EJ Manuel was rated by many NFL draft analyst as the fifth or sixth best signal called, but all that matters to the former Florida State quarterback is the one team in his corner — the Buffalo Bills.
In a draft weak on quarterbacks — this was the first year since 2008 that the first pick wasn’t a quarterback — not too many people were expecting to see a lot of them taken off the board in the first round. It turned out there was only one taken in Friday’s opening round, despite a number of teams with a need in that area.
To the surprise of many, the one who heard his name called was not top-rated prospect Geno Smith, not Matt Barkley, and not even rising draft prospect Ryan Nassib.
No, it was EJ Manuel.
The pick would seem to make sense for the Bills, or anyone who has been paying close attention to the team this offseason. Buddy Nix, the team’s general manager, said that Buffalo was looking for a franchise quarterback and would likely use a first-round pick to do it. He also spoke highly of Manuel after the team conducted a private workout, after which Manuel also noted that the team was high on him.
The Bills were shrewd in picking EJ Manuel as well. Sensing that he would still be on the board lower in the first round, the Bills traded back from the No. 8 pick, taking the No. 16 pick from St. Louis and getting an extra second and seventh round pick in exchange. Given that the team still has many holes to fill, adding more draft picks was a smart move.
Though there were rumors that other teams were interested in EJ Manuel, Nix’s gamble of trading back worked.
“We calculated that as best we could. You never know what’s going to happen in the draft,” Nix said. “Normally, I don’t get nervous, but I might have gotten a little nervous toward the end there.”
EJ Manuel now becomes the third quarterback taken in the first round by the Bills, along with Jim Kelly and J.P. Losman, who flopped.
In Manuel, the Bills will have a quarterback with the prototypical size to go along with exceptional running skills. Listed at 6 feet 4, 237 pounds, Manuel is known for his strong arm and mobility. He threw for 3,397 yards along with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 14 starts last year for the Seminoles. Manuel also finished with 827 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
After the shock of the first round selection has passed, EJ Manuel has a big task ahead of him — trying to lead the Bills to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.