The NFL is a copycat league and teams will be looking to play catch up with innovative offenses like San Francisco’s, Seattle’s, and Washington’s. As we know it starts and usually ends with quarterback play. Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and Robert Griffin (to name a few) have the offensive innovators of the world drooling over the future possibilities of the NFL game.
This year’s quarterback crop lacks the top end talent that was present in 2012 and gets the knock of being a poor quarterback draft. Poor may be the wrong term to use when talking about the 2013 crop. I prefer to use ‘incomplete’ when talking about the class as a whole.
As we all know, I’m a Geno Smith fan and think he could fall into an ideal scenario as his value seems to have taken a hit. Likewise, I’m intrigued by many in this class. None more so than Florida State’s EJ Manuel.
Manuel possesses ideal size at almost 6-foot-5, 237 pounds. His size/speed combination have some drawing Cam Newton comparisons. Clearly, he’s not Cam Newton but the question is how far off is he?
Manuel struggles with decision-making. His career at FSU was largely disappointing (given the enormous expectations). That disappointment deals a great bit with sporadic decision-making with the ball. He has fluctuated between highly touted prospect to almost losing his starting gig to losing his spot and back to starter. His inability to hold down the fort after showing so much promise is concerning and deserves a further look.
Manuel drew the praise of the national media during his week in Mobile. He looked to be the most consistent quarterback of the week. The Senior Bowl was a set up for success for Manuel as defenses were limited in coverages and blitzes. In a clean pocket with base coverage reads, Manuel is a star. The problem is that things aren’t going to slow down for Manuel at the next level. Instead the kitchen sink will be thrown at him in terms of coverage and blitz packages.
The need to study becomes imperative for Manuel. If he wants to exhibit starter qualities early on in his career he will have to process the offense and what the defense is doing at a much higher level than what he did at FSU.
NFL defenses are going to attempt to confuse Manuel with variances in coverage. Manuel is great at quickly processing the first read and making reactionary plays. In the NFL, that first read is rarely open quickly enough to do that. He will have to show patience in terms of read progression and learn to throw with some anticipation. A sure sign that a quarterback isn’t comfortable with the read is that they will throw with little anticipation. Manuel strives off throwing to open space. In the NFL the amount of open space is few and far between. Throwing with timing and anticipation into zone coverage is a learned trait that Manuel is behind the curve on.
All this said, we wouldn’t be spending the time to break down his film unless there weren’t tangible upside to his game. On the move and in the play action game, Manuel is one of the best in the draft. Throws with great touch, particularly when on roll or boot action.
I’m a sucker for a quarterback with pocket presence as I feel it’s one of the most underrated aspect of the position. Manuel slides and climbs the pocket, eyes down the field with an innate sense of pressure. He sees the blitz well and doesn’t look to take off at the first sign of pressure. Instead he hangs onto the ball and looks to suck up the ‘backers with his threat to run and make plays behind the defense in the pass game.
The NFL took a long, hard look at the zone-read concepts last season with guys like Kaepernick and Griffin leading the charge. Manuel adds the ability to excel in those looks with size and running instincts that are rare at the position. His ability to break the pocket and make plays with his feet will intrigue a lot of teams. His ability to create innovation at the next level could make him special.
From a mechanical standpoint there were no consistent issues that showed up on tape. I saw a much improved mechanical quarterback from his four years at FSU. The thing that caught my eye more than anything with Manuel was when the play broke down, he was at his best. Most will tend to rush and mechanics will fall by the wayside. With Manuel he seemed most comfortable as things around him broke down. It’s a given that a quarterback will make a clean throw with solid mechanics in a clean pocket but when things start to break down is where guys like Manuel begin to separate themselves from the Tyler Bray’s of the world.
Maybe the most overlooked aspect of Manuel’s game is his ability to protect the ball in the redzone. Manuel threw one pick in 44 attempts inside the 20, compared to 14 touchdowns in 2012.
Obviously, there’s a lot to like and some concerns with Manuel, so we take it to the tape to check it out for our own eyes.
Manuel gets man across the board. This is quick three step out of the gun. This is optimal conditions for Manuel to excel and he can feast off man coverage all day. He does a nice job with his eyes here to hold the safety enough to fit the deep ball in for six.
I’ve seen criticism of Manuel’s lower half in terms of mechanics. I have yet to find some extraordinary problem with it. He’s solid in his base with good weight transfer. A tight, compact mostly overhead (overrated attribute in QB mechanics) with great arm extension (vastly underrated aspect of mechanics). This guy is a solid thrower of the ball.
All signs pointing toward target. Good weight transfer with hips and lead foot pointing towards where he’s throwing.
This is a staple in the NFL. Manuel is under center in pro personnel with basic route concepts as he’ll be working the wide side of the field off play action. Tight end is going to get an inside release and attempt to square off the safety and break on the post. The wide receiver to the field is running a deep out. This is an NFL throw in NFL personnel…something that is becoming a rarity in college offenses.
Play action is becoming a bit of a lost art form as team’s pick up the pace of the offense. Manuel is deliberate in showing the ball and leans over to sell the play fake. He’s as good as they come in this arena as far as the 2013 quarterback class is concerned.
Love this throw from Manuel. It’s delivered with timing as the ball is in the air before the receiver is coming out of his break. Again, if you are going to man up in base coverage, Manuel can eat you alive. Manuel doesn’t have the biggest arm in the draft but it’s more than adequate as this ball gets out there quickly. Manuel steps into this one and rips it. Would like to see him do this a little more in the vertical game.
There’s a couple of these headscratchers in each game. No. 1 to the field is going to get jammed and pressure is going to force Manuel to flush to his left. Manuel’s poor decisions are usually culprits of; 1). poor reads, 2). trying to do too much. This is the latter. There is nothing there and Manuel should chalk this one up as a win with a throw away. Instead he forces the ball into coverage and almost costs his team a key turnover in a close game.
Manuel does a great job here by extending the play, gets his eyes down field as he’s reverse pivoting. This is a win at this point as the ND defense blew every gap possible. Just avoiding the negative play here is considered a win. You can’t compound this by making a mistake with the ball.
Jamoris Slaughter’s loose coverage in the flats allows him to detach and play the ball. Manuel is lucky that Slaughter breaks on this ball because the corner was in perfect position to pick this ball. As it was Slaughter drops the diving interception and the Seminoles pick up a 15 yard roughing penalty.
A couple of plays later Manuel throws a ball in the middle of the field as he’s in the grasp of a DT. There’s just too many times that Manuel attempts to make something out of nothing and costs his team. It’s these types of decisions that has NFL decision-makers scratching their heads about where to draft this guy.
This is a small sampling of Manuel but gives insight to the tough decision that teams will have in April. Outside of Geno Smith or a trade, I’m not sure that there’s a starting quarterback on the market. With that said, if I’m an NFL general manager this is the year to take a shot on EJ Manuel barring someone doesn’t fall in love with him and pull his card on day one of the draft.
He has the skillset that is coveted in today’s game. Blessed with size, speed, and arm talent. The downside is that he’s not ready to step in immediately as an NFL decision-maker at the quarterback spot. This was the knock on Colin Kaepernick in the 2011 NFL Draft, when San Francisco traded up to get him in the second round. I have a feeling that EJ Manuel could share a similar fate on draft day. For the GM’s sake, I hope Manuel has a similar NFL fate to that of Kaepernick.