By the end of his career, EJ Manuel wound up being one of the most polarizing players to ever wear an FSU uniform. While EJ succeeded in leading FSU to top 5 offenses, EJ never seemed to show the ability to control a game. FSU lost some close games to double-digit underdogs in recent years (i.e., UVA in 2011, NC State in 2012) and in both instances, EJ Manuel had the ability to lead his team to victory. Both of those games are blemishes on his resume because of wasted potential. It’s possible you can pin some of the loss on injuries, play calling, and offensive scheme, but the one constant was at quarterback: EJ. So, naturally, EJ has taken the blame for those losses and, generally, the disappointment that FSU fans feel about the program.
NFL scouts don’t seem to feel the same way, however, and have been paying close attention to EJ. In fact, EJ has received so much attention that you have to wonder whether EJ can make a push to be taken in the 1st round of the NFL draft. I’d say he is just as talented as Blaine Gabbert and has just as much, if not more, when it comes to leadership abilities. But what about another QB taken in that draft from FSU: Christian Ponder. Let’s start by taking a look at their statistics from their junior and senior seasons:
EJ Manuel: Senior Year Statistics
3392 Yards; 23 TDs; 10 INTs; 68% Completion; 8.8 YPA
Christian Ponder: Senior Year Statistics
2044 Yards; 20 TDs 8 INTS; 61.5% Completion; 6.8 YPA
EJ Manuel: Junior Year Statistics
2666 Yards; 18 TDs; 8 INTs; 65.3% Completion; 8.6 YPA
Christian Ponder: Junior Year Statistics
2717 Yards; 14 TDs; 7 INTs; 68.8% Completion; 8.2 YPA
After Christian Ponder’s junior season, he was widely considered to be a 1st round draft pick. Then came multiple elbow injuries. He healed in time and was ultimately selected 12th by the Minnesota Vikings. EJ’s statistics compare just as well to Christian’s, so why is EJ not being considered an outright lock for the 1st round? Talent. By EJ’s senior year, Jimbo Fisher had completely revolutionized the Seminoles roster. The talent at running back and receiver far surpassed the talent that Christian Ponder had to work with. Naturally, his statistics were better because he had better talent around him. That’s not a knock on EJ, but it’s a reason why people are discounting his abilities–Christian did about as well, with worse talent, in the same system. All things equal, Christian is a better NFL talent than EJ.
Bottom Line: All it takes is one team to fall in love with EJ. EJ put together a fantastic senior campaign and has been doing and saying all of the right things leading up to the NFL Draft. I personally believe, if he isn’t taken late in the first round, he will be selected early in the 2nd round.