Tuesday, January 1, 2013
E.J. Manuel has the goods to not just make it in the NFL, but be a star. He has all the qualities scouts love: size (6-5, 240), athleticism, arm strength, plus he wins. But he has some other qualities that make you want to believe in this kid.
He has great poise in the pocket. His pocket didn’t always hold up, but he made the most of it. When it was good he made very accurate throws all over the field (68% completed passes). When it broke down he effortlessly slid to the correct spot. His footwork is fantastic. If needed, he escaped and can make very good passes on the run; both left and right. Smart runner. He realizes that he needs to play another down and slides after making the most of his run. An athletic slide: looks natural. Doesn’t take needless hits. Not a run-first QB. Only runs when the play is called or when all other options break down. Great poise under duress. An absolutely great leader on the field. Always knows the game situation and plays accordingly. Doesn’t look flustered. He does all the small things well: option pitch, dump passes, check down, play-action…etc. A true student of the game. He takes every aspect of the game seriously and it shows on the field. Shows the same confidence and poise in his interviews as he does on the field. Seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He's by no means a finished product. Needs a good QB coach and running game to be his best friends. He could also use some time learning on the sidelines. But the potential is there.
Can needlessly lob the ball when he should fire it in. Also tends to lock into his target, however he tends to get it to that guy so there’s not much to complain about. Exposed by elite D's that he might not be reading the Defenses as well as he should.
Enter Florida. He’s thankful that the Gators aren't a pro team. They were his nemesis. Looked absolutely awful early in the 2012 game. Nervous and flustered. Locked into targets and spoon fed the ball to the Defense. However, as bad as he played in that 1st portion, he really showed great poise afterwards. He kept his head up and made some great plays to gain the lead. Getting his head crushed didn’t help in the 4th quarter either, but he stayed in there and showed promise. He’s taking a good amount of heat for this game, but I see it more as an anomaly than the norm.
I underestimated this guy all year long. I guess I just had a false impression stuck in my head and needed it dislodged. Originally I had him pegged for the late 2nd to early 3rd. Now I doubt he’ll get out of the 1st round. And deservedly so. Teams are going to love this guy. The only knock will be the Florida game, which could scare off some teams. After watching the game the 2nd time, I'm less concerned about it.
The Cards probably shouldn’t take him with the 7th pick. If E.J. stays under the radar, like Dalton and Wilson did, then I’d rather see them trade back and land more picks. That still gives them the option to draft him and get a LT. Ideally they can pick up the LT in the 1st and nab him with the 2nd round pick. They’ll be happy if they get him. I’ll be ecstatic.