Niagara Gazette — ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — After trading down, the Buffalo Bills still landed the player they desired, selecting Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with the 16th pick in the NFL draft.
Manuel became the first quarterback selected on Thursday, and filled a big need for a Bills team that's rebuilding under new coach Doug Marrone. Manuel was the most accurate passer at Florida State, where he completed nearly 67 percent of his passes.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, Manuel has a strong arm, is mobile and went 25-6 in four years with the Seminoles.
He went 263 for 387 for 3,397 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 14 starts as a senior last season. Overall, he threw 47 touchdowns versus 28 interceptions in 41 career games.
Before making their first selection as slotted at eighth overall, the Bills swung a trade with St. Louis. Aside from swapping first-round picks, Buffalo also acquired the Rams' second- and seventh-round selections (46th and 222nd overall). The teams also exchanged third-round picks.
NFL.com described Manuel as displaying good touch on throws and having a quick release. The one weakness is that he has a tendency to force throws into coverage and cause turnovers.
General manager Buddy Nix had been dropping hints over the past six months regarding his desire to draft a quarterback. And his tune did not change in the hours leading up to the draft.
He told Buffalo's WGR-Radio earlier on Thursday that it was the Bills' "intent sometime during this draft is to get that guy," referring to a franchise-caliber quarterback.
Manuel was one of five quarterback prospects who conducted a private workout for Bills officials, and also visited the Bills facility over the past month.
He is expected to be given an opportunity to immediately compete for the starting job. After cutting starter Ryan Fitzpatrick last month, the Bills did sign six-year veteran Kevin Kolb to a two-year contract earlier this month.
Manuel becomes only the third quarterback Buffalo has selected in the first round, and first since the Bills took J.P. Losman with the 22nd pick in 2004. The other quarterback selected in the first round by the Bills was Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, taken 14th in 1983.
Quarterback is a position that has been unsettled in Buffalo ever since Kelly retired following the 1996 season. No player has lasted more than three seasons as starter since.
The Bills are once again rebuilding from scratch. They haven't had a winning season since a 9-7 finish in 2004. And Buffalo hasn't made the playoffs in 13 seasons, the NFL's longest active drought. Over that stretch, the Bills are now on their sixth head coach and fifth general manager.
The trade with the Rams gives the Bills two second-round picks, including their own at 41.
The trade did not come as a surprise because Nix had expressed a desire to add selections after the Bills entered the draft with only six picks. That was not deemed to be enough to rebuild a team coming off a 6-10 seasons and with needs at numerous positions.
This marked the first time since 2001 in which the Bills have traded down in the first round. That's when Buffalo swapped first-round picks with Tampa Bay, dropping from 14th to 21st, and added a second-rounder.
The Bills have not shown any signs of improvement despite selecting no higher than 12th in each of the previous seven drafts.
Buffalo regressed on offense last season, finishing 19th in the NFL in yards gained. The offense scored two or fewer touchdowns eight times.
And their high-priced defense was even worse, despite the free-agent addition of defensive end Mario Williams, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract. Buffalo allowed 150-plus yards rushing seven times. The 435 points allowed were the second-most in team history, while the 5,806 yards allowed were the fourth-most given up by Buffalo.
Barring more trades, the Bills have seven picks left.