Niagara Gazette

April 26, 2013

Leading Off: Manuel's the right choice

By TOM GALLAGHER
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — There's no question that the Bills reached in the first round of the NFL draft.

But they still got the pick right.

In what may have been a head scratcher to many, the Bills selected Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with their first pick, 16th overall, Thursday night.

Buffalo entered the draft with the No. 8 pick but swapped first- and third-rounders with St. Louis to add additional picks in the second and seventh rounds.

Manuel, 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, is the first signal caller to be drafted by the Bills in the first round since J.P. Losman in 2004. General manager Buddy Nix didn't just pass on quarterbacks Geno Smith of West Virginia or Matt Barkley of USC, but three other QBs that were in Mel Kiper's top five at the position.

Still, Manuel was first-year head coach Doug Marrone's guy. And that's why it was a good selection for a franchise devoid of them in previous years.

The Bills have been seeking a franchise cornerstone for years. They've gone through several front office regimes and coaching staffs, trying to end a playoff drought that dates back to the 90s and connect with a fan base that's frustrated because of it.

Manuel provides the Bills with that identity. Like the hiring of Marrone, the selection of Manuel signifies the turning over of a new leaf in Buffalo. The duo provides Bills fans not just with that identity, but a fresh, entertaining one.

The team didn't pull any punches with this selection. It doesn't feel forced. He's clearly the guy they believe will come in and operate Marrone's offensive system effectively. Manuel and running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson give the Bills a dangerous trio of weapons in the backfield.

The move will forever have its critics. Taking Manuel over Smith or Barkley will give outsiders a crutch to lean on every time the former Seminole comes up short or plays poorly.

But the only real valid criticism the pick should garner is that Buffalo should have moved down, added an additional mid-round pick, and still came away with Manuel. Nix and Marrone clearly didn't want to risk losing out on their guy and took him at No. 16.

And it was the right move.

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