By Zach Walker
The NFL Draft on May 8th is the launching point for every athlete who thinks they are ready to take the next step, and make big time plays for big time pay. But in this draft, there isn’t a ton of name-brand players. You’ll know Jadeveon Clowney, and for the NFL fan that just sits and waits for the games to start, that might be the only player that is recognizable. Well, that is if you live under the bleachers at Williams-Brice Stadium, without a place to charge your phone. And seeing that most don’t live there, all of us know about Johnny Manziel. He is a highly decorated college football quarterback by having two fantastic seasons for the Aggies. He led Texas A&M to consecutive bowl appearances and bowl victories, against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl in his freshman season, absolutely embarrassing the Sooners, and then a few months ago in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, bringing the Aggies back from a 38-17 defect against Duke. During the game, Manziel was shown controlling his teammate Mike Evans from blowing his top, talking things over with his offensive line, and rallying his team while they were down big. Manziel plays with a never-say-die mentality most of time. Always scrambling and buying time for his receivers to get open, or just rushing for the first down. Manziel didn’t win back-to-back Heisman trophies, even though he improved as a passer in his second season. His play as a freshman made such a splash that it was too much to top.
Johnny “Football” built a questionable offseason reputation as a consequence-be-damned nightly topic of discussion on almost every sports network. He attended a party at rival Texas, left the Manning Passing Academy early (maybe not enough Manziel rubbed off on Peyton), and then an autograph investigation to find out if Manziel received money for autographs. But once the games got under way, Manziel was back. After his first touchdown, he celebrated with a curious gesture, the double money display, as a sort of “To hell with your investigation.” Manziel is a polarizing player and just about every team with a quarterback who either hasn’t won yet, or is getting up there in years, has a dream scenario of their team getting in on the Johnny Manziel express. But who is going to land him? Will the Texans pass on him, leaving the Rams to trade and continue to stockpile? I’ve got five likely landing spots for Manziel; and five below-the-radar level landing spots, and all of these teams have one thing in common. They would love to have him sitting there when their club is on the clock.
Teams Likely to Draft Manziel:
Houston Texans: They have the first pick and a glaring need at quarterback. Manziel might have some mechanical issues with his game and a possibly a shakey pocket presence. Will the Texans be bold enough to pass on a quarterback out of their backyard who would be a jersey selling bombshell and would make the Texans instantly a playoff team again?
Jacksonville Jaguars: They thought they had gotten something with Blaine Gabbert, and they did… a bust. Manziel is exactly the type of player that the Jaguars are hoping and praying that the Rams don’t move out of that spot so that they can get their hands on their franchise quarterback. The Jaguars aren’t a team in the playoff hunt, but in the AFC with Manziel they might squeak out a few more victories the first season. And with more team building the Jags could be a dark horse.
Cleveland Browns: If there is ever a team in need of quarterback, it’s the Browns. They need more than that though. A stable management system because it’s like their office is built using ancient remains. Manziel is the hero that Cleveland is just aching to get behind. My worry is that Manziel might represent too much erratic style. A style that Cleveland might distance themselves from, but it’s undeniable that Manziel could turn the team (on-the-field) around.
Oakland Raiders: If Manziel had to represent a team as a person then he’s a Raider. An old Raider type that parties with the enemy, andthen after a quick zap-nap he wakes up and beats the opponent. Overnight, Manziel would lead the league in jersey sales, and would be beloved; maybe even more than if he was drafted by the Texans. Like all of the teams on the “likely” list, they would be instantly three games better off than they were a season ago. Me, personally as a fan, I’d like the Raiders to pass on Manziel, build a stronger team this season, and then go all in to get either Winston or Mariota.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings got taken for a ride on the quarterback carrousel, and got spun off the playoff hunt. Manziel would be going to a team with a fresh coaching staff and a strong running back, who he can lean on early. The Vikings can have Manziel and take the risk/reward plays as he’d like. Could make mistakes and still have Adrian Peterson mop up the rest. With Mike Zimmer as their head coach, the Vikings defense will be much improved, so the wiggle room for Manziel will be even greater.
Teams who could distill Manziel, for that full flavor:
St Louis Rams: Sam Bradford is said to be rehabbing well off of his ACL injury, but Bradford is set to make a boat load of money over the next two seasons. The Rams have to ask themselves one question, “is Bradford worth it going forward?” I’ve always been a fan of Bradford, but the Rams offensive line has just started to shape up. Bradford isn’t the strongest quarterback in the pocket, but he’ll usually eat the ball and take the sack. Before his injury, Bradford was on pace for his best season. Manziel would be a fresh start and a cheaper option.
Tennessee Titans: Quite like the Rams, the Titans have to decide if Jake Locker is the long term answer. Locker has yet to play a full season in three seasons, realistically two because in his rookie year he wasn’t given the reigns right away. But Locker has always had accuracy questions with his game, and with his health concerns. Do the Titans move on to Johnny Manziel? There are still those mechanical question marks, and with his size there is a potential for habitual injuries.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: With a whole new front office and coaching staff, it’s going to be an offseason of evaluation for all of the players. The stars are safe, but really that just means Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy, Vincent Jackson, and Mark Barron are safe. Mike Glennon had a pretty swell season taking over for a departing Josh Freeman. He completed a hair under 60 percent passing, but I question his consistency on his throws. With Manziel in the draft, Mike Glennon might be the new Jimmy Clausen.
Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo will be 34 years old by the draft, and has had back surgery in two straight offseasons, and that isn’t helping. Manziel has seemed like he was perfect for the Cowboys since before his second season even started. Making offseason headlines, being under a microscope, and has already expressed how he’d like to be a Cowboy. Texas kid, Manziel would push Romo to perform absolutely, or else it will be the role-reversed of how Romo took over for Drew Bledsoe all those years ago. Manziel has quite a lot of early Tony Romo about his game, moving like water to make the play happen. But Manziel is a 100 percent bigger threat to take off and run. With the weapons on the Cowboys offense, Manziel would be a threat to be offensive player of the year within his first two seasons. And hey, he’s already got the support of Roger Staubach, and there is no better stamp of approval than that.
Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer had an okay season for the Cardinals, but when you’re 34 years old, and throw the most interceptions you’ve ever thrown in a season for a ten year career, that’s not good. The Cardinals were still a 10-6 team. Imagine, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, with Johnny Manziel dishing the rock. The Cardinals could be a serious playoff spoiler and a major player in the NFC. And with Bruce Arians proving to be one of the league’s best coaches, he could be the coach to get the maximum out of Johnny Manziel.