There are may polarizing quarterback prospects this season. Last year everyone and their aunt new that Andrew Luck was going number one. It was clear by November that RGIII was next. Tannehill was generally a consensus first rounder, and Weeden was a day 2-3 pick.
None of those guys stick out like EJ Manuel does this season as an unpredictable prospect (at least at this point).
Manuel was once the top recruit in the country coming out of high school. He signed with Florida State, redshirted, and then rode the pine behind established starter Christian Ponder. As you may know, Ponder had some injuries in college and Manuel replaced him six times, earning a 4-2 record.
Manuel is a tall quarterback with long limbs and a big body. His athleticism is evident, though he is more quick than fast; he is closer to Cam Newton in that regard than a guy like RGIII. I don’t see him putting up huge rushing yardage in the NFL, despite his size and athletic ability. I think his best bet is to add weight to his frame and bulk up like Ben Roethlisberger.
The arm strength is there. It’s not going to tear the leather off the ball, but he’ll hit the corners and he can spin it with his big hands.
The footwork isn’t there. Like most college QB prospects this is where the problems lie. He doesn’t have one major deficiency, but he seems to just be a little rough everywhere. He has a tendency to get flat footed, he throws off his back foot, sometimes he won’t reset before a throw, etc. It is hard to pinpoint a serious flaw, so I’ll just assume its down to general “retooling”.
He isn’t the best decision maker in the world. He threw eight interceptions last year to 18 touchdowns, but he had no picks the last five games of the season. His footwork issues lead to accuracy issues and he is inconsistent with his ball placement.His release needs tightened. Though I don’t know if you can get it much faster because of his long arms.
He really is just a guy that is hard to put your finger on.
I think the best comparison from recent years is Colin Kaepernick when he came out of Nevada. Like Manuel, Kaepernick had a big frame, great athleticism, good arm strength, but was quite rough around the edges. Kaepernick also had the disadvantage of coming out of the pistol offense.
Kaepernick was drafted early in the second round by the 49ers in a QB-heavy 2010 draft. I think Manuel’s peak is a similar mid-second-to-early-third range. Manuel did not have all the starting experience of Kaepernick, nor did he put up as good of stats.
Manuel’s goals this offseason should be to show other teams that he has functional QB intelligence. Kaepernick is a very bright kid and showed he had an NFL future despite being rough around the edges. Manuel needs to show that with more time he can fine tune his game and pass from the pocket more efficiently.
It is a little too early to be trying to predict the stock of a guy like Manuel. He is a big enigma to me right now and we’ll have to see what kind of offseason he puts up.