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Twice last year, the Buffalo Bills were in position to select any quarterback they wanted.

The first time, with every quarterback on the board, they traded back eight slots. The second time, they declared EJ Manuel was the best of the bunch by drafting him 16th overall.

Manuel was the only quarterback drafted in the first round, indicative of how thin last year's class was considered.

But where would Manuel rank among this year's group?

Although Bills GM Doug Whaley repeatedly has said they are set at quarterback and will consider drafting any position other than quarterback in the first round this spring, at least one NFL analyst grades several of this year's rookies higher than he would Manuel.

"I've got a lot of guys rated ahead of him based on their college career and based on Manuel's college career," said NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, former GM of the Houston Texans.

"Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel, Carr, Garoppolo and McCarron. I've got them all rated ahead of EJ Manuel, coming out a year ago. And you know what? LSU quarterback Mettenberger. I've got him ahead of Manuel, too."

Add up the names, and there would be seven quarterbacks ahead of Manuel in Casserly's mind.

That's not to say Casserly believes seven quarterbacks would perform better for the Bills in 2014. While those quarterbacks will be rookies, Manuel is entering his second pro season.

At the NFL owners meetings two weeks ago, Bills coach Doug Marrone discussed how valuable it is for a second-year quarterback to experience his first full offseason of work.

"It's going to be unbelievable," Marrone said. "It's the biggest benefit that you can have.

"I love the way he's going about his business right now. He's learned a lot. It was a new experience for him. ... He's a very bright kid, a very prideful kid. I think all those experiences that happened to him -- all the adversity, the challenges with the injuries, preparing for that first away game, the two-minute drive to win the game against Carolina -- all these things tell him, 'OK, I know what I have to do to get better.' "

Manuel's development was hampered by three knee injuries in a four-month span. He missed the final two preseason games, four straight games in October and November and the final two games.

"He's hungrier now than he's been before," Marrone said.