NFL Draft: EJ Manuel could be a top-20 pick
"A lot of buzz today about EJ Manuel going top 20," Mosher said. "I'm not ready to say that's gonna happen but you never know. Christian Ponder, Line 1." Ponder is a fellow FSU quarterback who was drafted much higher than expected, going 12th overall to the Vikings.
Manuel is considered by many scouts to have the most upside of any quarterback in this draft. I'm a huge fan of him myself. Here's what I wrote on March 5th after watching Manuel's game tape:
"He's got Cam Newton type size at 6'5'' 237 (Newton is 6'5'' 248, and you can expect Manuel to get bigger as a pro), and great athleticism (ran a 4.65 forty-yard dash at the combine). He displayed great accuracy in 2012 with a clean, quick throwing motion. He can put delicate touch on his passes or zip the ball into a tight window. He can extend the play by eluding defenders or bouncing off tackles. Ten years from now, I think there's a chance that we're saying Manuel was the best quarterback in this draft."
Manuel has compared himself to Ben Roethlisberger, and I agree with the comparison. He doesn't run just to gain yards (though he is capable of doing so if necessary), he runs to buy time for his receivers to get open. Once a receiver is open, he rarely misses the throw. He may take some time to develop, but I agree that he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this draft.
The Eagles have been the team most heavily linked to Manuel, as he'd be a good fit in Chip Kelly's uptempo offense, and projected starting quarterback Michael Vick is signed for only the 2013 season. The Eagles have the 35th overall pick, and there is a solid chance they could grab him there, but they may make a draft-day trade to make sure they lock him up. They could trade up from their 35th overall pick to get back into the late-first round, or could trade down from their 4th overall pick into the teens to select him (4th overall would be an extreme reach).
Like many of the quarterbacks in this draft, Manuel is shaping up to be one of the players with the most unpredictable landing spot. My best bet is that he goes early in the second round (perhaps to the Eagles at 35), but who knows?