Florham Park, NJ – Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel could’ve been a New York Jet.
In fact, he expected to be.
“Definitely,” Manuel said, when asked if he thought the Jets might draft him.
“I did think they were one of the teams that were very interested in me. I guess they just wanted to wait and go with a quarterback with their second round pick instead of their first two.”
That’s exactly what happened, as the Jets passed on Manuel with the ninth and 13th overall selections, allowing the Bills to nab him with the 16th pick. The Jets and new general manager John Idzik then snatched current starting quarterback Geno Smith with the seventh pick in the second round.
But that doesn’t mean the Jets weren’t interested in Manuel as well, bringing him in on one of their 30 out-of-town player visits before the draft.
“I had quite a bit [of contact with the Jets]. I met with coach [Rex] Ryan and a lot of their staff. I went up to the facility for a visit and I liked it a lot up there,” said Manuel. “I thought [the coaches] liked me a lot, and it just so happens that they didn’t choose me.”
In reality, the Jets didn’t pass on Manuel as much as the Bills pounced on him earlier than anyone expected.
Heading into last April’s NFL draft, the 6 foot 4, 237 pound senior out of Florida State was considered a second-round talent at best, that is, until the Bills shocked much of the football world taking him in the top half of the first round.
After two games, that move seems to have paid off for the Bills.
Ryan and the Jets will get their first hack at trying and stop Manuel and a young Bills offense on Sunday. An offense that took the New England Patriots down to the wire, mounted a comeback win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers and is ranked 10th in the league in Value Over Average by Football Outsiders.
On Wednesday, head coach Rex Ryan compared Manuel’s size and ability to Newton, a former No. 1 overall pick.
“I remember looking at Cam Newton once and thinking, ‘who is going to tackle him?’” said Ryan. “You kind of look at EJ Manuel the same way.”
It’s far too early, however, for the Jets to second-guess themselves for passing up on Manuel in the first. Especially when Smith has shown flashes of competency with much less talent around him — and came almost a full round cheaper.
Nevertheless, the division rival Jets and Bills, and the futures of their rookie quarterbacks, seem to be linked for the foreseeable future.
“We definitely did our due diligence on [Manuel],” Ryan confirmed on Wednesday. “He was an outstanding young man, very impressive, no doubt … you can see why Buffalo is excited about him. He certainly was a guy we were looking at.”
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