After no first-round picks in 2012, the state of Florida was back Thursday night with Florida State's EJ Manuel surprising the analysts as the first quarterback drafted and first of five first-rounders from colleges in the Sunshine State.
Manuel was selected 16th by the Bills and has three games in the fall in Florida, including Dec. 8 against the Bucs
Manuel was one of five quarterbacks whom the Bills worked out privately at their facility.
"We felt like we knew them about as well as you could from a distance," general manager Buddy Nix told the Bills' official website. "I think if we can develop this guy, he's got the physical talent to take you to the dance."
Three years ago, Florida State had never had a quarterback taken in the first round. Now it has two, including Christian Ponder to the Vikings at No. 12 in 2011.
Many analysts believed the Bills would draft Ryan Nassib, who played under their new coach, Doug Marrone, at Syracuse. But even after trading down from No. 8, the Bills selected Manuel, who will compete right away with veteran Kevin Kolb for the starting job.
Manuel's selection was seen as a reach by some. ESPN's Todd McShay called it "a gamble you cannot afford to make if you're the Bills" and the "worst non-Raiders picks I can remember in years."
For the draft's first 2½ hours, the bigger story was who wasn't taken. Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, speculated as going as high as No. 3 in the days leading up to the draft, was still available before going 23rd to the Vikings.
"You never know what happens in those situations," Florida coach Will Muschamp said of Floyd's drop. "I know the further you go and deeper in the draft, the better organizations you're going to be with. Minnesota is a great organization to be with."
Floyd's selection set off a run of players from Florida schools. FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner went 24th to the Colts, and FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes went 25th to the Vikings.
"Bjoern is one of the great players in Florida State history and one of the most instinctive players that's ever been around," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He's going to be a great professional player.
"I'm extremely happy for Xavier. He made the sacrifice of switching from receiver to corner and will go on to have a tremendous career in the NFL. He, too, is another great young man and great representative for Florida State."
FSU's three first-rounders were the program's most since 2006, when there were four: Ernie Sims, Kamerion Wimberly, Broderick Bunkley and Antonio Cromartie.
With the night's final pick, Gators junior safety Matt Elam was picked by the Super Bowl champion Ravens. He'll be seen as a successor to Ed Reed, who signed with the Texans.
Floyd and Elam gave the Gators seven first-round picks over the past six drafts. The rest of the state's schools combined for just nine in the same span.
It's likely neither USF nor Miami will have a player drafted until Saturday's final four rounds.