Buffalo received various criticisms from draft experts. Manuel was the first quarterback taken when many felt it was a reach. ESPN’s Todd McShay was perhaps one of the harshest critics of the Bills, calling the Manuel pick “a waste” in the first round.
“He is someone you develop three or four years down the road,” McShay said last year. “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."
A year later the jury is still out on Manuel. He had an up-and-down rookie season where he threw for 1,972 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
But where would Manuel rank if he was in this year’s draft with other top quarterback prospects such as Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater? According to former NFL general manager and current NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly, Manuel still would not rank favorably in 2014.
“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 NFL Network this week. "Bridgewater, Bortles, 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."
Seven 2014 rookie quarterbacks ahead of Manuel? Ouch!
It’s clear that Casserly was (and still is) not a fan of Manuel. But saying last year’s first-round pick would be behind that many quarterbacks in the 2014 draft is harsh.
Ultimately, the only opinions that matter are Manuel and the Bills organization. It’s up to Manuel to prove detractors -- such as McShay and Casserly -- wrong on the football field this season.