Ole Miss has retired the jersey Manning wore as an All-SEC selection. He spent 13 years in the NFL and was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1971 draft. Manning serves as an analyst for college and pro football broadcasts and his family hosts a high school football camp every summer. So his idea of what makes a good signal caller isn’t rooted solely in a game he played 30 or 40 years ago.
If those credentials weren’t enough, there’s that whole fathering Peyton and Eli thing.
When Manning talks quarterbacks, I tend to listen. It was with great interest I tuned into a recent appearance Manning made on Sports Talk With Bo Mattingly. They hit on a variety of topics including Bret Bielema, Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss, Spread offenses and — most notably, at least to me — Manning was asked to offer his thoughts on former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson.
There will be no shortage of opinions offered on Wilson (listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds) in the lead up to the April 27 draft. Much of the evaluation has ramped up with the NFL Scouting Combine starting this week in Indianapolis.
Entering the combine Wilson is viewed anywhere from a late first-round pick to not even one of the Top 5 quarterbacks available in what is considered a mediocre class. While I’ll take note of many of the observations folks have about Wilson, Manning’s thoughts — for all the reasons noted above — just resonate more with me.
So what exactly is his opinion of Wilson?
Manning seems to be a fan. A big fan.
It should be noted Manning doesn’t just know Wilson from what he’s seen on film. There’s a relationship there, developed during Wilson’s two years as a Manning Passing Academy counselor. Manning describes Wilson with one of the greatest compliments one Southerner can pay another: “He’s good people.”
Manning has similarly high praise for Wilson’s on-field ability. While he notes Wilson didn’t have quite the senior year we all figured he’d have, Manning doesn’t think that should be held against the Greenwood native.
Wilson threw for 3,387 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2013. His interception total more than doubled from 2012 and his touchdowns dipped. Manning is among those who is willing give Wilson a pass for the decreased production because of the off-field issues the Razorbacks had thanks to the Bobby Petrino fiasco.
Even as Arkansas struggled to a 4-8 record Wilson showed toughness, leadership and an ability to make a lot of NFL throws. His footwork needs to be more consistent. Wilson struggled during his career to throw deep.
Still, Manning said he sees Wilson as a quarterback with the potential to start at the NFL level. Manning notes there were seven rookies who started in 2012 and thinks Wilson could be another guy to make an early impact.
“He’s got really good ability. He can throw the football,” Manning said on Sports Talk. “Going into his senior year I think was as good as any quarterback in the country. It didn’t seem like he was able to play as well. I think that’s understandable with all that went on. I don’t think that takes away from what kind of prospect he is going into pro football. I expect him to show well at the combine. I expect him to throw well. He’ll interview well. He’s a character kid. …
“I certainly think he has the ability to be a starter in the National Football League.”
Manning qualified his thoughts by saying he’s no expert at draft projections. He told Mattingly, “I don’t study it enough.” So, Manning’s prediction of success for Wilson isn’t guaranteed.
Still, it’s hard to imagine a guy who knows the position better than Manning. If Manning likes Wilson’s potential, it sure seems like the guy has a decent shot of success in the NFL.