While Manuel may be a bit inconsistent and could use a little time to develop at the next level, he has all of the tools for success. The physically-imposing product out of Florida State completed 263 of 387 passes for 3,397 yards with 21 TDs to 10 INTs and added 310 yards with four scores on the ground in 2012.
He possesses high character, a quick release and a plethora of arm strength, mobility, velocity, intelligence and toughness, as he played through his mom’s cancer treatments (which he kept under wraps for a large portion of the season) and a broken leg in the victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl.
Buffalo’s performance in this draft ultimately hinges on how Manuel progresses, and if the 6-5, 237-pound signal-caller reaches his potential and leads the Bills to the postseason—ending the league’s longest playoff drought (1999-present) in 2013 or 2014—no one will care whether the team could have taken Manuel later than No. 16.
There were other needs on this team though and Buffalo did a pretty rock-solid job addressing them.
Buffalo had to bolster its receiving corps early in the draft with a compliment to Stevie Johnson, who led the team with 79 catches for 1,046 yards and six scores in 2012. Tight end Scott Chandler (571 yards and six scores) and running back C.J. Spiller (459 yards and two TDs) each tied for second on the team with 43 receptions last season.
Enter Robert Woods out of USC, who the Bills selected with the first of their two second round picks.
Woods will not only take double teams away from Johnson, but he’ll also give E.J. Manuel a much-needed legitimate No. 2 option and potentially deadly weapon on third downs and intermediate throws.
Though Buffalo’s defense was solid against the pass (10th in the league last year), the team also finished 22nd in total yards, 26th in points allowed and next-to-last in the league against the run.
Kiko Alonso is a very versatile linebacker who possesses a plethora of effort, solid speed, a constant motor and great awareness in various coverage situations. He’s also a solid replacement for Nick Barnett.
Guard was the one area that wasn’t addressed in the draft. While it was far from the most pressing need, the Bills will still need to find some talent and depth to the position after the departure of Andy Levitre.
Marquise Goodwin was an interesting selection in the middle of the third round (No. 78 overall). The Olympic track athlete can take the top off of any defense and looks to have an immediate impact out of the slot.
In the fourth round, the Bills found a steal in Duke Williams (No. 105 overall). Though he comes with some character concerns and his temper will need to be contained, there’s a good chance that he’ll replace George Wilson in Week 1 as the starting strong safety. It’s only fitting that the tough, physical, hard-hitting safety played for the Nevada Wolf Pack.
The Bills ended up doubling up at the safety position with the addition of Jonathan Meeks out of Clemson in the fifth round (No. 143 overall), before picking up former Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins (who should have every opportunity to unseat Rian Lindell) in the sixth round (No. 177 overall) and TE Chris Gragg in the seventh round (No. 222 overall).
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!