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2015 NFL DRAFT

NFL Draft: Bills surprise with Manuel pick

By Jeff Reynolds | NFLDraftScout.com

In the end, general manager Buddy Nix and coach Doug Marrone made no hesitation in selecting Florida State's EJ Manuel with the No. 16 overall pick, just the third quarterback drafted in the first round in the franchise's 55 years. The others were Jim Kelly (1983) and J.P. Losman (2004).

The quarterback-starved Buffalo Bills could've selected West Virginia's Geno Smith, the highest rated passer on most everyone's scouting report.

They could've drafted Ryan Nassib, the fast-rising Syracuse quarterback who just happened to play four seasons for Marrone with the Orange.

USC's Matt Barkley, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson … the list went on and on.

The Bills, who haven't made the playoffs in 13 seasons, released three-year starter Ryan Fitzpatrick during the off-season and made no secret they were targeting a quarterback of the future, perhaps immediately if Manuel can beat out veterans Kevin Kolb and Tavaris Jackson in training camp.

No team spent more time researching the quarterbacks available in this draft.

"As you know, we did a lot of work on these guys and we felt we knew him as well as you could from a distance," Nix said. "This guy, to us, has the upside to be whatever you want him to be. They all had good qualities but this is a guy who can do both (run and pass). It's up to Coach Marrone and his staff how they use him, but this guy can do both … and he's a winner."

In Manuel, the Bills get the biggest (6-5, 237) and fastest (4.55 forty dash) quarterback in the draft.

His arm is plenty strong for Buffalo's weather, team scouts said, but deep accuracy will need to be worked on.

A two-year starter at Florida State where he posted a 25-6 record as a starter, Manuel completed 68 percent of his throws for 3,397 yards, 23 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 156.1 rating as a senior. For his career, he threw for 7,741 yards and 47 scores.

A Marrone-Nassib reunion in Buffalo, where Nassib's college offensive coordinator (Nate Hackett) is also now employed, was long talked about in the media but Marrone said he wasn't torn about the selection of Manuel.

"I wouldn't use the word ‘conflicted,' " Marrone said. "At the end of the day, there were a lot of good quarterbacks in the draft and we took the one that we felt best fits us here in Buffalo."

The read option made popular in the NFL last season by newcomers Robert Griffin III with the Redskins, Russell Wilson with the Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers is something Manuel can operate, but that's not the reason he was drafted, Marrone said.

"I don't know if it's specifically the read option, it's more the ability to make plays with his feet," he said. "That's what we looked at."

In a conference call with reporters, Manuel said the Bills met with him extensively and he had a very good pre-draft meeting with Hackett in Buffalo.

"The system coach Hackett was teaching me when we met intrigued me the most," he said. "I called my agent and said, 'I hope Buffalo takes me because I can fit into this system.' I know he's smart and innovative so I see a lot of good things coming."

The Bills, who started the night with the No. 8 overall pick, wound up selecting 16th after a major trade with the St. Louis Rams.

The Rams, who coveted West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, were concerned that the New York Jets were going to take the electrifying Mountaineer with the No. 9 pick and were eager to deal for Buffalo's eighth spot.

With all the top quarterbacks still in play, Nix was more than happy to make a deal. The move was savvy on Nix's part as it brought in two extra picks (No. 46, second round and No. 222, seventh round) that he desperately needed to help with his rebuilding project, now in Year 4. The move also kept Austin out of the hands of a division rival.

The Bills and Rams also swapped third-round picks (71 and 78). Heading into Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, Buffalo will now select 41, 46 and 78.

"I'm excited about Friday," Nix said. "We'll be getting some good football players."

Information provided by The Sports Xchange's NFL Team Reports

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