16th Overall Selection by the Buffalo Bills
Overview: The Buffalo Bills entered the 2013 off-season knowing that some dramatic changes were on the horizon. The Bills quickly moved on from the former regime of general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey while an exciting new era of Bills football was ushered in. Former assistant general manager and director of pro personnel Doug Whaley will take over for Nix, who stepped down to assume a special assistant role, while former Syracuse head football coach and longtime NFL assistant Doug Marrone will take over for Gailey. The duo quickly began tweaking the roster to further support the talented players already in place, such as running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, wide receivers Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham, and offensive linemen Eric Wood at center and Cordy Glenn at left tackle. Whaley and Marrone decided in early March to move on from 3 year starter Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback after the former Ivy leaguer had struggled after signing a 6 year, $59 million contract in 2011. With the now gaping hole at quarterback, the Bills signed free agent Kevin Kolb to a two year, $13 million deal in late March to be their starter and hold down the position until they develop a young signal caller to take over and become the face of the franchise. The wait for the positions future did not last long as they Bills used the 16th overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft to select Florida State dual threat quarterback E.J. Manuel. Manuel is well built at 6’5 and 240 lbs and had the most impressive set of physical tools in his draft class, his selection signaled a shift to a wide open and fast paced offensive attack capable of putting defenses on their heels. After Manuel was taken in round 1, the Bills added two speedy playmakers at wide receiver on the drafts second day with second round pick Robert Woods of Southern Cal and Texas Longhorns track star Marquise Goodwin in round 3. Adding Manuel, Woods, and Goodwin to the mix will eventually elevate the Bills to one of the most exciting young offenses the AFC has to offer.
Position Battles: The Bills we’re looking forward to Kolb’s veteran presence helping E.J. Manuel assimilate to the NFL game and allow Manuel to grow into the position. However, Manuel’s wait to become the Bills starting quarterback was accelerated by a strong pre-season coupled with an unfortunate and severe concussion suffered by Kolb, which ended his season and placed his football future in doubt. Despite mid August surgery to repair a “minor meniscus” issue, E.J. Manuel recovered quickly and was named the Bills starter for their September 8th opener against the New England Patriots. Manuel will be backed up by rookie free agent Jeff Tuel, who was a slow Manuel recovery away from becoming the first UDFA to start an NFL opener in league history.
Notable Match-Ups: Manuel is fortunate to have his first NFL regular season action at home, unfortunately it will be against Tom Brady and the defending AFC East champion New England Patriots. On top of two games against Brady and the Patriots, some of the other top quarterbacks on tap for the Bills this season are Carolina Panthers dual threat Cam Newton, Atlanta Falcons gunslinger Matt Ryan, and New Orleans Saints record setting quarterback Drew Brees, all from the NFC South division. 2 time Super Bowl Champion Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens will also command the best Manuel and the Bills offense have to offer. The Bills will also be facing a slew of standout defenders this season, including the Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 technique Gerald McCoy. Manuel will also be tested by the Kansas City Chiefs pass rushing duo of linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in week 9. Two games that will be eagerly anticipated are the divisional match-ups against the New York Jets. The Jets have a pair of first rounders on defense in cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson who plan on making life miserable for Manuel twice a year for the foreseeable future. The Jets will also be breaking in a rookie quarterback of their own as 2nd round pick Geno Smith has been named the Jets starter at quarterback in place of the injured Mark Sanchez. The Manuel/Smith quarterback dual has a chance to develop into an ongoing rivalry after Manuel leap frogged Smith to become the 2013 NFL draft’s only first round quarterback.
2014 and Beyond
E.J. Manuel is the future of the Buffalo Bills franchise and the Doug Whaley and Doug Marrone regime. The foundation has been laid in 2013 to deploy and explosive and aggressive offensive attack which will look to utilize the open field ability of the Bills now bountiful group of playmakers. The Bills “big three” of Manuel, C.J. Spiller, and Stevie Johnson all have game breaking ability with the ball in their hands and must be accounted for on a play by play basis. The franchise has done a terrific job of surrounding Manuel will talented players who will not only help Manuel make big plays downfield, but also possess the ability to create on their own and take the pressure off the young signal caller. Outside of some upgrades along the offensive line, the Bills should look to enhance the talent level of the tight end position. Scott Chandler is a nice player, but would be best suited as a complimentary tight end behind a more explosive receiving threat. A couple of draft eligible names to keep an eye on at tight end include Austin Seferian-Jenkins of the Washington Huskies and Colt Lyerla of the Oregon Ducks. Both players present massive boosts in athleticism at the position and could come off the board in the top two rounds of the 2014 NFL draft. The future is bright in Buffalo and the Bills fans may be looking at the most exciting brand of offense their team has given them since Jim Kelly and the K-gun offense of the early 90′s.