<
>

Where would EJ Manuel fit in 2014 class?

The question was posed to Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley last week: How would you rate EJ Manuel among the quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class?

"Oooh. Good question," Whaley said, according to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550. "I would have to say he would be talked in the top tier of those guys. Just with his size and athletic ability, you looked at the measurements now, there was only one guy close to his size and that was Blake Bortles at 6-5, and AJ McCarron was over the 6-3, so he's in there. I'm a big proponent that everything equal, you go with the bigger guy."

It's a topic that was back on our minds Wednesday, after CBS analyst Phil Simms told Mad Dog Sports Radio that he felt Geno Smith would be the top quarterback if part of this year's class.

Smith, who was taken 23 picks after Manuel last April by the New York Jets, had a 12-to-21 touchdown-to-interception ratio that could put his starting job in jeopardy. At one point, the Jets benched Smith during their 37-14 loss to the Bills last November, replacing him with Matt Simms.

Still, Phil Simms isn't sold that there are any better quarterbacks available this May.

It's a group that includes Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Bortles, and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay had all three quarterbacks selected within the first five picks, while fellow ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had all three signal-callers off the board in the first eight picks.

But there are other opinions out there.

ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski told a Philadelphia radio station Tuesday that he feels Manziel is a "project" and shouldn't be taken in the first three rounds.

That's a little off the beaten path, but it speaks to how the draft is an inexact science. Bortles, Bridgewater, and Manziel could all become "franchise" quarterbacks and every team would be happy, similar to how the 2012 draft produced several quality players at the position. But if Simms and Jaworski are onto something, then the results could be closer to the 2007 draft, when JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, and Kevin Kolb were the first three quarterbacks off the board.

Ranking Manuel and Smith among this year's quarterback class is a fun exercise. I don't think any quarterback from the 2014 class stands out head-and-shoulders over either player, but I think all three top quarterbacks this May will have a higher ceiling.

But to any NFL general manager, the important aspect is finding a quarterback to win. If all of these young quarterbacks are able to do that, how they rank among themselves isn't of much consequence. Similarly, if they all fail in the NFL, which one was best wouldn't mean much either.