued to improve his decision-making each season as well. This is a Florida State team that hasn’t had an elite receiver prospect in Manuel’s time at the school, so he’s putting up his numbers without the help that guys like Woods or Tavon Austin give Barkley and Smith.
Manuel has a quirky delivery where he brings the ball to his ear, which gives off the appearance that he’s short-arming his throws. However, the ball comes out with surprising velocity. Manuel has shown deep ball arm strength in years past, but he’s also been able to get more velocity behind the intermediate throws this year. He’s now shown that he can spin the ball across the field, which prevents the defense form cutting the field in half against him. It’s a quality that Bills fans like for the windy, winter months.
Florida State may not have won any BCS or ACC championships in his tenure, which people use to criticize Manuel, but he has certainly proven that he’s a winner. So far in his four-year career, Manuel has a 29-9 record. He’s won against perennial ACC and SEC contenders such as: Florida, Clemson, and South Carolina. He’s also been at his best in bowl games, completing over 70% of passes in two of three, all of which were wins.
Overall, Manuel stands out as the best option for the Bills in the 2013 draft. He’s younger and cheaper than free agents like Joe Flacco and Phillip Rivers, which makes him a more likely candidate for the Bills front office. It can also be argued that he has more upside than any quarterback in the draft other than Geno Smith. If the Bills are looking to have a solid leader for the next decade, Manuel is their guy.