For much of the offseason, Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel has lurked as an intriguing sleeper in a pretty "meh" quarterback class. The recent uptick in the usage rates of athletic quarterbacks only makes him more interesting for NFL teams.
“I have a good feeling that it'll be within the first two rounds," Manuel told 92.3 the Fan in Cleveland. "I think the biggest thing for me is just continue to get better. When I have these opportunities to work out for the teams and show them what I can do on and off the field -- whether it's on the board writing my plays or watching film and just talking football with them -- I think that's where I'm able to put my best foot forward.
"So I'm pretty sure I've impressed a lot of decision-makers within these franchises, so draft day is gonna be great. Whether I go in the first or second round, I'll still be happy."
In other words, it's not a matter of if he'll go before the second round ends, but whether or not he'll be a first-round pick. That's not something taken out of context either; Manuel told Jim Corbett of USA Today that he thinks he has a "really good chance" of being picked on Thursday.
"I think I have a really good chance to go in the first round of the draft," Manuel said.
It wouldn't be stunning if Manuel went in the first round (Lord only knows how many quarterbacks have been over-drafted in the last decade) but given the way the quarterback landscape's shifted in the past few days -- with the Bills signing Kevin Kolb, the Raiders grabbing Matt Flynn and the Cardinals picking up Carson Palmer -- the market is pretty suppressed at the moment.
Manuel is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4-ranked quarterback, and the final line of his initial evaluation says it all: "Manuel is a likely candidate to be overdrafted next April because of his intriguing physical tools."
None of our six freshly updated 2013 NFL Mock Drafts have him going in the first round. But the former Seminoles quarterback clearly is confident he can prove everyone wrong.