Fantasy Football Rookie Watch: E.J. Manuel

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E.J. Manuel put up some eye-popping numbers during his time at Florida State and it earned him a first round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills this spring. With Kevin Kolb’s recent knee injury, Manuel is looking more and more like the starter in Buffalo come Week one.

While in Tallahassee, Manuel became the Seminoles’ all-time leader in completion percentage (66.9 percent), which is also tied for second in ACC history. His 7, 736 passing yards and 47 TD passes are good enough for third and seventh all-time in school history — and Manuel did that in only two seasons as the full-time starter.

Last year saw three first-round picks from the quarterback position become genuine fantasy threats: Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. Will Manuel be one of them in '13?

At first glance, there’s a lot to like about Manuel. Like Wilson and RGIII and Colin Kaepernick, Manuel is a read-option running threat and he’ll earn some points with his feet. There is potential for Manuel but still a lot of questions.

First, there is wide receiver Steve Johnson, who has put up at least 140 fantasy points each of the last three seasons. The Bills also drafted USC WR Robert Woods and Texas WR Marquise Goodwin (who clocked a blistering 4.27 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine), giving Manuel a trio of potential targets. That said, with a starting rookie quarterback throwing to rookie receivers it’s hard to know what you’re going to get. It could be spectacular or it could be a disaster.

Manuel will be playing behind a line that ranked tenth in the NFL in sacks allowed, allowing only 30. However, they are replacing star guard Andy Levitre, who signed a free agent deal with the Tennessee Titans.

The one thing that isn’t a question for Manuel is C.J. Spiller, who is a top-10 fantasy running back. The bad news? Spiller could steal touches from Manuel — great for Spiller but a problem for Manuel.

Still, all the pieces are in place for Manuel to be a serious sleeper. If he wins the starting job outright in Buffalo, keep a watchful eye. He could be the next breakout rookie this NFL season.

Eric Smith is an MMA and fantasy football contributor with Follow him on twitter or @EricSmith_SP or email him at [email protected]

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