'Best QB' Manuel embraces chance to play for Eagles

'Best QB' Manuel embraces chance to play for Eagles
February 23, 2013, 11:00 am
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INDIANAPOLIS -- As much as people like to drool over E.J. Manuel’s mobility and right arm and make favorable comparisons to Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson or Robert Griffin III, Manuel would rather avoid any parallels.

“I don’t have to be Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson,” the former Florida State quarterback said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I can be E.J. Manuel. But I do see a lot of my abilities in those guys.”

He also sees great potential for his career after seeing how NFL teams borrowed more concepts from the college ranks.

“When I saw those guys having success throughout the year, it gave me confidence going into the draft knowing that kind of quarterback -- as far as a guy who can run and throw -- and not necessarily run first, but also throw the ball and have that run threat,” Manuel said.

“It’s more accepted now, whereas five or 10 years ago, it wasn’t really accepted and you definitely didn’t want to act like you could run. You just wanted to sit in the pocket the whole time. Now it’s more embraced as a quarterback.”

Manuel, just the second player in NCAA history to win four consecutive bowl games, won 25 of his 31 starts at Florida State and left as the most accurate passer in school history, but his draft stock is the most fluid of all the quarterbacks entering the all-important Sunday passing workouts at the Combine.

Very few draft analysts have him rated among the top five or six quarterbacks, but several personnel people feel that Manuel has the most to gain -- or lose -- from his workouts on Sunday, even climbing up the charts and breaking into first-round discussion as teams do more homework on him.

Manuel, who has ideal size at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, dubbed himself “the best quarterback in this class” and felt confident that NFL personnel people would share the same opinion.

"No disrespect to anybody else. That's just the way I feel,” he said. “All the guys probably feel the same way. But I definitely feel I can be the best QB coming out of this week.”

Manuel is also optimistic about his potential fit in whatever offense Eagles coach Chip Kelly plans to draw up. Kelly has said that his playbook has yet to be scripted but will cater to his personnel.

Kelly, who five years ago tried to recruit Manuel to Oregon, said Thursday that he had always hoped to have the chance to coach Manuel. If there hadn’t been about 3,000 miles in between Manuel’s Virginia home and Eugene, Ore., Kelly might have had that chance.

“Coach Kelly is a great coach first off, and a great person off the field. I really respected him for that,” said Manuel, who had met with Kelly in January during the Senior Bowl. “One of the big deterrents for Oregon was that it’s the other side of the country. If I had been from California, I may have looked at those guys a little harder, but I love the kind of offense he had out at Oregon. I definitely watched their games and saw the success he had.”

Whatever Kelly decides to do at quarterback -- be it conventional dropback passer or explosive runner -- Manuel can envision himself leading the Eagles into the future.

“I can definitely sit in the pocket and throw the ball,” he said. “At the same time, I can also be a run threat, throwing the ball on the perimeter.”

Manuel threw for more than 3,000 yards this past season and rushed for more than 300 yards, totaling 27 touchdowns and leaving with Florida State’s career accuracy record. His accuracy and decision-making has been knocked at times, especially in the face of pressure, but Manuel believes that he silenced some of his skeptics last month in Mobile, Ala., by winning Senior Bowl MVP.

“I think I proved I can be consistent in my reads. I’m also consistent with my accuracy,” he said. “I think I was accurate all week, not just in the game. I was happy I got the MVP. At the same time, I thought I had a great week overall, starting on Monday all the way up through Friday as far as the practices because I know that was a really important part of it.

“All the scouts were watching us during the day. I thought strategically that I knocked out each and every day, and I was happy with my performance.”