Jon Gruden has been running his annual QB camp on ESPN over the past couple weeks, a show that we previously described as Gruden "slobbering over every notable QB prospect in the upcoming draft." And certainly his take on Geno Smith supported that. That said, you will find a little more criticism in Gruden's written pieces vs his TV work.
His praise of Manuel starts with the obvious stuff that everyone likes about E.J., the fact that he's 6-4, 240 and runs a 4.6 40. Physically, you won't find a better built QB prospect in this draft (or next year's for that matter). He says that this makes Manuel one of the very few QBs in this class that could potentially play in any offense.
First of all, Manuel is the one quarterback in this class -- with Geno Smith and Matt Barkley close behind -- that fits the bill when you talk about a quarterback who can be put into any type of offense. I think he's the quarterback in this draft with the greatest ability to execute any kind of play you can dream up -- designed quarterback runs, option plays and, most importantly, drop-back passes. Where Manuel draws questions is because while he can do it all, he hasn't proved that he has the one elite trait. But you can develop him, because while he hasn't done one thing perfectly, he's the guy with the greatest portfolio of skills.
He also praises, as many scouts do, Manuel's smarts, toughness and personality. He was a 2 time academic all American, he once played an entire half against Notre Dame with a broken fibula (and threw 2 TD passes) and unlike a more quiet guy like Geno Smith, Manuel's personality does fill rooms.
But as Gruden repeats several times, Manuel does lots of things well, but nothing he does is perfect and one of the main concerns is ball security.
Ball security is one that clearly stands out. And I'm not just talking about fumbles. I'm talking about protecting the ball with two hands at all times. When I went through the tape with him, I showed him several examples in which he didn't fumble, but he switched the ball and left it vulnerable, situations that would lead to a fumble at the next level. So I think ball security is an area he's got to improve on.
It's a good point because guys are bigger, faster, stronger & smarter in the NFL and if they see a ball unprotected they're going to swat it out. Even it is well protected, they're still going to try. So like all guys, Manuel will have to learn that things he got away with in college won't fly at the NFL level.
Gruden's conclusion is much like Mike Mayock's. Manuel isn't a perfect prospect at this point, but the tools are so good that this a guy that a coach will want to take a shot at developing.
But in the end you're still taken with the fact that he can do more. I want to work with a guy who has that kind of ability, a guy who will be better if he makes it easier on himself. I think he's still developing as a pocket passer. But I do like the development I've already seen and I do see the upside with him.