Quarterback E.J. Manuel led FSU to a 12-2 record and ACC championship in 2012. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Most NFL mock drafts and big boards do not project Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel as a first-round pick. That didn't stop Manuel from making a bold declaration at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Friday.
"I definitely feel like I'm the best quarterback in this class," said Manuel, projected as a mid-round pick, according to USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones. West Virginia's Geno Smith, USC's Matt Barkley and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib are among the higher-rated prospects in what is considered a weak quarterback crop.
[Banks: Traditional pocket passers becoming extinct? Don't tell this QB class]
Manuel threw for 3,392 yards during his senior season with the Seminoles, adding 310 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He struggled to stay healthy throughout his career -- his 23 passing touchdowns in 2012 nearly equaled his 24 combined in the three years prior -- but posted a 25-6 record in his 31 career starts.
Manuel spent his college career playing in a pro-style system at Florida State but said the Seminoles would add an element of read-option from time to time — enough at least that he would be comfortable if he were to be drafted by a team who wanted a mobile quarterback.
"I don't think I have to be Colin Kaepernick. I don't have to be Russell Wilson. I can be E.J. Manuel. But I do see a lot of my abilities in those guys. When I saw those guys having success this year, it gave me a lot more confidence going into the draft," he said.
"Knowing that that kind of quarterback — a guy who can run and throw, not necessarily run first, but who can throw the ball and also have that run threat — it's more accepted now. Whereas five or 10 years ago, it really wasn't accepted.
Despite issues with accuracy and durability, Manuel, the Senior Bowl MVP in January, is considered a high-ceiling prospect
because of his prototypical size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and speed.