Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 240 lbs.
School: Florida State
Strength: System, delivery, arm strength, short to intermediate accuracy, mobility, play action, touch, poise.
Weaknesses: Footwork, ball placement, throwing the ball away, fumbling, consistency.
Florida State University’s E.J. Manuel operates in a system that most will deem “pro-style” because he takes a significant amount of snaps from under center as well as shotgun sets, and goes through several reads whilst dropping back.
He took a plethora of 3- and 5-step drops last season, with the former having quick, grass reads that are typically seen in spread offenses while the latter sees him scan the field and go through multiple reads. This immediately becomes a strength of Manuel’s as he transitions from college to the NFL.
Speaking of strengths, one of the most impressive traits is his delivery. After he secures the ball with both hands following the snap, he is very quick getting it out. His delivery is compact, which allows him to get rid of the ball without problem once he identifies his target.
A quick delivery combined with impressive arm strength can be a deadly combination for the Seminoles quarterback if he realizes his full potential. He can make throws with velocity down the middle and outside the numbers of the field.
Moreover, one aspect of Manuel’s game that grew on me while I watched was his short to intermediate accuracy. There’s no doubt his ball placement can sometimes be in question, which I’ll touch on later, but for the most part, he has good accuracy that enables him to hit his targets often.
Watching FSU’s offense, it was evident that it was built around the talents of their senior quarterback. There were bootlegs, rollouts, quarterback leads and speed options being used each week that played to the strengths of the talents of Manuel, one of which is his mobility. He shows the ability to extend the play and manipulate the pocket with his feet. His mobility is also a factor on play action, which he also does a good job of selling with proper technique, because it forces the backside contain to account for a potential scramble.
In addition to the above traits, Manuel shows quality touch on passes between the hashes and outside the numbers. These are two different types of throws that require a soft touch to place the ball in between multiple defenders for the completion.
Other than accuracy, poise may be the most important characteristic of a quarterback. E.J. Manuel often does a good job of handling the pressure filled situations by keeping his eyes down the field and climbing the pocket.
When it comes to having athletic success, perhaps the most important aspect is footwork. This has been an issue with Manuel’s play, and it can be tied to his struggles with ball placement as well.
He has a tendency to under-stride on drop backs and follow it up by not rotating his hips. Instead of rotating his hips to properly transfer his weight, he lifts his back leg in the air as he throws the ball to generate power. As a result, his passes sometimes fall short of the target and lack proper ball placement. This can be corrected with proper footwork, which includes taking hitch steps that balance him out after he’s reached the top of his drop.
Equally important to footwork is living another down, and it’s something E.J. Manuel is still learning. As a young signal caller, he tries to make plays at times when he should simply throw the ball away.
Furthermore, although his aforementioned mobility is a dangerous threat, he tends to put the ball on the ground. According to Teamrankings.com, he had 9 fumbles last season. He needs to avoid fumbling the ball by having both hands on it while carrying it.
Finally, consistency is the big question with E.J. Manuel. Can he play well week in and week out? Can he make the throws when they are needed the most with proper footwork and ball placement? Can he avoid fumbling the ball when scrambling?
All questions that need answers.
There’s little question about the raw talent of Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. He’s a very gifted quarterback that has all the tools that NFL personnel men look for: arm strength, accuracy, mobility, and a compact delivery are among them. However, the tools haven’t ever been the question, it’s been the lack of consistent production.
Last season, Manuel had 18 touchdowns and averaged an impressive 8.6 yards per attempt. On the other hand, he also had 8 interceptions, 9 fumbles and several throws that were left on the field. A reason for his issues is that he lacks experience -- which is visible in his decision making and footwork. If he improves in these areas and gains consistency, Manuel could skyrocket up draft boards and potentially be a top 45 selection.