Johnny Manziel – man, legend, quarterback, Aggie. These are only a few words that describe one of the greatest collegiate football players we have ever had the privilege of watching. In two short years in College Station, TX, he has provided as much excitement as anyone that has preceded him. The first Freshman to ever in the Heisman Trophy, his personality matches the size of his contributions to the sport. Even in his short stay in college football, he has given NFL teams plenty to think about, both on and off of the field.
Last offseason was a tumultuous one for the man nicknamed “Johnny Football”. Ignoring the Twitter incidents, the major issues included a sudden exit from Peyton Manning’s famed Summer Quarterback Camp, which is invitation only. Some reports were that Manziel showed up late to the camp, stayed overnight, was late to a meeting, and left citing “dehydration” as the reason he excused himself from the camp. Regardless of the circumstances, this didn’t look good for the then-reigning Heisman winner. The other major potential red flag for NFL teams was what actually cost Manziel the first half of the season-opener vs Rice. The NCAA filed an investigation against Texas A&M alleging that the sophomore had signed over 300 autographs and in compensation, received over $7,500. NFL teams will absolutely be intrigued by the physical abilities, as well as the leadership and charisma shown over the past two seasons by the sports larger-than-life icon, but will be sure to do their research to make sure they make the right decision for their franchise.
Over the past two seasons, Manziel has lead the Aggies to two bowl wins, and even a victory over the seemingly-immortal Crimson Tide in 2012. Passing for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns in the wide-open offense implemented by Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin, Manziel also possesses and utilizes some incredible athleticism, as well as what analysts like to refer to as “escapability”, or the seemingly instinctual manner in which Manziel routinely avoids sacks, big hits, and potentially negative plays. He rushed for an impressive 2,169 yards along with 30 more touchdowns in his two years in College Station, even leading the SEC on the ground during his freshman campaign. Keeping defenses at bay with both his own abilities and the plethora of weapons he’s had at his disposal, only their porous defense this past season kept the Aggies out of another BCS bowl game. 99 touchdowns accountable for in a collegiate career is incredible for any player, much less one who only played for two seasons.
Now to the NFL and this mystery involving Manziel. Where does he fit? Some would say a team like Oakland, seen as a team of renegades and rule-breakers. Maybe his home-state team, the Houston Texans, who inconceivably went from the 2nd round of the playoffs in two consecutive seasons, to going 2-14 with fourteen consecutive losses to end the season. In 2005, Houston had the No. 1 overall pick, after giving up on David Carr, the franchise’s first ever selection, but decided against the in-state talent in that class, and Vince Young would end up being a Tennessee Titan. Will the Texan fan base allow their team, in dire need of a Quarterback, to pass on a second local “legend”? Then there are the Cleveland Browns, who still have been looking for the successor to Bernie Kosar and get the Browns back into the championship hunt for the first time since the early 90’s. However, the best situation, aside from Houston, could actually be the Jacksonville Jaguars; something that hasn’t been said in a while. Gus Bradley took a team with almost no talent, especially at the Quarterback position, and led them to 4 wins, and some respectability. Bradley looks to have things headed in the right direction for the Jags, so why not draft the most popular player in college football, as well as match up Johnny Football with his old Left Tackle and blind-side protector, Luke Joeckl, last year’s 2nd overall selection in the draft. Any of these options will prove difficult, but all will create drama and intrigue to their team with drafting the controversial Manziel. With Quarterback needy teams at #1 (Houston), #3 (Jacksonville), #4 (Cleveland), and #5 (Oakland), it’s sure that Johnny won’t have to wait long to hear his name called on Draft night.
Maybe the most interesting part yet about his transition to the NFL, will be the schematics. In college, Johnny was able to thrive in the fast-paced, quick decision-based, wide open offense for the Aggies. Some NFL offenses are now edging closer and closer to this same type of break-neck offense, however there are much more complex progressions in the pro passing game. NFL defenses have betrer talent by far, they are also better at disguising coverages and blitzes. Machismo aside, Manziel played with a level of reckless abandon and lack of regard for his physical well-being that can’t be replicated in the pros in order for his own longevity. After studying both games against Alabama, the closest thing to a professional defense Manziel faced, he slid only one time, and often took on defenders with his body, which won’t bode well for him in the future. This playing style made him both popular with fans and his own teammates, proving his toughness and willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. With the size and physicality of NFL defenders, it will be up to the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach he’ll be placed with to pull in the reins on Manziel from time to time.
Blessed with an NFL caliber arm and certain intangibles that make it seem impossible to not like the guy. Regardless of where he is selected, all eyes will be on the most interesting man in the world, or in this case, the NFL Draft. Johnny Manziel is in the driver’s seat to take the NFL by storm and it will definitely generate a great deal of interest for fans and players alike. Players like Manziel don’t come around very often, so it will be interesting to see how much attention he garners from his potential suitors in the Draft.