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Manuel leads FSU standouts on pro day

The SportsXchange

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Riding the momentum of a strong combine and an MVP performance in the Senior Bowl, quarterback EJ Manuel celebrated his 23rd birthday by throwing in front of NFL scouts and assistant coaches Tuesday at Florida State's annual Pro Day.

Manuel declined to participate in other tests, letting his 4.65 40-yard dash in Indianapolis stand, but attracted a heavy crowd as he threw a variety of routes to former teammates.

"The biggest thing, I wanted to go out and compete and I did that," Manuel said. "Scouts all know we can play. They've seen tons of tape on us. So you are what you are on film. I think the biggest thing you can do, don't shy away from competition. Don't shy away from being up against other talented guys in the draft."

Manuel was one of several talented prospects working out at Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State had 23 players from the 2012 team on display, each looking to impress in a group headlined by defensive end Bjoern Werner, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, offensive tackle Menelik Watson and Manuel.

Manuel said he's met with about 25 teams since the Senior Bowl -- "all the teams I know need a quarterback" -- and has five or six private workouts already scheduled.

Because of his injury history and some questions about his decision-making in the pocket, scouting opinions are split on Manuel's final draft grade.

Manuel did receive a pretty nice birthday gift, too -- an invite to attend the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The draft begins April 25.

"When I got the invite, I was about to cry, really, because that was probably my biggest goal," Manuel said of the invitation, which beginning last year went out to dozens of players and not just a select crowd. "I know there's a lot being said about me going into it, but I never listened to it."

There's a good chance Manuel will be surrounded by friendly faces in New York. Werner, Rhodes and Watson, who each declared for the draft following their junior seasons, are all among the top prospects at their positions and could also be invited to join their quarterback for the festivities.

Rhodes participated in cornerback-specific stations but slipped multiple times and dropped the ball in interception drills. He's NFLDraftScout.com's second-ranked cornerback and No. 13 overall, seven spots behind Werner.

Several prominent defensive coaches -- including Rob Ryan of the Saints and Broncos' coordinator Jack Del Rio -- were in attendance, as was Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Like Manuel, Werner, Rhodes and Watson declined to run the 40-yard dash but participated in other drills. Werner, a native of Berlin, Germany, was a defensive end for the Seminoles but showed off his versatility by running linebacker drills.

"I got good feedback from a few coaches," Werner said. "I think the big thing with Pro Day is just the coaches are going to come out there and tell you what to do and you're going to have to pick it up right away and don't do it wrong. I think that's what I did ... I didn't mess anything up."

Defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine and running back Chris Thompson were each in attendance, but neither ran the 40-yard dash after suffering ACL tears near the end of last season. Carradine did impress with 32 reps in the bench press; Thompson did not participate in any drills.

NFLDraftScout.com maintains Carradine is still a second-round pick. He's ranked 46th overall and No. 8 at a deep defensive end position.

Defensive end Brandon Jenkins, who lost nearly his entire senior season due to a Lisfranc injury, was a full participant Tuesday. Jenkins said he didn't believe his injury negatively affected his draft stock and that his game film will show teams what he can do.

Three of FSU's NFL veterans were on-hand Tuesday hoping to impress scouts enough to earn another opportunity in the league. Offensive lineman Alex Barron (first-round pick in 2005), defensive tackle Travis Johnson (first-round pick in 2005) and cornerback Bryant McFadden (second-round pick in 2005) each ran the 40-yard dash and other drills.
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