While he wasn’t taking up as much space on the field as the St. Louis Rams massive offensive line draft picks Saturday, it was still easy to find rookie quarterback Sean Mannion.
The record-breaking former Oregon State star is 6-foot-6 and 233 pounds, wearing No. 14 and looks like a prototype NFL quarterback with his size and arm strength. Taken in the third round of the NFL draft by a team looking for long-term help at the position, Mannion hopes to live up to the hype.
Mannion talked about his first exposure to learning an NFL offense and dealing with coach Jeff Fisher and his staff.
“It’s a challenge but I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelming by any means,” said Mannion, the all-time Pacific-12 Conference leader with 13,600 passing yards that includes a mammoth junior season that saw him throw for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns.
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“I feel like I picked it up really well, honestly,” he said of the Rams’ offensive scheme. “It’s nice having played in a pro-style system in college. I’m learning things, but it’s not completely foreign to me. There’s similar concepts, similar protections.
“Obviously there’s a lot more of everything and the level of detail with everything is much, much higher.”
It will be interesting to see what the Rams’ plans are for Mannion. They traded oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles for veteran quarterback Nick Foles, who has one year remaining on his contract. The Rams also traded a draft pick to Houston to bring back veteran backup Case Keenum, who was on their roster last season, and still have veteran Austin Davis.
The Rams liked what they saw in their pre-draft private workout with Mannion and noted the work he did in the offseason with former NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer trying to improve his footwork and speed up his release and ability to process routes.
“Really nothing different than the private workout,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Saturday when asked what he saw from Mannion during Friday and Saturday’s rookie orientation at Rams Park. “We spent a lot of time with him in the private workout, saw him make every throw.
“Picks everything up real quick, has a good sense for learning, huddle presence. He’s going to be fine. He’ll know what to do. He’s got a good arm.”
Mannion was among the Rams’ nine drafted player and 17 undrafted rookies and tryout hopefuls that have been in town since Thursday. There was on-field work done at three-quarter speed as well as classroom time and a chance to meet the team’s veterans and coaching staff.
“Nowhere in the building are you going to see anything that says, ‘rookie minicamp,’’ Fisher said. “It’s called orientation. They are not in the same condition that the vets are because the vets, many of them were in before the start of the offseason program. They got a three-week head start, so our job is to get them (the rookies) caught up. That’s what we’re doing.
“We had a long lecture with them yesterday not to go faster than three-quarter speed. That’s kind of the way we approach it.”
Mannion’s goal is soaking in as much of the playbook and atmosphere as possible.
“In terms of the situation with Nick and Case and Austin, I just want to be a good teammate and do everything I can to improve as a player,” Mannion said. “(They) have all had starts in the NFL and I just want to learn everything I can from them.”
Once his season ended and he played in the Senior Bowl, Mannion worked out regularly with Palmer at EXOS, a training center near San Diego.
While some felt he was ready to enter the NFL following a junior season that saw him amass 4,662 yards and 37 TDs in 2013, Mannion’s senior year numbers dropped to 3,164 yards and 15 TDs.
The fact that star receiver Brandin Cooks was in the NFL had a lot to do with that, along with some problems on the OSU offensive line. Playing in OSU’s pro-style attack should help Mannion’s transition to the NFL.
“I feel like I can make every throw in the offense,” said Mannion, whose father John Mannion was his high school football coach at Foothill High in Pleasanton, Calif. “I think physically that’s my strongest attribute, just arm strength and accuracy and being able to throw any route that’s in our offense.”
Mannion’s goal now is making everything happen quicker and getting comfortable in his surroundings.
“You know what you’re doing, but it’s feeling really comfortable where you don’t even have to think about it,” he said. “I’m working to get there, but I feel like I know what’s going on out on the field.”
With a lot of holes to fill on the offensive line, Fisher couldn’t help himself from talking about second-round pick Rob Havenstein (6-8, 321), third-rounder Jamon Brown (6-6, 326), fourth-rounder Andrew Donnal (6-6, 316) and sixth-round pick Cody Wichmann (6-5, 319).
“It’s hard not to look at the four offensive linemen we drafted and say, ‘Wow,’’’ Fisher said. “Somebody said yesterday they look like refrigerators with legs. It’s a good-looking group and they’re moving around pretty good.”
▪ Fisher said the Rams were among the final four teams trying to sign LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins, whose draft status was clouded by numerous legal questions after the recent murder of his ex-girlfriend. Collins was not drafted and eventually signed a three-year guaranteed contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
“Yeah, we were involved in it, Fisher said. “We still had some unanswered questions at the time at which he made his decision, but we were involved. We were told by them that we were in the final four, which isn’t necessarily a consolation, but we were involved, yes.
“Had we not had the success that we had in the draft, we probably would have been more involved.”