NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has watched enough tape on EJ Manuel to call him the second-best quarterback prospect in the draft.
NFL Films guru Greg Cosell -- like Mayock, knee-deep in game film -- also sees something intriguing in Manuel's game.
"When you look at Manuel, there's a lot to work with. There's size, there's arm strength, there's athleticism, and I think he can run read-option stuff," Cosell said Thursday on the Yahoo! Sports Shutdown Corner draft podcast.
"Now, are there other things? He's a little sloppy with his footwork. He had a tendency to fall away from throws. I thought at times he was a bit of a pusher (of the ball) with a very high elbow position. There were times when he leaned over his front foot when he had to re-set, and that impacted his ability to make accurate throws. As most quarterbacks are in college, he was very over-reactive to bodies around him."
Said Cosell: "There are concerns here, but then when you look at some of the positives -- stronger arm, the movement, at times he was very composed -- I'm very anxious to see where he gets drafted, because he gives you that read-option factor."
The read-option factor alone might catapult Manuel up the charts. If not a day one starter, Manuel is attractive as a layaway plan: Let him learn for a year and develop in hopes he can make an early-career impact ala Colin Kaepernick. If you can draft a guy with the ability to open up your offense and utilize read-option concepts, plenty of teams are going to consider it. Of course, that doesn't mean Kaepernick 2.0 is imminent. It's a crapshoot.
Manuel's rise, from another angle, is linked to waning enthusiasm for Matt Barkley and most of this quarterback class. Barkley, specifically, comes with questions of arm strength, scattershot footwork and stature. Cosell labeled the USC passer a fourth-round talent, but these evaluations are based on where players should go. If we see a steady early run on quarterbacks come April, look for a flurry of arms to be drafted higher than they should.