If you had told Florida State fans that they had a quarterback on their roster that would eventually be an NFL first-round selection, most would have likely guessed you were talking about Jameis Winston. However, just last month, the Buffalo Bills made former Seminole E.J. Manuel the first quarterback selected in the NFL Draft with the sixteenth pick of the first round. That was a surprise to some Nole fans that were critical of Manuel’s development while at Florida State. What Noles fans haven’t been critical of is the play of Winston, whose performance in the spring game all but pushed fellow quarterback Clint Trickett to transfer to West Virginia.
So as the Manuel era ends and the Winston one begins, it’s worth taking a look at the strengths of each quarterback.
Manuel will take with him two qualities that every coach wants in a quarterback: leadership and experience. When the Noles were trailing Clemson at halftime of last year, Manuel decided it was time to speak up. “He spoke up and the locker room was quiet,” FSU RB James Wilder Jr. said. “He looked everybody in the eyes. He was looking at the offense and the defense. Everybody respects him because he’s such a great leader. Then he went out and held his ground and picked everybody up.”
Furthermore, Manuel went 25-6 as a starting quarterback, winning four bowl games along the way. He went 5-1 against in-state rivals Miami and Florida, and led the Noles to only their third 12-win season. Like him or not Noles fans, that type of experience is impossible to replicate on the look team or in summer workouts.
However, Winston isn’t as highly regarded as he is without reason. Quite simply, he passes the eye test. He looks comfortable in the pocket and appears to have the pocket presence that Manuel sometimes lacked. His release is lightning quick, allowing him to get the ball into tight windows with good anticipation. And don’t forget the arm. He’s blessed with a right arm that is special. So special in fact that he is also a pitcher on the nationally ranked Seminoles baseball team.
Without having played a game, Winston is already drawing comparisons to other two sport stars at Florida State like Charlie Ward and Deion Sanders. Only time will tell how the transition at quarterback will play out at FSU, but Seminole fans are certainly excited about the player they have in Winston.
It’s rare that you have a quarterback drafted in the first round and get better at the position, but that might be the case when the Jameis Winston era begins in September.