2014 NFL Draft Profile: Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have seen plenty of frustrating traits out of their quarterbacks over the past few seasons.

Do you remember all of things you didn’t like about Josh Freeman? The airmailed passes, the ill-advised throws into double coverage, and the general lack of accuracy? Those were really frustrating, right?

How about Mike Glennon’s indecision in the pocket, propensity to not find open receivers, and awful ball placement, don’t those frustrate you as well?

Put all of those traits into one package, but make it a shorter, much faster player with a boatload of swagger and an awesome nickname…

And you’ll have Johnny Manziel.

Manziel is a hot topic among fans of any team in need of a quarterback, as the former Heisman Trophy winner posted incredible numbers during his two seasons running the Texas A&M offense. Many draft experts consider Manziel as one of the top prospects at quarterback, but as you can tell from the introduction of this post, I’m not inclined to agree.

Here are some of the positives and negatives I saw in Johnny Football while watching his 2013 game tape, as provided by draftbreakdown.com.

Positives

  • Despite anything you’ll read in the negatives, Manziel is incredibly productive. Awful quarterbacks don’t post the incredible numbers he posted during his first two seasons at quarterback.
  • Manziel has incredible athleticism, including great balance, speed, agility, and strength. He has the ability to be a true dual-threat at the next level.
  • He can make every throw with his arm strength. There are plenty of negatives here, but even with shoddy footwork and constant throws on the run, Manziel still manages to get the ball down the field due to his strong arm.
  • Many people aren’t going to be fans of Manziel’s personality, but I like it a lot. He’s a fierce competitor with a chip on his shoulder, and there’s no doubt that he simply loves playing football and making incredible plays.
  • He flashed the ability to make a back-shoulder throw, something that works as well in the NFL as it does in college.

Negatives

  • Manziel ducks his head and “sees ghosts” in the pocket far too often. If an offensive lineman in front of him is getting pushed backward at all, he’ll run away, or worse, do the “Tebow spin” and totally lose his downfield vision as he scrambles for an escape route. As Tebow proved, this doesn’t work in the NFL.
  • Furthermore, when Manziel is in the pocket, he regularly misses (doesn’t even throw to) open receivers. I’m not sure if it’s always a lack of vision as much as it is a desire to make the biggest play possible, but there were plenty of yards left on the table by Manziel due to a shy trigger finger.
  • He also struggles to pick out safeties and other “helping” defenders in coverage. He had multiple interceptions that were caused by a total disregard for safeties breaking on the football.
  • His footwork is awful.
  • No, I mean really awful. When he’s in the pocket, he’s constantly bouncing around and rarely steps into a throw from a solid base. And of course, once he leaves the pocket, his footwork becomes a secondary thought. Even when he tries to reset himself outside the pocket, he doesn’t have a stable base from his to throw.
  • As a result, his throws are often ducks, floating to their receiver but with low velocity and a less-catchable trajectory. Manziel can, and has, thrown a tight spiral, but his passes often wind up wobbly due to poor footwork.
  • His ball placement is incredibly inconsistent. At times, he’ll lead a receiver perfectly, but at other times he’ll overthrow a simple slant or botch an easy throw on a screen.
  • He’s very careless with the football when scrambling. He often carries the ball in one hand, not pressed against his arm, which will be easily batted away by aware defenders.
  • For as brave and competitive as he seems, he rarely produces by throwing his receiver open and embarrassing a defensive back. He thrives off of the chaos created by his scrambling, rather than his vision and creativity as a pure thrower.
  • Refuses to take the easy way out, resulting in extended plays and absurd scrambles that simply won’t work in the NFL on a regular basis. Ignoring an open dump-off option to reverse field and lob the ball downfield to a receiver simply will not be an option in the pros.

Conclusion

Nothing about Manziel’s arm stands out as NFL-calibre. I am sure that he has raw tools that can be coached into a serviceable passer, but as he currently stands, he lacks the vision and mechanics to be a reliable thrower of the football in the NFL.

His statistics were predicated on having a dominant offensive line and incredibly talented and large receivers who could compete for his poorly placed passes. Many of his biggest plays were a result of the breakdowns a defense experiences when having to cover receivers for 5-10 seconds due to Manziel’s ability to extend the play. Receivers would break open for Manziel, and he would deliver the ball to them and allow them to rack up the yards and scores.

Manziel is an incredible college athlete, and I enjoyed watching him as a fan of college football. But his game translates to the NFL poorly.

The incredible scrambles and broken tackles on sack attempts will be less frequent, and defenses in the NFL won’t allow him the time to run around until a receiver breaks open for a big gain.

His struggles will only become more apparent in the pros, while his strengths won’t be as strong with a higher calibre of opponent on defense. The two best things about Manziel are his athleticism and his arm strength, and neither is enough to be a productive, every-down quarterback in the NFL.

Comparison

As a pro prospect, Manziel is a hybrid of Tim Tebow and Mike Glennon, and shouldn’t be picked within the first four rounds of the NFL Draft. He’s a backup with limitless potential as a gadget play quarterback, but needs some serious coaching to become a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Topics: Johnny Manziel, NFL Draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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  • Pridenpoise

    Shouldn’t be picked in the first four rounds, that’s a laugh. There’s probably at least 15 teams that would take him in the 1st round.

    • LeoTPP

      Which is why I said shouldn’t, rather than won’t. I am giving my opinion, rather than giving a prediction. He’s going to go higher than he should, and some coaching staff will have a task on their hands to get something out of Manziel.

  • John

    You don’t think Manziel will translate well into the NFL due to the fact that the team you go for has ducked since 2007. No one thought Colin Kaepernick would be as good as he is today but look at him now taking his team to his second NFC Championship Game. Will dual threat quarterbacks be challenged more in the NFL, certainly. But you cannot merely judge Manuel based on your teams lack of a quarterback. Manuel faced tougher defenses than Teddy Bridgewater and was more productive on his feet and with his arm. Tell me again why he is not THE number one quarterback in the NFL draft. He managed to still make a bowl game and win a bowl game with one of the worst defenses in the SEC. Yes, the SEC a real college conference.

    • Jayson Kaplan

      See also Tebow, Tim

      This whole “he won all these games in the big bad SEC” narrative means absolutely nothing beyond exactly what it says, he won all those games in college. Colt McCoy won more games than anyone in Div. 1 history and did it in the Big 12 when that conference meant something. His NFL starting days were short-lived. The NFL is not college.

    • LeoTPP

      No, I don’t think Manziel will translate well to the NFL because he shows absolutely no signs of being an NFL quarterback, but rather that he’s an incredibly fun to watch college athlete.

      I watched tape of Manziel to prepare this article, I didn’t just look at stats and think about the defenses he was playing. You can believe whatever you want based on his numbers, but I’ll stick with what my eyes tell me, which is what I’ve written above.

      There’s a reason why Joe Flacco from Delaware is making 20 mil a year while countless SEC quarterbacks fail in the NFL. It’s not about what conference you come from, or what stats you put up. It’s about skills.

  • joel

    Great read. Sums up what I thought I had been seeing as well. Do you see him going to the Combine or waiting for his Pro Day?

    • LeoTPP

      That’s a great question, and I’m really not sure. He’s already got an agent and a business team, so who knows what they’re going to advise him to do.

  • Underdog_Lefty

    Good read Leo. You’ve pointed out the exact reason and biggest question as to why Manziel will be the most interesting selection in this year’s draft, can this college QB bring his game and be successful to the NFL. I think he’s a budding hybrid between Brees and Wilson, however though he has the mobile scrambling characteristics of those two, it will take a whole lot of real pro-level schooling to turn his passing game into anything resembling the NFL quality those QBs bring every game. It will be a real uphill battle for him and the odds are not in his favor. I see his value to be more of the round 5 to 6 range simply because his skill set doesn’t match well with very many offenses in the league and I just can’t imagine any team or coaching group revamping their system to fit him, so that whittles the list down quite a bit. I can see Philly taking him though in an earlier round as he and Chip Kelly would probably be a good match, but I don’t see him being a Tedford type of QB and any thoughts of him coming to Lovie’s Tampa are just not logically thought through.

    • Jayson Kaplan

      Can’t imagine the Eagles would actually take him given how successful Foles has been already in their system. Unless the idea is that with Vick on the way out there has to be someone there to make sure there’s always a “QB controversy” in Philly?
      Wherever “Johnny Football” goes, the media will be there to make sure there are constant questions about when he’s starting and he obviously would not be starting in Philly (because why does any team in its right mind hit the reset button when it already has a damn good QB – you know, except when the coach is Greg Schiano and he has a man-crush on some goofy QB that only he seems to like?)

      • Underdog_Lefty

        I hear you Jayson and agree about Foles. My only point in mentioning Philly was as an example of one of the few teams with a system he would probably fit in without a system overhaul needed for him as a starter. A back-up role whinin the right system is the ideal place for Manzeil. Even behind Wilson in Seattle, or to a lesser degree, Brees in New Orleans would both be nice spots for him too. There’s probably no two better mentors for him to learn from with systems ideal for his skill sets. And if he proves himself worthy as an NFL caliber QB backup, his value would only have to go up which is good for him and the team that has his rights incase another team wants to trade for him to become their starter later.

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