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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Should the Raiders chase Johnny Manziel?

By Paul Gutierrez


ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders need a quarterback, a certifiable quarterback of the future, as they say.

No disrespect to the Terrelle Pryor disciples or the Matt McGloin acolytes, but even coach Dennis Allen said he was not sure if said franchise QB was “in the building right now.”

And with Allen now assured of returning to Oakland for his third season, might he look to his alma mater for salvation in the form of a polarizing figure known simply as Johnny Football?

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, as maddening as he is talented, has officially declared for the NFL draft, and the Raiders hold the No. 5 overall pick. And with Allen’s connections to College Station running deep, the Raiders probably have an upper hand in scouting the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. Which means the Raiders either making a run at Manziel or steering clear of him will say all you need to know about an Oakland background check.

Look, the 2014 win-now season in Oakland promises to be a fascinating study in survival. The Raiders have $60-plus million in salary-cap room to chase free agents, a full complement of draft choices to re-stock the roster, the assistants on Allen’s staff possibly on one-year contracts, with Allen most likely on a very short leash, and the pressure on general manager Reggie McKenzie to deliver a solid roster.

So what would Manziel, who had his share of off-the-field issues in college, add to the Raiders’ potentially volatile mix, besides his own brand of drama?

In two years at Texas A&M, he threw for a combined 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns and rushed for 2,169 yards and 30 TDs and was the first freshman to win the Heisman, when he set the Southeastern Conference total offense record with 5,116 yards.

And this past season, he established a new Aggies single-season mark with 4,114 passing yards, falling just 11 yards short of becoming the first sophomore on any college campus to have 10,000 career yards.

Still, generously listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he’s a bit small to play the brand of reckless abandon football in the NFL he excelled at in college.

“He possesses unique improvisational skills (his closest resemblance in that regard, at least in my lifetime, is to Doug Flutie) and has the quickness, speed and instincts as a runner/scrambler that make him a nightmare to bring down, both in the pocket and in the open field when he takes off,” wrote ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who had Manziel going to the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 in a recent mock draft.

McShay also had Manziel as his third-rated college QB, behind Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles.

“Manziel has also shown significant improvement as a passer this season, displaying more of a comfort level when throwing from the pocket, improved arm strength as a result of better mechanics and more consistency with his ball placement and accuracy,” McShay added. “Also, it's worth noting that despite all the comments about his character and leadership ability ... it really does seem as though his teammates feed off the passion and energy with which he plays.”

Should the Raiders, then, go all in with Manziel, if he’s still on the board at No. 5, or should they sign a veteran quarterback, other than recently inked Trent Edwards, and build the rest of the team first?