- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Buffalo Bills made the most controversial pick of the first round of the NFL draft by taking former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel at No. 16. No one expected Manuel to be the top quarterback off the board. Most projected the second or third round for Manuel, but the Bills made the shocking selection.
Expect plenty of criticism and second-guessing over the next few weeks and months. You can count ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay among the first people to take Buffalo to task.
Here was McShay's reaction to the Bills taking Manuel on ESPN's "SportsCenter":
"He has slow eyes on the football field as a passer, and I think his accuracy is below average to marginal when you compare him to other prospects. ... He is someone you develop three or four years down the road. Personally, when I look at this pick, I think it's one of those you look at as a waste. Because there was opportunity to do something really good with this draft pick, and not even at the quarterback position. There were plenty of other positions they needed to draft to get better in certain areas. ... EJ Manuel is not a first-round draft pick at the quarterback position. I think it's going to be a big mistake for this organization."
It's hard to trust the Bills on this one. This was a very questionable quarterback class, and Buffalo drafted the quarterback in the first round that most didn’t have in their top three at the position. The fact that Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the first round means the Bills most likely could have waited until the second round to fill their need at quarterback.
Perhaps the Bills outsmarted everyone. But based on their history, there's also a solid chance the Bills added to their long list of blunders, which contributed to their NFL-high 13-year playoff drought.
As I wrote Thursday, this Manuel pick will define the Doug Marrone era. Both the rookie quarterback and new coach have approximately two or three years to turn Buffalo into a contender. If Manuel does not develop into a franchise quarterback in that span, the Bills will be stuck in neutral.