The first round of every NFL Draft is spotted with players who break out for a season before going pro. Whether it was Nick Fairley this year or Mark Sanchez in the 2009 draft, some players need just a single season to become draft superstars. We're going to preview some break out candidates before the season starts.
6'5, 245 pounds | Quarterback | Florida State
Why he's poised to break out:
Although he's only started six games at Florida State, Manuel has played in 17 games filling in for an injured Christian Ponder. Now that he's the full-time starter as a junior, Manuel has the supporting cast at FSU that can make him a star. Combined with his natural plus passing abilities, size and solid mechanics and Manuel could develop into a top 15 pick, at least.
Manuel has consistently flashed an ability to complete the deep pass and has a NFL-level arm. After having rotator cuff surgery following the 2009 season, Manuel showed much better velocity on his passes last season. Manuel also improved his mechanics following the surgery. While he doesn't have a lightning quick release, it's efficient and workable for the next level.
Manuel is also a good athlete for a quarterback. While he shouldn't be confused with Michael Vick, he can move around nicely to avoid pressure coming at him. He's also athletic enough to pull the ball down and run with it.
Where he needs to improve:
In the passing game, there are two areas where Manuel needs to show marked improvement in 2011. In the games he's played, Manuel has struggled to read the middle part of the defense ad has to rely on making throws to the outside. While that's passable in the college game, the NFL is a game played between the hashes. If Manuel can't understand where coverage is lined up over the midle, he could struggle to translate to the next level.
Manuel also has to work on his accuracy in the short passing game (throws of 10 yards or less). Manuel struggles to make a quick, three-step drop release of the ball. He'll have to speed up his timing, but that should only come with experience.
Like many inexperienced quarterbacks, Manuel needs to get more comfortable moving to his blindside while in the pocket. He's shown he can work to the right on a roll out, but has difficulty going left.
NFL comparison: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers