Most NFL mock drafts and big boards do not project Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel as a first-round pick. That didn’t stop Manuel from making a bold declaration at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Friday.
“I definitely feel like I’m the best quarterback in this class,” said Manuel, projected as a mid-round pick, according to USA Today‘s Lindsay H. Jones. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, USC’s Matt Barkley and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib are among the higher-rated prospects in what is considered a weak quarterback crop.
Manuel threw for 3,392 yards during his senior season with the Seminoles, adding 310 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He struggled to stay healthy throughout his career — his 23 passing touchdowns in 2012 nearly equaled his 24 combined in the three years prior — but posted a 25-6 record in his 31 career starts.
Manuel spent his college career playing in a pro-style system at Florida State but said the Seminoles would add an element of read-option from time to time — enough at least that he would be comfortable if he were to be drafted by a team who wanted a mobile quarterback.
“I don’t think I have to be Colin Kaepernick. I don’t have to be Russell Wilson. I can be E.J. Manuel. But I do see a lot of my abilities in those guys. When I saw those guys having success this year, it gave me a lot more confidence going into the draft,” he said.
“Knowing that that kind of quarterback — a guy who can run and throw, not necessarily run first, but who can throw the ball and also have that run threat — it’s more accepted now. Whereas five or 10 years ago, it really wasn’t accepted.
Despite issues with accuracy and durability, Manuel, the Senior Bowl MVP in January, is considered a high-ceiling prospect because of his prototypical size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and speed.