Why Bills drafted EJ Manuel in first round

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

EJ Manuel's accuracy, both in and out of the pocket, is just one reason the Bills drafted him.The biggest surprise of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft may have been the Buffalo Bills trading back and selecting Florida State QB EJ Manuel with the 16th-overall pick.

According to Scouts Inc., Manuel was the sixth-ranked quarterback entering the draft, which begs the question:

What did the Bills see in him?

Bills’ general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Doug Marrone conducted a post-draft interview and defended their pick, pointing to Manuel’s tremendous upside and athleticism.

When asked to size up Manuel’s best attributes, Marrone stated:

“Well I think you could start listing many things. He can throw the football vertically down the field, he has a good arm, he can get himself out of trouble, he can create things with his feet, he has good presence in the huddle, he’s accurate and we are excited to have him.”

Let's break that quote down to show you what Marrone was looking at.

He can throw the football vertically down the field

Manuel improved his completion percentage on passes of 20 yards or longer in his junior and senior seasons. In 2012, Manuel completed 49.2 percent of his passes of 20 yards or longer, the highest completion percentage of any of Scouts Inc.’s top six quarterback prospects.

He can get himself out of trouble

In 2012, Manuel completed 55.8 percent of his passes when under duress, a higher completion percentage than Geno Smith (49.3), Matt Barkley (49.3) and Landry Jones (37.1).

EJ Manuel Since Start of 2010
Passing In & Out of Pocket

Marrone pointed to Manuel’s ability to keep his eyes downfield when flushed out of the pocket. In the past three seasons, Manuel actually was more accurate when outside the pocket than inside it.

When forced out of the pocket, Manuel completed 60 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

He can create things with his feet

In addition to passing on the move, Manuel scrambled for first downs when he chose to. In 2012, Manuel scrambled for 199 yards and 10 first downs on 28 scrambles, averaging 7.1 yards per scramble. On third downs, Manuel scrambled for six first downs and averaged 7.7 yards per scramble.

He also rushed for 208 yards on designed running plays, including six rushes for 45 yards on zone-read options. Comparatively, Geno Smith gained 27 yards on designed rushes in 2012.

Good presence in the huddle

There is no statistical measure of leadership, but Marrone pointed to Manuel’s superior record as a starter.

Manuel led the Seminoles to a 25-6 record as a starter, including four straight bowl wins. No other top QB prospect had a better win percentage as a college starter than Manuel.

He’s accurate

Manuel completed more than two-thirds of the passes he threw in his career.

In his last three seasons, 81 percent of his passes were on target (passes that were not overthrown, underthrown or wide of his receiver), comparable numbers to Smith (83.4) and Barkley (80.3).