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EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills set to open up offense

That light you see over the horizon? It's from a blazing fire that spits out the ashes of failed mock drafts everywhere.

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft was full of surprises, starting at the quarterback position, where EJ Manuel was off to Buffalo -- and Geno Smith was grounded in the green room.

The Bills' decision to nab Manuel with the 16th overall pick drew plenty of heat from draft analysts.

Not a surprise. That set typically rates players based on attributes, while NFL coaching staffs look for athletes who fit what they do. Whether or not you agree with the decision, the Manuel pick tells us where the Bills are headed under coach Doug Marrone.

We expect Buffalo to dive into the read-option next season, featuring Manuel with plays that suit his gifts in Marrone's up-tempo attack.

The Bills aren't trend-setters on that front, not after last season, but Manuel arguably is better suited for option concepts than any of this year's prospects, including Smith. Manuel is a big, raw, imperfect project, but this year's draft is a strong example of teams preferring high-ceiling athletes who can be molded. Less popular: Big names with athletic flaws (see: Manti Te'o's cement feet).

The Bills love Manuel's size and mobility, and they didn't think he'd be there in Round 2. While Smith tumbled out of sight, whispers had the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns highly enamored with EJ. Buffalo went out and got its guy.

Marrone has wasted no time attaching his legacy -- and his offense -- to a young passer. The hordes on Twitter might not admire the thinking (or love Manuel's tape) but the pick tells us how differently some teams, especially the Bills, see this draft process.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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