Expectations in check for FSU's Manuel

May, 7, 2012
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It's been stated before in this space and it'll be stated again: There's nothing like seeing the disparity among mock drafts roughly a year before said drafts take place.

So it goes with 2013, which may have an ACC player at the center of debate, depending on the 2012 season.

CBSSports.com's Rob Rang has Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel as the No. 2 overall pick in his early mock, a position I have to think even the most optimistic of Seminoles fans are surprised to see. Manuel was 30th on NFL.com's Bucky Brooks' list of 30-best prospects. Brooks' colleague, Chad Reuter, has Manuel as the No. 3 quarterback. But the FSU signal-caller was not featured in most of the mocks we looked at last week.

Rang, who gives the Bills the No. 2 pick next year, writes:
Considering the gains the Bills made on the defensive side of the ball over the offseason, some expect them to make the playoffs in 2013. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't universally regarded by scouts as a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. Should Fitzpatrick and the Bills' offense fail to match the new Buffalo defense, an immediate change is possible. Manuel has the physical tools to excite a scouting staff and has flashed superstar ability in a spread offense at FSU similar to the one Buffalo uses.

There has been a lot of discussion as to whether Manuel is the guy who can help bring FSU back into the national-title conversation this season. Coach Jimbo Fisher was presented with a question on an ACC teleconference nearly two weeks ago about whether Manuel would need to have a player of the year-type campaign for the offense to take off the way everyone around the program would like it to.

"No, I don't think so," Fisher said. "I think he has the ability to do that. The key is we play well around him. We first of all take care of our needs up front, and we get better up front and allow us to function. I think we have to find the receiver who is a guy that's going to go catch 70 balls, and the back that's going to be able to tote it and make the plays at the end and so forth, and the tight end create things. I think he will.

"When I looked at his numbers at the end, he didn't play perfect, but he did pretty good with the situations we had around him. And I don't necessarily think that's true, especially with the capabilities we have. I think we'll be able to run the football much better. Make more plays out there, and play great defense and special teams. I think he can, but I don't think he has to."

How Manuel's offensive teammates play will go a long way toward settling the debate around him.

Matt Fortuna | email

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