By: James Johnson
The SEC has been a conference filled with some exciting plays this year, and one of the household SEC names that have contributed to those plays is none other than 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Currently the most polarizing figure in college football, Manziel first took the world by storm in his freshman year under Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M Aggies as he led them to a 11-2 record in their first year in the SEC. A year later, at the tail end of the 2013 season, Manziel is still the man in the college football world, and now currently considering entering the NFL Draft after yet another spectacular season. But in a game where development and maturity is vital, is the 21 year old sophomore ready to make the leap to the NFL? Well that’s what I’m here for with my next scouting report as we take a look at the college phenomenon we’ve all grown to know as Johnny Football.
Prospect: Johnny Manziel
College: Texas A&M
Class: RS Sophomore
Measurables: 6’1, 210 lbs.
Tapes of Choice to evaluate: CBS pretty much shows every game Manziel played in these last couple of years so I’ve seen about 90% of his games personally, but for this scouting report I looked at his 2013 tapes vs Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, and LSU.
Initial Thoughts and Strengths.
- He’s athletic and as elusive of a QB you’ll find. I call him the “Houdini” of college football.
- He has better ball placement than most give him credit for, though it’s not elite.
- He’s accurate with one of the highest completion percentages in college (69.1%), which might be surprising to some.
- He can throw on the run.
- He excels with making a play when things breakdown.
- He has a quick release.
- He’s been highly successful in the toughest conference in college which we all know as the SEC.
- He’s been durable despite his size.
Weaknesses and Areas in Need of Improvement.
- Though he has worked on his mechanics and velocity, he still has a lot of work to do in both departments. I’m also not sure his current velocity will cut it in the NFL.
- He’s another system guy that hasn’t taken snaps under center.
- He doesn’t have the height or size of an NFL caliber QB. Reportedly he’s still growing though.
- He often scrambles too soon.
- This may be a huge part of A&M’s, but Manziel throws a lot of balls up for grabs being that he has one of the most imposing college WR’s by his side in Mike Evans. Normally Evans comes away with the grab, but Manziel might not have such luxuries in the NFL. He’ll need to learn not to rely on the “jump ball” so much since the DB’s in today’s NFL are becoming bigger and faster by the year. I think he’ll really struggle with the Richard Sherman’s and Patrick Peterson’s of the world for this reason.
- A lot of his completions are a result of broken plays. I’ve seen on multiple occasions where the he’s gotten completions due to him evading defenders and his WR’s eventually get open due to prolonged plays. As I said before, the defenders of the NFL are bigger and faster. If this aspect is taken from him in the NFL would he still complete a lot of passes? That will be determined in the future.
- I question how well he would scan and read NFL caliber defenses. A fraction of the plays that A&M runs appear to be one read plays. This isn’t exactly his fault but more of a system thing too.
- He also throws a lot of dump-offs, short curls, and short routes. Again, the routes ran in this scheme and the overuse of short passing isn’t his fault, but I feel that some of the short passes he throws are ones which put his WR’s in bad positions where they get nailed. He needs to do a better job leading them away from situations like this.
- He throws picks at the worst times, and that’s in the red-zone.
- He’s had a few off (and even one on) the field incidents that we all know about.
Maziel is a bit hard to compare. He’s a very unique talent that you rarely see in a QB in terms of the things he can do with his feet, but the closest resemblance I could find to him is Doug Flutie. Both were critiqued as undersized, yet were very elusive on their feet. Manziel is a bit bigger and faster than Flutie however, which leads me to believe that if Manziel were put in the right situation in the NFL he may be just as successful. Below is a play from both of them that instantly reminded me of the other and will forever be highlight reels in college football.
Flutie’s Hail-Mary miracle vs Miami.
Manziel’s epic heave to Pope.
Yes, they had both needed a little luck to pull these plays off, but you get my drift, and that’s that they are two strikingly similar players.
I guess I’ll start by saying that Manziel is certainly a well decorated player in the world of college football, and is he’s also a very exciting player to watch. However, as we all know a good and exciting player in college doesn’t necessarily equal success on the NFL level. That being said, I feel a QB with too many question marks as a “traditional” passer like Manziel is one you shouldn’t take in the first round as his situation reminds me a bit of Tim Tebow’s in the 2010 draft process. The reason I say that is because before April of that draft I expressed that the worst thing that could’ve happened in Tebow’s career was for a team to reach for him in the first round and start him during his rookie season. Well, that’s what exactly happened. And till this day his career suffers because of it, as most analysts would tell you that Tebow wasn’t a prospect with a 1st round grade. As a matter of fact, to my knowledge many analysts had him with a 4th to 6th round grade. Josh McDaniels and company taking Tebow in round 1 pretty much solidified the fact that the team saw him as a franchise QB, when in reality, at least grade-wise, he wasn’t ready for such accolades right away. That’s not to say he couldn’t have developed into one in time, but a prospect with his grade normally needs a few years of development before hitting the field, and I feel that Denver rushing him to the field prematurely (which they had good reason to with their QB injuries) may have ruined his career. And yes, I know, he did have success in his first year, but I feel strongly that it was likely due to the NFL not being used to an option QB at the time.
I feel Manziel, on the other hand, is further along than Tebow, but is still another one of those prospects that shouldn’t be taken in round one despite most having him going there. I also believe if he’s put in a situation like Tebow where he’s drafted in round one, then thrown into a starting role as a rookie, his career could suffer the same fate. In other words, he needs to go to a team that will develop him over time, as opposed to starting him right away. I do feel he may be very well worth a 2nd-3rd round pick which in all likelihood won’t happen. Also, keep in mind that most seem to think he’s the type of prospect that may only be suitable for a team that runs a West Coast style offense, which makes teams like the Texans, Jags, Browns, Eagles (more of a Spread style offense than West Coast), Chiefs, and Bears all possible fits in my book along with more.
Another roadblock with Manziel is that he’ll likely be questioned by NFL GM’s as to whether or not he can be the potential face of a franchise given his past off-field issues. With that taken into consideration, I think a team like my Jaguars, who have dealt with players like Manziel, (most recently Justin Blackmon) may stray away from him, though you never know. As for the other suitors for Manziel, I wouldn’t be surprised for all of them to show a lot interest in him because as we know, finding a franchise QB is the top priority for a team to be relevant. With the draft coming up in May, he’ll have multiple opportunities to prove himself on the field in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl later this month and off the field with the combine and individual team interview process. If he knocks the social aspect of the draft process out of the park, I have no doubts that despite my concerns, we’ll hear his name called in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.