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2 posts from April 25, 2013

April 25, 2013

EJ Manuel is the First QB Taken in the 2013 NFL Draft

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The NFL Draft plays out in funny ways sometimes.

Headed into the 2012 season Matt Barkley and Landry Jones seemed the odds-on favorites to be the first quarterbacks drafted.

Then when the season started and West Virginia’s offense steamrolled through the early months it was Geno Smith that pulled ahead.

And as the draft cycle wound on from January through early April it seemed as though Barkley and Smith had settled in as the top quarterbacks from the 2013 class. Other QB's would occasionally flit through, catch the interest of scouts and pundits and then fall back down draft boards just as quickly.

By the time mid-April rolled around it was all but assumed Geno Smith would be the first one to hear his name called at Radio City Music Hall in New York come April 25th.

Then on Thursday night a funny thing happened.

As EJ Manuel- and not Geno Smith- walked across the stage at Radio City Music Hall, gave a bearhug to the commissioner and grabbed a Buffalo Bills jersey as the first QB picked in the 2013 NFL draft, everyone was a bit shocked.

Well, almost everyone.

“It wasn’t a very big surprise,” said Manuel moments later. “I knew there was an opportunity for me to go early in the draft, I knew teams that needed a quarterback were very interested, it was just a matter of what happened that day.”

A lot happened.

After a run on offensive linemen, Buffalo was able to capitalize on the Jets’ stated interest in West Virginia WR Tavon Austin and trade down with St. Louis- who came up to select Austin 8th.

The move sent Buffalo back to 16th, where they felt comfortable selecting the 6-5 237-pound QB given what else was available.

Manuel was the first quarterback selected and also the first player taken from Florida State. The last Seminole selected in the first round of the NFL draft was the man Manuel replaced at FSU, QB Christian Ponder who went 12th overall to Minnesota in 2011.

Now Manuel will try to lead the offense up in Buffalo and hopefully- at least for Manuel- be a thorn in the side of Miami sports fans for a few more years.

As the Seminoles’ starter Manuel finished his career with a 25-6 mark including a 2-0 record against the University of Miami. He is the most accurate passer in Florida State history, second all-time in the ACC. He threw for 7,736 yards, 47 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in his time at FSU.

On Thursday night though, Manuel was just living in the moment.

"I’m just thinking about my mom, what she’s battled through and what she’s gone through,” Manuel said.

As EJ was playing through his senior season, his mother Jackie was undergoing chemotherapy for stage one breast cancer. EJ- despite the emotional toll- never once discussed it, and never let it affect him while leading FSU to a conference title and an Orange Bowl win.

“I’m extremely happy for EJ,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s a tremendous young man who has been a great representative of Florida State University. He’s worked extremely hard to get to this goal. He’s one of the main reasons that this program has been able to get back to national prominence because of the sacrifices he’s made through his career as well as his development as a player. I’m extremely happy for him and his family. This couldn’t have happen to a better group of people.”

On Thursday night, with his mother in remission, holding a Buffalo Bills jersey with the number one on it- indicative not just of his first round selection, but also of being the first QB taken- Manuel couldn't help but get a little emotional.

“I know I’m not the only guy who’s parents have battled through something like that, made it through something like that, but I’m just so proud, I’m just thankful, it’s just a dream come true,” said Manuel. “She’s back there smiling and everyone’s crying and all that stuff.

“I’m just so proud to be a Buffalo Bill, I can wait to get started. Get working.”

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Five Seminoles Vying for First Round

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The NFL draft kicks off in a little over an hour and Florida State figures to factor heavily into the round one festivities. As many as five Seminoles could hear their names called tonight, the most first rounders FSU has ever had in a given year was four (1997, 2006). If all five are taken in the first 32 picks the 2013 Florida State draft class would become the most prolific in terms of NFL first round talent in school history.

Quite a distinction when you consider- as Jimbo Fisher recently put it- "[FSU has] as much tradition in the last 25 years in college football as anybody."

Tonight Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes, EJ Manuel, Menelik Watson and Tank Carradine all have a shot to be taken in the first round. If ever there was a perfect example of the way that nearly four full months of draft over-scrutinization can affect a player's stock, the 2013 Seminoles draft class is it.

At the end of 2012 Bjoern Werner was a consensus top-5 pick. Tonight some draft pundits have him falling out of the back of the first round. Meanwhile Tank Carradine- who blew out his ACL in FSU's regular season finale against Florida and then seemed destined to lose millions- could potentially sneak ahead of Werner and go in the mid-to-late first.

That's more a testament to Carradine than a mark against Werner. Despite injuring himself just five months ago, Carradine has been a workout warrior and will likely be full-go at the start of NFL training camp. He has a high motor, he's extremely hungry and he matched Werner sack-for-sack at FSU while also leading the team in tackles before his injury.

If he goes tonight, it will be one of the most impressive recoveries I have ever seen.

EJ Manuel has watched his draft stock quietly sneak up as the draft has approached. Teams haven't watched a live snap in months and have begun to fall in love with measurables and workout figures. That helps Manuel immensely. The 6-5 230-pound dual-threat (when he wants to be) QB is an NFL prototype who is coming along right as the QB position could potentially be seeing a paradigm shift. 

But it is interesting that the further away from watching live football and the deeper into the draft cycle that teams get, they also seem to be getting caught more and more in the minutia that surrounds the players as well.

Bjoern Werner produced on the field for three years. He got better each year. Against arguably FSU's best opponent in 2012 (Florida) he turned in a 3-sack performance. Everything on the tape shows a player that's productive on the field. But as Werner has been picked apart more and more, his stock has dropped. 

It's almost as if you start with too many positives on a player, the tendency is to look for- and over anaylyze- every negative you can find. 

With Manuel on the other hand, you can pop the tape in and see plenty of good things, but also inconsistencies and holes in his game that would not lend themselves to being considered a first round prospect. But as time has gone on, other players have been picked apart and teams start to overthink, a lot of the positives that have emerged from Manuel's interviews and workouts may be getting weighted more heavily.

Some mock drafts have Manuel going as high as four- to Philadelphia. While that's unlikely, it's definitely within the realm of possibility he goes in round one. 

Werner likely will too, though not as high as he would have gone if that draft was held January 15th and they only had college film to go by.

The other two Seminoles vying to be selected tonight are Menelik Watson and Xavier Rhodes. Both of whom have taken a spin on the draft's wheel of fortune in the past few months themselves.

Watson went from off the radar when he started the season at Florida State as a JuCo with almost no competitive football experience to potential late first round pick. He combines impressive athleticism with an unrelenting work ethic. While he's still very raw in terms of football experience, he's got a blue-collar mentality that NFL offensive line coaches should love and he has a very high ceiling.

Some NFL team could very well see fit to take a shot on him later tonight.

Xavier Rhodes has the size and athleticism that is a hot commodity after big-bodied corners like Richard Sherman have started having success in the NFL. Of all the Florida State players hoping to hear their names called tonight, Rhodes is probably the safest bet. He could even end up back in his hometown of Miami playing for the Dolphins if they go that direction at 12. 

It could just be a couple players, or it could be a record five, but Florida State figures to be well represented on night one of the NFL draft.

Keep checking back here all night for updates and analysis of how Florida State fares in this weekend's draft.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...


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