So, why did the Buffalo Bills draft E.J. Manuel at 1.16, and wasn’t that a bit of a reach?
Some might say the answer to the latter is pretty cut and dried, others less so. Let’s look at the context of Round 1.
Prior to the draft, we’ve got the New York Jets leaking they’re going to draft Ryan Nassib – whether that’s at 1.09 or 2.08, who’s to know? What other teams will be targeting a quarterback with varying degrees of need and urgency? The Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles.
So, how does that stack up on reflection?
Right or wrong, there was a heckuva lot of draft day chatter that someone would either trade back in the first or move up from the early second to take a QB. In the season of smoke and mirrors, who will ever know how much truth there is to that?
What is notable is that had the Bills not taken Manuel at 1.16 there would be no way they’d get him in Round 2. None. Just look at the stretch that precedes their next pick:
- Jacksonville Jaguars: 2.01
- Philadelphia Eagles: 2.03
- Arizona Cardinals: 2.06
- New York Jets: 2.09
Two out of those next four teams called Manuel pre-draft to make sure they could reach him on Thursday night; The Eagles and the Jets.
Could the Bills have traded further back into Round 1 and still taken him? Perhaps.
Buffalo GM, Buddy Nix, certainly said they fielded a few calls about the 1.16 slot, but confessed to being nervous about moving back any further. With half of the first round gone, the teams that would likely trade up (and a couple of them did) are all at the very back of the first (New England 1.29, Atlanta 1.30, San Francisco 1.31, etc.). After trading back twice, it’s not difficult to envision a situation where the Bills could be in a position to lose out if someone leapfrogged them from the top of the second into the back of the first ahead of those late round picks.
With trading back not an option and sitting tight for him to drop to 2.10 also not possible, when you’ve just acquired another second round pick (in the St. Louis Rams deal for Tavon Austin) as well as a seventh-round pick, why risk it all and not get the player you want?
So, is it a reach after all that?
Maybe, but I don’t see that they had much choice, or that the 10-15 spots or so before he could’ve conceivably gone is that big of a deal. You mitigate it by saying that they also got an additional second rounder and it actually looks like – dare I say it – a decent bit of business, especially after navigating the Jets bluff comfortably and volleying back with a
Tavon Austin smokescreen of their own.
Ultimately, only time will give us the real sense of it, but right here and now, that pick sits just fine here.