Prediction: Johnny Manziel will be a top five pick

Manziel put on a masterclass against Duke last night

In my latest mock draft I had Johnny Manziel at #4 to Cleveland.

He might need to be moved up even higher.

One performance doesn’t make a career, but making your last impression a good one can be crucial.

Manziel’s display against Duke will have the NFL talking today.

Everyone knows what he offers by now — incredible scrambling skills, the ability to improvise and extend plays, underrated talent as a passer and the ability to run a thoroughly modern NFL offense (including the read option).

Everyone knows the negatives too. The erratic mistakes, the plays where he tries to do too much, the lack of a big time arm (I’d argue it’s good enough, just not top-end) and the laundry list of bizarre off the field stories that include this article by ESPN that made him sound like a walking temper-tantrum.

But last night perhaps allayed some of those fears.

The Aggies trailed Duke 28-10 and 35-17. Defensively they were the usual shambles — conceding touchdowns on Duke’s first five possessions. And there was Manziel — rallying the troops. Leading his team. Pleading with his defense to get a stop, to take the football away.

All the while he battled away on to keep his team in the game — before leading a sensational comeback in a 52-48 victory.

This is what NFL teams want to see. No tantrums. No sulking. A man determined to win, taking responsibility and lifting every single player on that A&M sideline.

Once again he did things only he seems capable of. Take this touchdown for example…

Seriously, have you ever seen anything like that?

I’m a sucker for improvisation. It’s the single most underrated quality a quarterback can have. I don’t want a signal caller who collapses when his initial read or two isn’t there. I don’t want to rely on someone who buckles if the defense offers an exotic look, or wins at the LOS.

I want a guy who can make something out of nothing. Manziel is better at that than any quarterback we’ll ever see in college football.

He doesn’t need to be a choir boy. He can go to parties dressed as Scooby-Doo, wear a Tim Tebow jersey, say whatever he wants on Twitter. He just needs to prove he can be a leader. Whether he’s up for the 5:30am alarm call to be the first in the building, we won’t know until he makes the league.

But last night I guarantee a heck of a lot of NFL teams were salivating about Johnny Football being their guy.

Want a great example of how he acted as a leader last night? Mike Evans got into an unnecessary tussle with the #6 for Duke who was covering him early in the game. He got one silly flag for reacting to whatever was going on there — and added a second later on.

Manziel could sense he wasn’t focused — and this happened…

Again, that’s a guy taking responsibility. Instead of letting the coaches deal with it, Manziel does their job for them. For what it’s worth, Evans did settle down after this and made some plays.

So he might not be a Russell Wilson-esque workaholic who lives and breathes game tape. But he might be responsible enough to know he’s the quarterback and he has to lead by example.

I’ve no doubt a lot of GM’s will be digging out the Alabama game from last year. They’ll watch it, breathe it in.

Convince themselves even more.

We need this guy.

Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota. I’m almost certain that one of those teams is going to talk themselves into drafting Manziel in the top ten. And why not?

The Texans need a signal caller. Are they any more likely to win with Teddy Bridgewater?

The Jags need a reason to get excited. They need a face of the franchise, someone to build around. Manziel can get people talking about Jacksonville.

Cleveland is looking to end years of misery and are reportedly known admirers.

Oakland has nothing right now. What have they got to lose?

Minnesota’s spent the last three years trying to get by with mediocre, boring quarterbacks. Will they go for the home run?

Heck — even the Rams at #2 should be all over this. Who really wants to face this guy twice a year in the NFC West?

I certainly don’t.

Quite frankly I’d rather fail as a NFL GM putting my faith in this kind of quarterback instead of hoping a Sam Bradford pans out. Or that a Teddy Bridgewater will be better than average.

I’ll hold my hands up if I’m wrong, but I suspect last night is just the beginning of a huge clamour that ends up with Manziel going in the top three picks. Some of the teams listed above will talk themselves into feeling they have to have him.

Quite frankly if the Seahawks didn’t have Wilson — I suspect I’d be banging the drum for the guy myself.

The NFL will be more fun with Jonny Football. And I think he’s going to head into the pro’s as a top five pick.


  1. AlaskaHawk

    This is your best write up ever! Long live Johhny football. If Houston doesn’t take him then St, Louis will and we will be playing against him twice a year. We will be in the toughest, most talented division in the NFL.

    • CC

      For once, I was more impressed by JM’s ability to get his team together and back in the game from the sidelines first, before what he did on the field. Previously, what I’d seen from him made me wonder if he had the ability to be a leader. Yesterday’s game made me believe he has what it takes. He certainly has the intangibles to make things happen. He will need to become a serious student of the game if he really wants to succeed. If he doesn’t he could become like Michael Vick, heck of an athlete, great ability, but not the drive to learn. He needs to go somewhere where his coaches will make him better without killing his creativity. He’d be best off where he has some talent on offense. I could see the Browns loving him, but I wonder about the dysfunction there. I think that while the Jags need a QB – I expect with Gus coming from Seattle and Caldwell from SF – they will draft a difference maker on defense, Clowney or Barr over the QB.

    • el80ne

      I agree that if Houston doesn’t take him he’ll go in the #2 spot. But I somehow doubt it will be St Louis where would again be able to extract a King’s ransom auctioning their pick to the highest bidder and using the boatload bounty to build for the present and future.

  2. JW

    Yes. Teams don’t need a choir boy at QB, and not every QB needs to be a Russell Wilson personality type. Grown men don’t need off field leadership from their QB. They need on field wins. Manziel looks as able as anyone to do it.

    Fwiw, a few months ago Brock Huard was bashing JM’s “leadership” and “maturity” issues. A few minutes later Pete Carroll came on the air and defended Manziel. Said, essentially, let him be himself because he’s a great player and the kid can play, and he’ll come into his own as a player and leader by being himself not something you want him to be. It was everything we have come to understand about Pete’s coaching philosophy. Smart front offices will take the same approach with this guy.

    • Michael (CLT)

      Awesome post

  3. James

    With JJ Watt providing plenty of rush at DE, the Texans could double up with Clowney, but surely they need to go for the franchise QB when they have such a high pick. Isn’t Manziel from just outside of Houston….heavy incentives to go for the hometown guy.

    • Hawkspur

      If the stories about Manziel’s social habits have any foundation in truth, it might be better for him if he goes elsewhere.

    • bigDhawk

      From what I understand about O’Brien, he prefers a more prototypical QB, a tall strong, accurate pocket passer with mobility being a bonus. Blake Bortles fits this mold, and it would not surprise me if Bortles goes FOA to Houston. If Bortles goes to Houston, I don’t see Manziel getting past Jacksonville, and vice versa. JAX will get one of either Bortles or Manziel. I see Atlanta, or possibly NYG, trading up to #2 to get Clowney

  4. Andrew

    I tend to disagree with the sentiment that manziel will be a good pro qb. His single best attribute, improvisation, is the one skill that does not translate to the hyper athletic nfl. I like his accuracy, I like that he does not give up on a play. However, he is just not going to be able to out jump d-ends. He won’t outrun Wagner and he will have to learn how to slide. In the end I see the downside of his reliance on his physical talents as being greater than the upside of his competitiveness.

    • Colin

      I agree somewhat. I think he relies on improve a bit too much, but I do think he understands the intricacy of passing the football better than most people would give credit for. He’s grown on me a bit in the last few months, and I was not a believer early on.

      Myself, he’s not a top 5 pick, but he’s gonna go there due to “it’s a passing league”.

      My biggest question at this point is how he’ll fare without a ton of weapons on offense- if he goes to JAX, he’s gonna get toned down that first year. Houston is the ideal location- loaded with offensive weapons, guys who have been there before; stability in essence. Cleveland, or Jacksonville are not ideal, and Minnesota is a bit of a wild card.

      • el80ne

        I’d say Cleveland would be a far better location than you’re giving them credit for when you lump them in the same boat as Jacksonville. Sure they’ve got the moribund franchise rep with a questionable new owner at the moment perceived as meddling. But with Josh Gordan and Cameron Jordan to throw to and one of the best left tackles in the league covering his blindside in Joe Thomas? He’s got all the building blocks right in front of him to succeed right away, regardless of who their coach next year ends up being. And there’s even a chance it could end up being either Quinn or Bevell.

    • Michael (CLT)

      Sounds early similar to Russell concerns in 2012.

      • el80ne

        Not. There were never questions about Wilson’s maturity or preparedness.

        • Cade

          or ball security. I don’t think Wilson has ever been considered reckless

    • Phil

      Andrew – I agree that his improv style is going to be risky going forward. RW is able to improvise, but he knows when to slide or when to run out of bounds. Manziel’s style seems to be more like RGIII, where he hasn’t faced up to the reality that guys he’s playing against now in the NFL are faster than the guys he used to outrun when he played at Baylor.

      But, who knows if Manziel can/will be a quick learner and can be successful with his style in the NFL? The bottom line is that at its core, the NFL is entertainment and who is more entertaining than Johnny Football? He will draw lots of fans wherever he ends up and for some owners, that will be enough.

  5. dave crockett

    I have to say, I like that you’ve done a 180 on Manziel. You don’t dig in your heels. You go where your study leads you.

    And I agree, that last night’s performance will get some GMs to look again. Apart from the sidelines stuff, Manziel hit some grown man throws in that game. His deep pass is not the best, but he was super precise in the intermediate and long-intermediate area.
    In a similar vein, I’ve agreed with you about Seattle not needing to invest big $ in the offensive line. All things equal I agree. I’ll tell you though, I got a good look at Gabe Jackson. Of course, his bowl opponent, Rice, didn’t belong on the same field. But, look at this tape against LSU’s two NFL-caliber DTs and tell me this would be a waste of a late first round pick.

    • dave crockett

      Gabe Jackson is a G from Mississippi State.

      • oz

        That center looked good also. very quick.

    • Rob Staton

      From what I’ve seen of Jackson, I think he’s going to go in the R2-3 range. So he could be an option beyond round one, or after a trade down. But personally I still think tackle will be the bigger need if Giacomini departs. I’m not completely ready to buy into Bowie as a long term starter at tackle.

      • Nolan

        I think Bowie played really well particularly later in the experiment, and now he will have a whole offseason plus another training camp to develope along with the line, not to mention if okung is shutting down the left side instead of mcquiston being a turnstile that will also help Bowie. The hawks have big time depth needs along the Dline, WR corps, and possibly secondary ( Thurmond, browner are leaving possibly need new safety backups as well ) plus no third rounder currently I just don’t see them taking a OL men very early next year maybe they bring in more developmental guys in the later rounds but I think Bowie and Bailey play big parts in our Oline next year.

  6. Alex

    Personally, I’ve always liked Manziel. I think he’ll be a boom or bust prospect. The improvisation skill is a full 10/10. His accuracy on the intermediate routes is razor sharp (something I’m surprised other people don’t talk about). Last year’s Alabama tape and last year’s Cotton Bowl left deep impressions on me. He clearly outclassed Landry Fields by miles and the way he shredded the Bama defense (both years) is impressive.

    The reason there is the potential for the bust part of the boom or bust is his off field stuff. We’ll see.

  7. Stuart

    St. Louis is a talented team. Their biggest whole in my opinion is QB. Their fans are in love with Bradford and talk about getting multiple picks for their 2nd overall pick. With hindsight we know that they should have drafted RGIII, but didnt.

    Now, history is repeating itself for the Rams, kind of. How do you feel about RGIII coming out vs Johnny Football? It it’s equal, the Rams should take JM at #2, if not, you don’t.

    Rob, what could they get for Bradford in a pre-draft trade? The Rams have a solid back already. (However he is a free agent)

    • CHawk Talker Eric

      Not to answer for Rob, but Bradford has virtually zero trade value.

      He’s due $27m over the last 2 years of his contract ($14m in 2014 and $13m 2015). That’s a hefty salary for a QB who’s enjoyed middling success at best and is coming off a torn ACL.

      Aside from his salary, he’s also due an extra $4m for both 2014 and 2015 (signing bonus), which the Rams will pay regardless of what happens to him.

      In the end, STL is damned either way with Bradford. Talent-wise, they should move on from him and start over with JM (as they should’ve done with RG3). But financially and organizationally, they’re in too deep to make that move.

    • Rob Staton

      I think RGIII was more of a sure thing, but he’s been so badly handled by a joke franchise. He’d be a superstar on Seattle’s roster, or even the Colts if they’d taken him instead of Luck. In Washington, it’s car crash stuff.

      In terms of Bradford, I think he’d be impossible to trade. Injuries, huge contract. They’d have to cut him to move on.

      • el80ne

        You sure about that Rob? I don’t doubt he’d be far better surrounded by the supporting cast in Seattle, and not being in the limelight of DC would have probably been beneficial for him. But at the same time I’d be hard pressed to say that he’d be in the same rarified air held today by Wilson … simply because it’s hard to be impressed with how he’s carried himself starting with the adversity he faced from his injury a year ago.

        It seems very much like he’s lived in his own bubble with a very tangible disconnect from his teammates and coaches, which is obviously not something you want from your starting QB and franchise player. The way he’s handled himself and to the press, there’s obviously a lack of maturity that you’d never see from Wilson. Beginning with his public suggestion almost immediately after his injury that his coach was to blame for putting him back in the game when it was he who insisted on continuing to play and that he could handle it. Making a big public spectacle of his rehab while doing all the commercials and endorsements during the offseason, but still not being ready when he said he would be. Then later when the losing began to pile up from him playing poorly never once publicly accepting any responsibility for his poor play, even when it was determined to be his fault on a particular play being asked about? This continued until the predictable backlash began from teammates who felt they were being publicly thrown under the bus by him for his mistakes, and they were. He just never seemed to be even cognizant that focus should be on the team and not him.

        I have no doubt that Daniel Snyder playing favorites and showing up his coach with his star player in the locker room was damaging to RG3’s development and only exacerbated division and resentment amongst team. And how he was handled coming back in retrospect should not have been so rushed. He shouldn’t have been out there when he wasn’t yet ready to play. But again, it’s hard to sit your franchise star player when he’s insistent on coming back on day 1 and says he’s ready. I see no reason to think he wouldn’t have engendered a certain level of divisiveness if he had come to Seattle, it’s just the way he rubs people by how he carries himself and how egocentric he can come off at times.

        And remember, Indy would never have drafted him because he refused to go there for a workout/audition. He told Irsay he thought Washington was a better fit. I question how much he’d even want to come to Seattle given his strong preference for the bright lights as the center of attention. All of that is all fine and good so long as you’re capable of carrying yourself in that environment through the good and the bad. But most important is to be able to remain on the top of your game. That he has not done from the first signs of adversity. He’s not the kind of guy I would want leading the Seahawks.

        Now, could you imagine Wilson being involved in any of that type of stuff? Not in a million years.

        • Rob Staton

          I think Snyder has created an atmosphere within his franchise where RGIII is king. They are too close and the quarterback is too powerful. That for me is the main reason it’s turned into a nightmare.

          Basically the QB is more powerful than the coach, and that’s never a good thing. It’s led to a situation where Griffin should’ve been put on IR at the end of last year, but they ended up chasing a ridiculous one-season dream and he got even more hurt. It’s led to a situation where Griffin’s father can basically walk around the dressing room on game day. It’s led to a situation where Griffin sees himself as the franchise — because Snyder has let is happen.

          None of those things would’ve happened in Seattle IMO. They would’ve handled him properly. Whether he’d be the success Wilson is, I’m not sure. But I think it’s a great locker room and ownership situation within the Seahawks — the type of atmosphere the Redskins can only dream of.

          The difference between Wilson and RGIII is — I think Wilson would’ve been far better at handling the noise in Washington. Griffin needs guidance, coaching and management. He would’ve got that in Seattle.

          • el80ne

            Excellent points all around. I agree.

  8. Justin

    If I am the Rams I am taking Manziel and hoping Evans falls to my next pick. As a Seahawks fan I hope this never happens but with those two early picks I think its the best they can do.

    • Rob Staton

      I would agree with this strategy. The depth is there to go tackle in round two for the Rams too.

      • Nolan

        I think that would be good for the rams to, if Bradford hit the open market he would be best available QB vet and would have options might be best for him to to get a change of scenery. Hopefully the rams are not thinking like that becaus as long as they have Bradford I don’t and won’t take them seariously.

  9. Ben2

    I’m wondering what the return is on a trade back from our late round 1 for a high 2nd – could we get a 3rd pick back? What the precedence lately? Anybody?

    • House

      I am thinking we trade with a team like OAK or something. Here is a chart that was more predominantly used PRIOR to the CBA change.

      • House

        For a reference point, if we traded #31 to OAK (36), it would yield a difference of 60pts. With us currently owning OAK’s 5th (about 40pts), we could give them their 5th back and receive their 4th.

  10. plyka

    Quite frankly I just dont see it. Manziel looks like bust material #1. There will be tons of busts and Johny football looks like one to me. I’m not rooting for it, I don’t root for anyone to fail. But I hope he succeeds because I like anyone who is entertaining.

    But the fact is that the NFL is not college. What makes Johnny great in College is not going to work in the NFL. Do you think for a second that scrambling he did and stayed alive in will work in the NFL? In the NFL he is going to be destroyed. I watched Vince Young, a man among boys in the 2005 title game against USC go to the NFL and look like a boy. In the NFL everyone is an elite athlete. His improvisation is not going to work in the same way. He will look like RGIII this year, without the elite athletic ability and the incredible passing accuracy.

    Plus, most importantly, the guy doesnt have an arm. I’m not sure why you think it’s “just good enough.” It looks below average to me. Of course he is no Flacco or Stafford, but he is not even close to Wilson who is not known to be a top arm strength guy. Johnny’s balls look like they float and flutter on him. With the weak arm he is going to need Manning type smarts, and I just don’t see it.

    Hope I’m wrong, but Johnny looks like a grade A bust to me. And you look like you’re looking to find an argument because you like the guy on an emotional level. We will see.

    • CHawk Talker Eric

      Regardless of how he pans out in the pros, his performance today pretty much guarantees he’ll be a top-10 pick.

      And depending on how he handles himself between now and draft day (particularly at the combine), Rob might be correct that he goes in the top 5.

      • plyka

        You’re probably right. He may go top 10. But I just see him as a huge bust. I wouldn’t take Johnny, despite how much I like to watch him.

    • MJ

      I have to disagree. We are seeing guys like Colin Kaepernick succeed, who is basically a RB with a cannon for an arm, who is limited to one read (I’d say an honest 90% of the time). Manziel is a much more nuanced passer than CK and has shown an ability to go through progressions. You won’t get the sheer arm strength or speed of CK, but you will get a much better QB, by NFL standards.

  11. Michael (CLT)

    That was one hell of a performance last night. Great write up. Much thanks.

    • Phil

      Michael (CLT) – nice to see you being complimentary. Seriously.

  12. Michael M.

    My biggest concern is body type. He does not appear to be built for the NFL, unlike Russell Wilson who I would describe as “stocky”. Manziel looks more to me like Colt McCoy did coming out of college; a guy trying to play a man’s game, trapped in a little boy’s body (relatively speaking of course).

    • Michael (CLT)

      Interesting thought. Manziel sure does show great toughness compared to McCoy. It has been a while since I have watched McCoy play, however.

  13. GCrow

    Great writeup Rob. I like yourself am also high on Manziel, just can never count his team out and likewise if if wasn’t for the golden god Russell himself would love to see the Seahawks draft this kid.

    Don’t think it’ll happen, but I personally would love to see this guy on the Jaguars. Manziel with Denard and Ace Sanders as “offensive weapons” and being able to toss bombs to Blackmon if he can get back to his form just before the suspension would be an exciting watch.

  14. Cameron

    I wonder if Jeff Fisher and the Rams FO is just to conventional to do the unconventional. It seems like they’ve been drafting players to basically run the Oklahoma spread offense for Sam Bradford (Tavon Austin, etc). What’s interesting is that for the first 4 or 5 games of the year this idea failed, to the point where people were questioning the Austin pick. Then Bradford got hurt but the Rams were already transitioning to a power running offense and started to get away from the dink and dunk WR screens and what not.

    This shows Fisher can make adjustments on the go, but it shows long term that they are invested in Bradford to the point of making investments that play to his strengths. I seriously doubt (luckily) that they draft Manziel

  15. Cameron

    Because of the inevitable Russell Wilson comparison’s I though I’d throw this out there

    2013 Johnny Manziel – 300 of 429 69.9% and 9.59 Y/A. 37 TD and 13 INT’s

    2011 Russell Wilson – 225 of 309 72.8% and 10.3 Y/A. 33 TD and 4 INT’s

  16. AlaskaHawk

    Blake Bortles had a good game last night. It’s going to be interesting to see how the teams choose a QB. I think all of the top three QBs have potential to be as good as Jay Cutler or Phillip Rivers. There success will just depend on the coaching and strength of team. For those reasons two will be lucky enough to get chosen by Texans or Rams. The other will suffer with a poor offensive line.

  17. CHawk Talker Eric

    Generally, I think “what if’s” are pretty lame. But I can’t help thinking, what if Lyerla gets himself together and shows well at the combine? Is the upside potential worth a late round flyer in light of his off field issues?

    • Rob Staton

      I still believe he’ll be an UDFA personally. Serious issues going on there. Even worse than a guy like Da’Rick Rogers who went undrafted last year.

  18. CHawk Talker Eric

    I see USC center Marcus Martin has declared for the draft. It’s kind of a surprise, and I don’t see him ranked on any draft boards. But I have to think he’ll be ranked 1 or 2 for his position in the draft. Even still he’d be an intriguing pick early on Day 3.

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