So Breaking Football dot com has only been a thing for a month or two now, and already we’ve had several articles go up in favor of the pro prospects of one Johnny Manziel. Thursday, Texas A&M held its Pro Day, so NFL scouts from hither and yon throughout the country were able to visit College Station to see Manziel and the rest of the Aggie draft hopefuls work out “privately”. Despite the likelihood that guys like Jake Matthews and Mike Evans go in the first round, Manziel was obviously the focal point of the thing.
On all accounts, Manziel showed very well during the workouts. He made all of his throws in full pads and helmet, which is something I’ve never seen before, but seems to add a certain level of difficulty to everything, making his performance all the more impressive. Now, I’m not here to laud a work out. It’s stupid. 40 times are stupid, too.
Manziel’s performance during the A&M Pro Day isn’t what’s brought me here to write this, it merely put him back at the forefront of my mind when thinking about the draft. My team, the Houston Texans, has the top overall pick, and is clearly in need of a quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t bringing the thing back to the dead on his own. It should also be noted that I went to TCU (not a brag), so it’s not like I’m a huge Aggie homer blindly steering the Johnny Football train. I’ve just seen enough great things to legitimately feel as though he’s absolutely the right choice for Houston at No. 1 overall.
This isn’t even taking anything away from Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom may well go on to fine pro careers, and, who knows, could turn out to be better pros than Johnny. It’s just that, all things considered, I can’t imagine how the Texans can pass on a rare talent like JFF.
The size is a concern to some, and the fact that players with similar body types and playing styles (Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III) have struggled with injuries throughout their careers leads many to believe that the same could be in store for Manziel. The defenders are a hell of a lot bigger and hit a hell of a lot harder in the NFL than they do in college, to be sure. I’m not crazy about the slightness of his frame, but that’s also something that could be built up. The height doesn’t concern me at all. We all know about Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, etc. Having a tall quarterback is a nice perk, but far from a must.
Manziel was the first freshman in the history of the NCAA to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, and he put up obscene numbers in two seasons playing in the absolute toughest conference in ‘Merica. The fact that he sliced through Alabama’s vaunted, NFL prospect-laden defense twice in two years leads me to believe that there’s no reason he can’t do the same at the next level. Will he be running all over the field from sideline-to-sideline flinging passes up over the middle of the field that wind up being long completions? Hopefully not. His biggest flaw as a player in college was probably that he got a bit too comfortable at times and wound up having some of his ill-advised throws picked-off. A crucial interception in the end zone during last season’s Alabama game comes to mind immediately. But all quarterbacks make bad decisions sometimes, and all quarterbacks throw untimely interceptions. Blake Bortles has done it, Teddy Bridgewater has done it, Peyton Manning has done it. Eli Manning has done it (a lot).
On-the-field red flags being what they are, this is one of the most unique talents in the history of the sport coming free. Johnny Football has “it”. Just like LeBron James, Tom Brady and Mike Trout have “it”. It’s a certain feeling of inevitability. No matter the odds, this is the guy you want on your side that is going to make a play when it matters, and when your team needs it the most.
The comparisons of Manziel to players like Tim Tebow and Vince Young are silly and lazy, at best. Other than the scrambling and less-than-conventional throwing motion, there isn’t really anything alike here. Tebow clearly had “it”, as well, but his “it” wasn’t the NFL kind of “it” necessary to help him overcome his flaws as a player. He’s got the charisma and the likability and all of that, which will serve him well in future endeavors (TV or whatever). Young had “it” as a college football player. As a pro, Vince Young thought he could just coast the way he had his entire football life up to that point, and that’s why he didn’t amount to the NFL player most imagined he could be. While he may have worked hard, clearly it wasn’t hard enough, which is why he couldn’t land an NFL gig beyond 30. Maybe TGI Friday’s and The Cheesecake Factory are to blame.
Johnny Football has obviously had his off-the-field missteps, but, in the brief time he’s had since declaring for the draft, he’s seemingly started to do all the right things. He’s been working out vigorously with a trainer here in San Diego, and the only other places we’ve seen him have been in various NBA arenas near you. Several teams have already met with him, and he’s reportedly appeared focused and ready to take the next step.
The Texans were faced with a very similar conundrum back in 2006, the last time they held the top overall pick. That was when Young had just beaten USC in the National Championship Game, and he was at the very top of everything. Despite immense pressure for Houston to take Young first and ditch David Carr, the team opted to draft the lesser-known Mario Williams out of NC State. Young wound up going No. 3 to the Titans. Things weren’t looking good for the Texans in that first year, either. Young was dynamite for Tennessee as a rookie, and, as you may recall, even beat the Texans in Houston on a phenomenal scramble for a touchdown in overtime to bury his hometown team. He went on to win Rookie of the Year, while Mario Williams finished the year with 4.5 sacks. Yikes. But we know what happened after that. Young never wound up developing any further, and the league easily caught up with him in no time, and he failed to counteract that, and is now out of a job. Williams signed a $96 million contract with Buffalo a year ago. The Texans ignored the public pressure and wound up making what was the wiser choice, in the end.
Of course, this year, there’s defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, whom many believe to be the best pass-rush prospect in a very long time. He probably projects best as a 4-3 end, and the Texans will run a 3-4 under new DC Romeo Crennel. Not the glove-like fit that Williams turned out to be at all. But, the team’s owner, Bob McNair, apparently loves Clowns. I love me some Clowns, too, but I also don’t think he’s worth it if Houston is going to be taking him No. 1.
If they take him, Johnny Manziel will instantly become the most popular Houston Texan of all-time, and it isn’t even close. Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt are both bonafide NFL superstars, and even they won’t hold a candle to him. From a marketing, ticket and merchandise-selling standpoint alone, JFF is the no-brainer choice here. If there’s one thing people from Texas love, it’s other people from Texas.
There’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to predicting how a player is going to perform transitioning from college to the pros. We like to think we know who will be awesome and who will suck, but really, nobody has an effing clue until we see it for ourselves. Aaron Curry was allegedly a “sure thing” coming out of Wake Forest a few years ago, and he’s retired as a 27-year-old after failing to pan-out for Seattle and Oakland. So, I’m not dumb enough to log-on here and start spouting off about how I think Manziel is the next Joe Montana. I just think he’s as “can’t miss” a quarterback as you’ll find in this class. And after going 2-14 last season, the Texans are in need of some “can’t miss” types.
*Photo credit – Shutterbug459 via Wiki Commons.