First, let's just take a second to count how many NFL personnel were in attendance at Manziel's Pro Day —
8 NFL General Managers including the Texans' Rick Smith, the Jets' John Idzik, and the Jaguars' Dave Caldwell.
8 NFL Head Coaches including the Texans' Bill O'Brien, the Vikings' Mike Zimmer, the Eagles' Chip Kelly, the Bucs' Lovie Smith, and the Jaguars' Gus Bradley.
In all, Texas A&M announced 75 NFL personnel were in attendance, representing 30 out of the NFL's 32 teams.
Now, about Johnny Manziel...
This wasn't just another QB prospect Pro Day. Not when the player in question decides to put on helmet and shoulder pads for the event and enters the building with Drake blaring on the sound system. But then again, Johnny Manziel isn't just another QB. Why would we expect anything less?
Manziel had the assistance of Mike Evans, Derel Walker, Travis Labhart, Ben Malena, and Nehemiah Hicks to run through 68 scripted plays. He also had the help of a broom to simulate a pass rush.
Here is my tally from those 68 plays on the day (most of these overlap and yes this gets down to the nitty gritty) —
5 plays where Manziel showed poor or "lazy" footwork
8 inaccurate passes (receiver having to adjust route, slow down to catch ball, ball too low)
3 incomplete passes (2 drops, 1 out of bounds pass)
7 "wow" throws, most of those 40+ yards down the field
1 loud "BOOM" to close the workout on a 53 yard pass to Mike Evans down the middle of the field for a touchdown to end the day. Here's video.
The best thing showcased on the day was Manziel's arm strength and more importantly accuracy on deep passes of 40+ yards. A few of those passes came from rolling out of the pocket as well, something even a lot of NFL starters struggle to do. The rollout is one of Johnny's unique talents that a future NFL coach can utilize. Let's make this clear — deep ball accuracy separates your average NFL QB from your "elite" one, and it also separates Manziel from the other QBs in this draft class. A major knock on Blake Bortles is his deep ball accuracy, displayed during his Pro Day. Teddy Bridgewater may have the best short and intermediate accuracy of any QB in this draft, but he hasn't displayed the deep accuracy that Manziel showcased today.
Johnny Manziel also displayed great footwork on the day, taking every snap from center and doing 3 step, 5 step, and 7 step drop-backs making it look natural for him. However, a few times during those 68 passes his footwork did get lazy and he did not step into his passes. He would stand upright and not lead with a step forward to generate more velocity on his throw. This is something Manziel had a tendency to do at Texas A&M. He has such good arm strength he could get away with it here, but probably won't in the NFL. This poor footwork and decreased velocity leads to inaccurate throws, even if they are just 7 or 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, coming in low or wide of the receiver. This accounted for several of what I termed "inaccurate passes" on the day.
One thing I was disappointed in was Johnny not displaying his ability to step up into the pocket to avoid pressure. George Whitfield Jr. "pressured" Johnny several times on the day with a broom. Of all those pressures, Johnny only stepped up toward the line of scrimmage twice. All other times he would step to one side and out of the pocket. In a controlled workout, I thought they would script this more into the day to try to answer this criticism, but they didn't. Just a missed opportunity.
Finally, what I loved most about today's workout is that even though it was scripted and broadcast on TV with the pressure of all those NFL personnel watching every move, the workout was pure Johnny Football. It wasn't stale —you could feel Johnny's personality in everything he did on the day: coming out in pads, music blaring over the workout, "cashin' out" with the ball boy between plays, and most of all just the excitement and fun you could tell Johnny was having with his close friends in Mike Evans and Travis Labhart. To me, that is one of the biggest draws of drafting Johnny Manziel. Yeah, at times a media circus will follow, but more importantly he will bring a presence to a team no other person in this draft can offer. Even if he gets drafted by Cleveland or Oakland, he will be beloved by his teammates, bring energy to the locker room and practice field, and let players have fun practicing and playing football. For a losing environment, that could be the turning point in a franchise. That is a potential impact that has gone overlooked so far.
How much did Johnny help himself today? We have to temper our excitement and remember it was just a Pro Day (kind of). But if I'm the Houston Texans and the draft was held tomorrow, I'm not sure how you could pass on Manziel after what you just saw. Unfortunately, the draft is still some 40-odd days away and the excitement from today will die down soon enough. Some won't forget the energy they experienced today while others will and go back to their negative criticisms of Manziel. Those who realize Johnny Manziel is more than just another quarterback and is a transforming figure, however, will quickly be rewarded.