Summary: Entering Manuel's senior season, there were some that were projecting him to be a top-10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The reason for the lofty projections was Manuel's dynamite skill set. He is big, strong, mobile and has a cannon for an arm. Manuel's elite arm strength and athleticism gives him all the physical potential an NFL team could ask for. However, he has major issues as a passer and has never developed into a high first-round pick despite the athletic ability to be that good.
Manuel came to Florida State with a lot of hype. Many believed that he would be the next great Seminoles quarterback and lead a resurrection of the once mighty Florida State program. Manuel spent his first two seasons as a backup to Christian Ponder. When Ponder missed time with injuries, Manuel received some playing time. He completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his two seasons of limited action. Manuel also ran for 366 yards and three scores.
The expectations were high for Manuel as he took over the starting job as a junior in 2011. Manuel completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,817 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ran for 411 yards and four touchdowns. Manuel threw for over 300 yards twice, against N.C. State and Charleston Southern. He had some struggles against Oklahoma, Wake Forest and Florida.
The senior improved as a passer over 2011, but he played a very easy schedule. Manuel completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,397 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ran the ball well for the Seminoles, scoring four rushing touchdowns.
Manuel had an ugly game against Florida and its tough defense. He had three interceptions, fumbled the ball away and took a horrible sack. It was a meltdown performance that put doubts into his improved play from earlier in the season.
NFL sources who watch Florida State closely have told WalterFootball.com that Manuel is not a natural pocket passer. They don't feel he is as accurate as his completion percentage indicates. They went on to say that Manuel is frustrating to watch because he has all the makings to be a special quarterback, but is not utilizing his full potential.
The scheme that the Seminoles run also came under criticism. The view is that it is extremely basic and does not have Manuel well-prepared to run an NFL offense. Our sources believe that Manuel too often looks to run when his first-read is covered rather than quickly looking to his second and third options.
As a passer, Manuel needs to work on his touch passes. He occasionally puts nice air under a ball, but too often throws everything on a line. Manuel needs to become a passer rather than a thrower.
Manuel is going to need a lot of work at the next level on the practice field and in the film room before he is ready to be a starter. There is no doubt that Manuel has the athletic skill set to be a special player, but he will require developmental time in the NFL.
Manuel had an inconsistent Senior Bowl performance, but overall is helped by a weak quarterback class. He looks most likely to go on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft. It isn't out of the question for a team to reach on him late in the first round or for Manuel to fall to the fourth round. His stock is extremely fluid.
Player Comparison: Jason Campbell/Terrelle Pryor. Physically, Manuel is similar to Campbell (6-5, 230) and Pryor (6-6, 233). As a passer, Manuel is more like Campbell. Both have good arms, but aren't the most natural of passers. Manuel's running ability is slightly below that of Pryor. Campbell was a first-round pick while Pryor went in the third; Manuel could easily go between them in the second round.
NFL Matches: Philadelphia, New York Jets, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Arizona
There are a lot of teams that could target Manuel. The Chiefs, Jets, Jaguars, Bills and Cardinals are all searching for franchise quarterbacks. Any of those teams could target him on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Eagles are an interesting potential destination for Manuel. He has the mobility that Chip Kelly likes his quarterbacks to have and would allow Kelly to continue running a lot of his college offense. Of all the quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft class, Manuel may fit Kelly's offense the best. Manuel may be a priority for the Eagles on the second day.
NFL Draft Rumors
Feb. 21: Chip Kelly said that he would like the opportunity to coach E.J. Manuel. Kelly attempted to recruit Manuel a few years ago.
Feb. 4: "In the draft, there might not be a quarterback worth taking at No. 4. Geno Smith might impress in the next month and move into consideration, but it seems more likely the Eagles will take a quarterback late in the first round with a trade or early in the second round, where they pick. (49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the No. 4 pick in the second round two seasons ago.) One name to watch will be Florida State's E.J. Manuel. The story you'll hear is how Kelly recruited him out of high school, but Manuel has much more going for him than a recruiting battle five years ago." - Philly.com
Jan. 27: During the Senior Bowl, Mike Mayock stated that he heard Manuel was getting third- and fourth-round grades. This, of course, was prior to Manuel's dynamic performance in the game.