Scouting the QBs: EJ Manuel, Fla St.

Entering the 2012 season, EJ Manuel (QB, Fla St.) was one of my favorite prospects at the QB position. While his 2011 season didn’t blow many scouts away, I saw enough raw talent and physical skills to tab Manuel as a potential first-round selection. In order for Manuel to enter top-32 discussion, he has to take a step forward this season and consistently show the ability to make all the throws while displaying a total understanding of the QB position. After three games this year, Florida State has yet to be challenged. They’ve played sub-par opponents, and as a result, Manuel hasn’t been in any difficult spots. That said, I reviewed his tape against Wake Forrest, and the following is FRG’s review.

Before analyzing the specifics from Manuel’s performance, let’s take a look at his season through three games. Manuel currently is tied for 13th in the Nation for completion percentage, as he’s currently completing passes at a 71.2% clip. It should be noted, however, that he’s 95th in pass attempts having thrown only 59 passes through three games. So, the completion percentage is a bit inflated right now. In those 59 tosses, Manuel has racked up 6 TDs and only 1 Int. Throwing a TD every 10 passes is very impressive, even if he’s played a bunch of doormats. Scouts generally want to see at LEAST a 3-1 TD to INT ratio, with 4-1 being preferred for elite prospects. At 6-1, Manuel is showing the type of mistake-free football that scouts will like. Overall, Manuel has managed to position himself in the top-15 QB rating, and if he can continue this level of play versus better competition, my preseason analysis of Manuel’s potential to be a first-rounder should pan out.

Manuel looked pretty good versus Wake Forrest. The game was a blowout by the 3rd Quarter, but there was enough of Manuel early in the game to get a feel for how his skills are looking through the first 3 games of 2012.

Manuel has ideal size for the position, standing at 6’5 and weighing 240lbs. Manuel looks every bit as big as he measures in. He stands tall in the pocket, and carries the ball nice and high. He has a super-quick release, which combined with his plus athleticism will make him a tough player to sack (if behind a halfway decent offensive line). Manuel displayed good mechanics on his release, as he consistently threw the ball off his ear with a tight, compact motion.

Manuel rarely was under center, primarily lining up in shotgun. His footwork was OK, but he seemed a little too affected by the Wake Forrest pass rush. I’d like to see him hang in the pocket a little longer to make a play downfield. That said, Manuel’s best asset right now is his athleticism. He possesses a lot of “Randall Cunningham”-type scrambling skills that will help him adjust to the speed of the NFL game early in his career. In fact, Manuel will likely time well at the NFL Scouting Combine, and if he doesn’t pan out at QB, he could have a fallback position at WR.

I was very disappointed with Manuel’s accuracy on the deep ball. He struggled to drop it in the bucket, and missed several throws that would have led to big plays and possibly touchdowns. His middle and short range accuracy was good, and he displayed nice touch on several screen passes; he set his RB up well by placing the ball exactly where it needed to be to make a run after the catch. I was also impressed by Manuel’s ability to fire the deep out with velocity and a tight spiral. While he didn’t throw it that much vs. Wake, he did display the ability to make the pass (the deep out is one of the most highly scrutinized throws by NFL scouts; it’s a “must make” throw for prospects coming out).   Manuel displayed a real ability to spin the ball; his spirals were tight.

Overall, I would say Manuel didn’t disappoint, but he didn’t do anything to blow me away, either. As of now, Manuel is ranked 5th on FRG’s QB prospect page. He recently lost ground to Tyler Bray (Tenn), who leapfrogged both Logan Thomas (Va Tech) and EJ Manuel. Manuel will start entering the teeth of his schedule soon, so his value will certainly rise or fall within the coming weeks. One thing is for sure: Manuel is a very intriguing talent who, if he seizes the moment this season, will absolutely be a consideration late in the first-round.

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