A year ago, EJ Manuel was the first quarterback taken and the only one to go in the first round. But according to NFL Network contributor and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, Manuel would be the eighth-best quarterback in the 2014 draft.
"I've got a lot of guys rated ahead of (Manuel) based on their college career and based on Manuel's college career," Casserly said on Thursday's Path to the Draft. "[Teddy] Bridgewater, [Blake] Bortles, [Johnny] Manziel, [Derek] Carr, [Jimmy] Garoppolo and [AJ] McCarron -- I've got them all rated ahead of EJ Manuel coming out a year ago. And you know what, LSU quarterback [Zach] Mettenberger, I've got him ahead of Manuel, too."
Last April, the Bills traded down in the first round and got Manuel 16th overall. He started 10 games as a rookie, completed 58.8 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and ranked 37th in total QB value, according to Football Outsiders (which was better than Case Keenum, Matt Flynn and Joe Flacco).
But Manuel, who was slowed by a knee injury midway through the season, showed glimpses of franchise quarterback potential, and general manager Doug Whaley has stated repeatedly that the team isn't in the market for a quarterback.
And coach Doug Marrone, who, like Manuel, is heading into his second season, thinks we'll see a much-improved quarterback in 2014.
"It's going to be unbelievable," Marrone said, via the BuffaloNews.com's Tim Graham. "It's the biggest benefit that you can have.
"I love the way [Manuel's] going about his business right now. He's learned a lot. It was a new experience for him. ... He's a very bright kid, a very prideful kid. I think all those experiences that happened to him -- all the adversity, the challenges with the injuries, preparing for that first away game, the two-minute drive to win the game against Carolina -- all these things tell him, 'OK, I know what I have to do to get better.' ... He's hungrier now than he's been before."
It's worth pointing out that Casserly was the GM in Houston when the Texans used the first-overall pick in 2002 on David Carr, and was at the helm in Washington when the Redskins used the No. 3 pick in 1994 on quarterback Heath Shuler. If you're in the talent-evaluation business, those are two names whose NFL careers don't exactly freshen up your resume.
Then again, as PFT's Michael David Smith notes, "Just because a GM has made bad picks doesn't mean he lacks knowledge about the draft evaluation process."
Put another way: This is the latest example of why the draft is more art than science.