By Julian Reed
The reason your eyes glue to a television set, the main attraction, the headliner, I present to you Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M University. The most dynamic offensive player in this draft. The second coming of Michael Vick.
Last year, he became the first player in NCAA history to win a Heisman trophy as a freshman.
Manziel is as dynamic as any QB you’ll ever see. He enters the NFL Draft off two prolific passing/rushing seasons in college. His style fits the recent trend of dual threat passers to enter the league. Manziel has been one of the most scrutinized players in recent memory. His game is one of flash and improvisational wonder. At Texas A&M, he made his living outside the pocket. That along with a string of off the field incidents have brought his game and character into question.
Manziel despite having a great career in college does not have a style that translates well to the NFL. Of what I studied on tape, adequate passer when in the pocket and static, but much more dynamic on the run and improvising. That will be difficult to sustain in the NFL for a few reasons. Improvisation in small spurts can be a deadly arsenal weapon for an NFL QB. The ability to make something happen out of nothing when all breaks down can be game changing. Good examples, Steve Young, Ben Rothlisberger, Aaron Rodgers. They would extend plays, force the defense to remain in coverage for long periods with their ability to scramble and either gain yardage running, or find an open target. They utilize this attribute in small dosages, making their game highly unpredictable. Manziel is the opposite. His game innately is built on running the ball, and moving outside the pocket. This is highly dangerous in the NFL, where unscripted antics can (and often do) result in severe injuries.
In studying Manziel in depth on tape, I was thoroughly impressed with his command of his offense. The kid exudes confidence and seems to raise his game on the big stage. Those are pivotal intangible qualities needed to be a successful NFL QB. Despite his small stature, Manziel at A&M seemed to get the most out of it whenever he could. Johnny Manziel has no fear or lack of poise in big moments. Equally positive and detrimental, Manziel for a guy 5’10 185 lbs (Listed at 6’1, 210 lbs, which seems like an overstatement) runs like he’s 6’3 250 lbs. Doesn’t shy away from contact, rarely slides or runs out of bounds. Manziel has the mentality of a running back (That fact has to scare NFL GM’s).
Despite the extremely dynamic nature of Johnny Manziel, he has a reckless streak in his personality (actions) and in his game. Manziel had a well publicized host of issues that made headlines while at A&M. On the field, he gambled too much for my liking. Particularly in the Alabama game this past season, despite a standout performance, momentum killing interceptions were a heavy contributor to the Aggies loss. In his tendency to move out of the pocket, I also noticed Manziel would miss open receivers often when he scrambled outside. In an offensive scheme with tons of designed QB runs, he took too many hits for my liking as well.
In the NFL, Manziel will have to change his game at minimum for the sake of survival. Run first QB’s (Most notably Michael Vick) have historically taken a beating. Short injury prone careers and talent largely unrealized.
For a smaller guy, Manziel has good touch on the football. Freakishly large hands and solid power, he can drive the football downfield 40-50 yards with ease. If he’s able to tweak his game and strike a balance betwen the dynamic athlete and the prototypical pocket passer, sky is the limit.