Khalil Mack, OLB from Buffalo. Next spring you’ll hear his name in the 2014 NFL draft before Johnny Manziel. Well, at least according to noted NFL draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr. you will. On his latest edition of the NFL draft “big board”, which details his top 25 prospects during the year for the upcoming draft, there were a lot of the big college names we’ve learned so far this season. Usual suspects like Jadaveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater, and Marquise Lee litter the top half of the first round. The more I looked, the more I noticed something was missing. Excuse me- not something, but someone: Johnny Fuc*ing Football. You know, only the best player in college football for the past year and a half. I stumbled across his name at number 40 on Kiper’s list, a shocking 15 spots behind Khalil Mack, OLB from Buffalo.
Kiper isn’t the only one who thinks Manziel lacks first round talent. Peter King’s new website, spun off from Sports Illustrated, stated that Manziel “lacked the arm strength, the build and the choir boy image” to succeed in the NFL. I didn’t realize the NFL was a singing competition. Rotoworld Draft Guru Josh Norris has Manziel 11th overall…AMONG QUARTERBACKS! What?! CBS Sports does not have him as a first round pick. The list goes on and on.
That is plain idiocy. Manziel is an otherworldly college talent who is destined to have a long, successful pro career. Here’s why:
1. Size doesn’t matter as much as it used to. The key to this is being smart enough to slightly move to create throwing angles. Russell Wilson is superb at this. He constantly tweaks his release or takes a slight step to the side to avoid defensive lineman who throw their arms in the air. Russell Wilson is 5-10. Johnny Manziel is 6-1. He should have no trouble adjusting to this.
2. Would you rather have Tom Brady or Demarcus Ware? Peyton Manning or Mario Williams? I ask this because the top prospect for 2014 is Jadeveon Clowney, a once in a generation DE. Let’s assume for a second that he pans out and is a terror on the outside as a DE who can line up all over the field, which obviously isn’t a guarantee. Now let’s assume Manziel pans out and becomes a pro bowl top 8 QB in all of football. In the NFL today, the passing game is the most important aspect, in turn making QB the most important player on the field. The logic would state then always take a stud QB over a stud DE. DEs can be neutralized because they don’t touch the ball every play. Yes they impact other players, and yes Manziel is no Peyton Manning, but if you can have a pro bowl QB or a pro bowl DE, in today’s NFL, QB is always the answer.
3. Dual threat ability. The league is constantly innovating and adopting new ideas based upon rule changes and current trends. The NFL has recently made it increasingly difficult to hit the quarterback and to defend WRs. If you need evidence of this just look at who has come into the NFL in the past few years and how successful they have been. RG3, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick are elite runners and throwers, who each have found immediate success. Even Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson can run effectively. Defenses are still trying to figure out how to stop the read option and pistol formations. Advantage Johnny.
4. Improvisation and instincts. He seems to have eyes in the back of his head. The ways he escapes and eludes rushers, discards them, and then makes plays downfield are unheard of. Of course, 4.45 wheels help, but this area of his game is simply off the charts for a 20 year old.
5. Best college football player of all time. Look at his two games against the NFL team also known as Alabama. Nick Saban is a master at exploiting opponent’s weaknesses. Bama had all off-season to prepare for this game, and had their bye week prior to playing A&M. PLUS they had the revenge factor going for them, as A&M was the only team to beat Bama last year. So what did Manziel come out and do? Oh, just rack up 562 total yards, second only to his 576 he put up last year in SEC history. Alabama gave up the most yards EVER in the 122-years of the historic program to Manziel. This after he single-handedly won the Heisman last year in Tuscaloosa. This after he set the SEC record for total offense and became the first freshman in NCAA history to win the Heisman. Saban and his NFL caliber defense had absolutely no answer.
6. Arm strength, touch, and ability to make all throws. Just re-watch his first two drives against Bama. A bunch of pro style throws, 30 yards down field hitting a WR streaking down the sideline. His accuracy is very underrated. There isn’t a throw on the field Johnny doesn’t have the ability to make. And this is what NFL draft nitpickers will look at.
7. Charisma. Johnny Fuc*ing Football has been highly criticized all off-season and his reputation has taken a massive hit for it. While most of this has just been around a 20 year old college kid having some fun, there is certainly some concern about his family history, which includes a list of run-ins with the law . What matters is that teammates really like him and fans are enamored with him. Who cares if some bozo reporter thinks you’ve had too many beers at a college frat party and so he doesn’t like you? His teammates, coaches, and 12th man fans have his back. That’s what matters.
8. Smarts. Little caveat here: this refers to his on-the-field smarts, not his “off-the-field” smarts, which we can debate until the sun comes up. He has a very good understanding of defensive concepts. He also understands what he wants to accomplish play-to-play. Defensive coordinators throw new wrinkles at him every week trying to slow down the Aggies. All he does is take it in stride and hang 50 on them.
9. Comparisons to past dual threat college quarterbacks. He’s a much better thrower than Tebow and makes many more plays in the pocket. This is critical to his NFL success and he’s shown a much better ability in the pocket than Tebow ever did. He has more speed than Cam and Kaepernick. Kap ran his 40 at the combine in 4.53 and looks like a cheetah on the field vs. pros. Manziel runs a 4.45 and is only getting faster. He has similar arm strength to Russell Wilson, with the ability to manipulate the pocket and really drive the football.
So where does this leave us? You tell me. It’s hard to do much more than Johnny Football has done so far. And the scariest part about it is that he’s been doing it as a 19-20 year old. He’s only going to get better, faster, more accurate, and smarter from here.
Almost Varsity prediction for the top 3 picks in next years draft:
1. Jaguars – Bridgewater
2. Raiders – Clowney
3. Browns – Manziel
Opinions on Johnny are all over the place among observers, scouts, coaches and players. Expectations are sky high and Johnny is proving to everyone how good he can be. No matter what you think of the guy’s pro prospects, at least think twice when your favorite team drafts Khalil Black from Buffalo before Manziel next year. Good luck with that.