After a short but decorated college career, one that was headlined by becoming the first freshman to win a Heisman Trophy, Johnny Manziel is taking his talents to the NFL.
Manziel declared for the NFL Draft after two seasons starting for Texas A&M, so let the speculation begin about where Manziel will land and whether his talents will translate to the professional ranks begin.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. lists Manziel No. 14 on his Big Board, the second quarterback behind only Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, while colleague Todd McShay ranks him third behind the aforementioned Bridgewater and Central Florida standout Blake Bortles at No. 18 overall.
In Kiper’s evaluation of the quarterback, he praises Manziel for his incredible competitiveness, his ability to improvise, versatility and by working on his mechanics has room to improve his arm strength.
Of course, like other notable college standouts, questions loom over whether Manziel will succeed on the next level. The most glaring question is whether at 6-foot-1, his height will be a burden. Both Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have triumphed despite being a tad shorter than prototypical 6-foot-4 pocket quarterback height.
Kiper also questions his mental stability. If Manziel doesn’t succeed right away or isn’t thrust into a starting role, will he become impatient? Will he be able to rebound after a rough outing? Manziel’s personal endeavors have been documented to a tee, and his off-the-field antics have certainly been questioned. However, all of the hoopla away from the field has certainly not had an impact on his performance on it.
The encouraging part about Manziel’s game is the improvement he made from a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 2012, one in which he set an SEC single-season record for total offense by a redshirt freshman. This past year, Manziel seemed more comfortable as a pocket-passer, improved arm strength and more sound mechanics, which resulted in better accuracy.
So where will Manziel land?
He seems to be a consensus first-round pick and projected to be either the second or third quarterback off the board. That can all change, though, should one team favor Johnny Football over Bortles, who played against lesser talent than Manziel did in the SEC.
For argument’s sake, let’s say Bridgewater goes No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans. St. Louis owns the No. 2 pick in the draft because of the Robert Griffin III trade, but is openly shopping the pick. Whoever trades up to that second spot could grab Manziel there.
Or perhaps it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3 if they’re not convinced Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne are viable options going forward. And Cleveland, who is in search of a new coach, may elect to rebuild the offense with Manziel.
After Cleveland at No. 4, Minnesota at No. 8 and or Tennessee at No. 11 are both potential first-round landing spots.