Rookie Outlook: EJ Manuel
It seems there are mixed feelings about EJ Manuel for Bills fans and fantasy football fans alike. Manuel, a standout at Florida State University, was a surprise first round pick, as most considered him to be a developmental quarterback and a third to fourth round talent in this year's NFL draft. So why would the Bills reach for a player that wasn't even considered to be in the Top Three in regards to quarterback prospects? Well there are several, but sometimes it's more about the system than it is about the overall talent.
Manuel ended his 2012 season with the Seminoles with a fairly impressive two-year career, racking up 6,058 yards passing with 41 touchdowns and 461 yards rushing with eight touchdowns. While he was never on anyone's radar as a Heisman Trophy Candidate, but he was surprisingly effective in a coach Jimbo Fisher offense that is considered to be simplistic and lackluster. After the 2012 season, Manuel charged in full force to the first event of the offseason, the Senior Bowl. His Senior Bowl performance was impressive, as he not only wowed scouts in practices but also took home the Senior Bowl Most Valuable Player Award with an impressive on-the-field performance. During the Senior Bowl, Manuel was 7-for-10 passing with a touchdown, as well as chipping in a rushing touchdown. The MVP of the Senior Bowl is impressive, but we don’t want to get too carried away with the title and its relevance. After all, the 2011 MVP was former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, and you have to go back as far as 2004, Philip Rivers, to find an MVP recipient of worthy mention.
The next event of the off-season was the NFL Combine, where all of the rookie prospect's athleticism would be measured. Manuel had a lot to prove coming into this event, as his athleticism in particular was being questioned by many. In my personal opinion he was the top performer, and given his size, it was tremendously impressive. See how his scores compared to other quarterbacks in this years draft below. While the athletic ability of Manuel is impressive, it is important to keep in mind that there is much more than being a good athlete to be a successful NFL quarterback.
|Name||Height||Weight||40 Yard Dash||Vertical Leap||Broad Jimp||3 Cone Drill||20 Yard Shuttle Run|
|EJ Manuel||6' 5"||237 lbs||4.65 seconds||34 inches||118 inches||7.08 seconds||4.21 seconds|
|Geno Smith||6' 2"||228 lbs||4.59 seconds||33 inches||124 inches||N/A||N/A|
|Mike Glennon||6' 7"||225 lbs||4.95 seconds||26.5 inches||102 inches||7.49 seconds||4.52 seconds|
|Tyler Wilson||6' 2"||215 lbs||4.95 seconds||28.5 inches||112 inches||7.25 seconds||4.39 seconds|
|Ryan Nassib||6' 2"||227 lbs||5.06 seconds||26.5 inches||105 inches||7.34 seconds||4.53 seconds|
So with all of these impressive off-season performances, EJ Manuel lands in what might be the best situation for a rookie quarterback as a Buffalo Bill. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now with the Tennessee Titans and the only other options being former Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Drew Stanton, who were both very ineffective, Manuel could be in line for a lot of snaps. With his ability, that could equal some quality fantasy production in 2013. Another thing that is exciting about the Bills was their commitment to draft some very talented receivers that include University of Southern California wide receiver Robert Woods, University of Texas wide receiver and track star Marquise Goodwin, former University of Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers and a very athletic tight end in University of Arkansas Cris Gragg. From all these moves it's easy to conclude that the Bills, along with all their athletic talent, are formulating a very high paced rushing and passing attack with a young and extremely athletic group of players. If this is the case, it is a perfect situation for Manuel who needs an offense that is built to his strengths. As mentioned, EJ Manuel struggles as a pocket passer when required to make multiple reads. If you simplify the offense, speed it up and give him time to make quick throws, he can be extremely effective. The last thing to consider is his ability to run the football. The Bills really lack a superior goal line threat and with his size and speed, he could be the number one option running the ball inside the five-yard line.
So what does this mean for fantasy football? For 2013, the quarterback position is extremely deep, which prevents a questionable rookie like Manuel from being a viable number one option. Although his skill set is impressive, we are dealing with a developmental quarterback who still needs to earn his job before the season starts. He is far from the talent level of Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, but if the opportunity presents it'self, he could be a valuable option for fantasy football teams down the stretch of the 2013 season. If he is available to at the end of drafts as a backup or No. 2 quarterback on your fantasy roster, the reward is most definitely worth the risk.