The buzz surrounding Johnny Manziel just got a lot louder thanks to ESPN analyst, Ron Jaworski. In a recent radio interview with 97.5 The Fanatic, “Jaws” said he wouldn’t take Manziel in the first three rounds.
“That’s my opinion. It’s incomplete right now. But he has not done a whole lot to me,” Jaworski said. “I’m not crazy about him, to be honest with you”.
Interesting, to say the least, although this could be more talking head jazz-up by ESPN folk. Truth be told, Jaws does seem to know what he’s talking about for the most part, but his take on Manziel appears to be lazy, at best. He even admitted he’s only seen “five games” of tape on Manziel, and admitted his own opinion or grade on the polarizing passer would have to be considered “incomplete”.
That’s probably an understatement. Manziel certainly has his question marks, but he’s widely regarded as a top passing prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft thanks to elite running ability and an ability to pull big plays out of thin air.
It’d be interesting to see exactly what game tape Jaws is referring to that causes him to sour on Manziel quickly. After all, Manziel has very few bad games on his resume, and even owns spectacular performances against the likes of Alabama (twice) and Auburn.
It’s also worth noting that Jaworski works closely with Greg Cosell, who has also expressed similar concerns. However, most of Cosell’s remarks about Manziel being more of a third or fourth round talent have come based off of two late-season games against Missouri and LSU. Considering Manziel wasn’t 100% healthy and his teammates didn’t exactly bring their A-game either, those two games aren’t necessarily the best games to use to grade him for the next level. They’re also a small sample size.
Ultimately, the obvious is there: Manziel is under six feet and there hasn’t been a passer under six feet selected in the first round (let alone the top-five picks) in over 50 years. In fact, the list of elite or even highly successful quarterbacks who lack the ideal size is fairly small. With that being said, two recent ones (Drew Brees and Russell Wilson) have won a Super Bowl.
Aside from his size, Manziel clearly has questions about his decision-making and ability in the pocket. Can he improve his footwork, advance through his progressions and make big plays out of the offense as much as he does on the fly?
All valid questions, but none can be answered until he actually hits the field.
The other aspect here is how insulting it is to call such a talented player a third or fourth round pick-level talent. Jaws is entitled to his opinion, but by saying this he’s suggesting (if not flat out saying) that guys who appear to be inferior talents are better risks than Manziel. Guys like A.J. McCarron, Tajh Boyd, Zach Mettenberger and others. Passers who are more traditional and/or have better size and pocket presence.
But even those guys come with their flaws. McCarron doesn’t have the biggest arm and isn’t a great athlete. Boyd has good athleticism and can chuck the rock, but like Manziel is under-sized and has major questions in regards to ball placement, accuracy and consistency. Mettenberger is more sound than Manziel and has ideal size, but is coming off a torn ACL and hasn’t been nearly as productive or as impressive.
The reality is that Manziel took college football by storm two years ago. After two years, he’s broken records, he’s claimed a Heisman and he put Texas A&M on the map. If his defense was even reasonably decent in 2013, he might even have had a chance at a national title.
The most important thing when looking at Manziel as an NFL prospect, though, is that you can’t fit him in a box. He’s not safe and he’s not orthodox. He will never be a traditional pocket passer. That’s just not his game and it’s not his make-up.
That doesn’t mean he can’t pass effectively from inside the pocket, can’t improve his accuracy and can’t right now make all the throws he needs to be able to. I’m confident he can. But he has a God given ability when it comes to his mobility and open field running.
He posted a sub 4.7 40 time, and even was unofficially clocked in the 4.5 range. For the quarterback position, he has very good speed. More importantly, he is a very good, fluid athlete.
He’s genuinely a magician with the ball in his hands. His lack of size actually helps him when in duress, as he can easily evade defenders and slip out of arm tackles. His elusiveness and agility is also at an elite level, meaning even if he didn’t already have good speed, he’d probably still be an effective runner. That offers optimism for the type of player he’ll be 5+ years down the road when his speed begins to erode.
The best part about his talent, though, might be the fact that while everyone is so caught up with what he does with his legs, he actually can be lethal with his arm. Accuracy, timing, pocket presence and placement are all things that can be coached up and improved upon. His uncanny feel for the game and ability to find the right guy at the perfect moment cannot.
He truly does have that “it” factor. That’s a scary “attribute” for a player to have, though, and understandably so. When people start talking about intangibles and “the guy just knows how to win”, Tim Tebow floods the ears.
Manziel isn’t Tebow. They were both college quarterbacks, could run and were polarizing. That’s where the similarities end, truly.
Manziel is a much better runner than Tebow. He’s much more athletic and more mobile. He also is more accurate and is an impressive thrower.
Scouts want their top prospects to be both safe and have enormous upside. That’s not always how you get a winner. Robert Gallery was supposed to be a fool-proof pick. He was a bust at his projected left tackle position. Even when a guy looks the part and dominates college, he doesn’t always work out.
Geno Smith last year is another example of safe. He had the natural tools, the size and the arm. He even had athleticism. But he ultimately delivered mixed results as a rookie in New York. So much so, actually, that he might not even end up being their guy in his second season.
And there’s the rub. Smith wasn’t busting with insane talent. He wasn’t an Andew Luck or Robert Griffin III. But the Jets took a chance on him and others considered drafting him because he had the traditional skill-set and desired physical ability.
Manziel is the exact opposite, but he also has a flare to his game Smith will never have. He can do things no one else can. He tries to do things no one else will.
It makes him a risk, and it also makes him amazing.
Yes, it’s possible Jaws is right about Manziel. But it’s easy to be where he is, saying what he’s saying. Manziel is short. He isn’t your traditional NFL passer that has found success.
But he might be something better. He just might be truly special.
Now someone just needs to ignore all the noise surrounding him and take a chance on the kid. Houston Texans, you’re on the clock.
*Photo credit – Shutterbug459 via Wiki Commons.