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GBH 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Johnny Manziel

Draft day, Johnny Manziel
Five years later how am I the man still
Aww man, you know I had to do it for you
You know I had to do it for ya
Yeah, suits and ties yellin' out, "Pay the guys"
Man I had to do it for ya
You know I had to do it for ya
You know I had to do it for ya
Aww man, aww man, aww man
Man, you know I had to...

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports


~A final .gif tribute to Johnny Manziel~

It didn't take us very long to realize this kid from Kerrville, Texas was special.


He'd make the biggest of plays on the biggest stages.


He'd lead 4th quarter comebacks.


He'd blow teams out.


He'd pile up incredible plays.


He'd leave a lot of memories.


He'd also make his share of mistakes.


He'd show off the arm...


and the legs.


He'd make the tight throw...


and the OH SHIT throw.


Most importantly, above all else,


he'd win.


By now, we have heard it all. But here are the true things about Jonathan Manziel, the quarterback. He can make every throw you can imagine, but it is not always pretty. He has the arm strength (probably even better than he has shown with proper technique), and a quick release. The arm isn't the concern. It is the lower half of his body that needs adjusting. Much of the time, Manziel doesn't set a good base (likely because he is scrambling) and throws off his back foot [just look at the last gif]. For a lot of quarterbacks, this would lead to decreased velocity and accuracy issues. But not Manziel. That is a testament to his arm. He could generate even more velocity on his throws if he used his left leg to plant and step through the throw creating more rotational force.

Aside from the poor base, there is also concern about how he uses his pocket. Some of those concerns are described in detail here. He was fortunate to play behind the best offensive line in college football that allowed him all day to go through his read progressions. Against formidable opponents like LSU that collapsed the pocket with pressure, he failed to step up into a clean pocket to make a throw and instead tried to scramble to the side. This strategy won't work as well in the NFL as it did in college because every single NFL player is an exceptional athlete. Johnny will have to learn pocket awareness at the next level and use the pocket without breaking out into the scramble.

What about his ability to read defenses?  He is most likely ahead of most other rookie-to-be quarterbacks. Yes, some will say when they watch tape Johnny misses the underneath throws. However, those short routes were not the primary reads of the Texas A&M offense last season. You can read about that here. Johnny excels at the white board and will have no problem adjusting to an NFL offense or terminology. When Jon Gruden praises you, you're doing something right.

Finally there is the off-the-field stuff. Not what you are thinking of. Johnny's ability as a leader of a football team is greatly overlooked. We've seen Johnny bring his teammates together on the sideline, especially in his last game against Duke, to settle them down and get re-focused on the task at hand. He can lead a lockerroom, and teammates will want to play with him and for him. That is what a good quarterback should do. A leader who can bring energy, excitement, and motivation to a team is worth his weight in gold and Johnny brings exactly those things.


Many see Johnny as a pure "boom or bust" pick. I don't quite see it that way. Johnny's success on the next level is going to depend largely on the situation he enters. Who is the head coach? Are they an offensive or defensive coach? Who is the offensive coordinator? What is their system? Are they willing to adapt the offense to Johnny's strengths, or are they going to try to force Manziel to be like every other quarterback? If the organization that chooses Johnny tries to force him to be like every other quarterback, it is going to be a rough relationship that might even end in divorce at some point. But if Johnny lands with a team that is willing to adapt their offense to his strengths and let him play freely, it will work out well for both sides. I almost feel like Johnny would be better playing for a defensive head coach, someone who isn't going to be too concerned about what is going on with the offense. Someone who would be fine with Johnny making plays and not caring how many QB rules he broke to make them.


Unless you are Ron Jaworski of ESPN, almost everyone views Manziel as a 1st round NFL QB, and most have him as the top QB in the draft. Some of the twitter scouts are in love with Teddy Bridgewater, mainly because of Teddy's accuracy and ability to work a pocket. That is credible to me; I have Teddy as my #2 QB in this draft based on his accuracy alone. Others like Blake Bortles of UCF just because he is 6-5 and 240 pounds and "looks" like an NFL QB. Last time I checked they didn't award points for how you looked walking off the bus. We have been debating this topic for months, but sometimes the first thing that is said is the most accurate and everything else becomes diluted with bias. The NFL Advisory Board gave Manziel three 1st round grades and one 1st/2nd round grade. That is probably the most accurate scouting report there has been with Manziel since this process began. The key to figuring out Manziel's value in this draft is not viewing him as a traditional QB, but as a playmaker. Similar to how many graded out former West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin last year. If you view Johnny Manziel as a playmaker and take into consideration that he is a once-in-a-generation player, he is right at the top of this draft.


I planned on saving Johnny for last, just so I would have a better idea on where his future home will be. Less than 24 hours out, I'm as clueless as I've ever been.

Let's break down this draft a little bit. The first thing you have to understand is that there are two elite-level outside pass rushers in Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack. The one player as valuable as a quarterback in the NFL is a pass rusher. After those two guys, there is an immediate drop off in terms of talent. That is why a team like Houston will end up with either Clowney or Mack, and not Manziel. Houston can afford to wait and draft a quarterback; they can't afford to miss on a pass rusher early.

There are five other elite players in this draft in my eyes -- Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, and Aaron Donald. The teams selecting after Houston will be waiting to grab these five guys along with the other pass rusher Houston doesn't draft. That means QB needy teams at the top -- like Jacksonville, Cleveland -- may do the same as Houston and pass on the quarterbacks and wait to grab one with their 2nd or 3rd round picks. The depth at the QB position this year allows them to take this strategy.

The teams at #7 and #8 -- Tampa and Minnesota -- have also hinted they may be in the quarterback market. I don't buy it. Tampa would love to draft Aaron Donald and Minnesota doesn't want another potential failed 1st round QB on their hands after Christian Ponder.

So where does that leave the quarterbacks? I'm really starting to believe that no quarterbacks, including Manziel, are drafted in the first 10 picks. If that occurs, Johnny's next opportunity comes up at #13 to St. Louis with their second 1st round selection. The Rams worked Manziel out on Friday in College Station and have said they are intrigued by him. If they pass, then let the angels sing because Manziel might just be headed to the Dallas Cowboys at #16 overall.

Beyond that, there is Arizona at #20 (not happening), Philadelphia at #22 (don't think it would happen either although Kelly and Manziel are a match), Cincinnati at #24, and then back to Cleveland at #26.

If the quarterbacks fall out of the Top 10, this draft is going to be fun to watch. Which NFL team blinks first and makes a ridiculous trade to grab one? When does the run start?

I could be completely wrong about this and be fooled by the smokescreens, but I really think the quarterbacks sit for a while tonight.



SB Nation -- 2014 Mock Draft -- Making Sense of the Trade Rumors

SB Nation -- Johnny Manziel Scouting Report

SB Nation -- Johnny Manziel's Draft Day: Choose Your Own Adventure

Grantland -- It's Not Them, It's You

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