Friday, May 2, 2014
Expert's take: Johnny Manziel
By Ben Goessling
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- There is no shortage of opinions on the next quarterback in our preview of the Vikings' draft options. Seemingly everyone -- from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to former GMs to pundits around the country -- has had something to say about Johnny Manziel. It's to the point that the task of evaluating the Texas A&M quarterback becomes as much about separating his body of work from his persona as it does about judging what he's done on the field.
Johnny Manziel doesn't fit the typical profile of a Norv Turner quarterback.
Our two experts -- ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick (who previously worked as the Philadelphia Eagles' pro personnel director) and ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson (who was previously a pro and college scout for the Cleveland Browns) -- also weren't shy about their opinions on Johnny Football and whether he'd be a fit, on and off the field, with the Vikings. Let's take a closer look at the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner:
2013 stats: 69.9 completion percentage, 4,114 yards, 37 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 144 carries for 759 yards, nine rushing touchdowns.
NFL combine measurements: 5-foot-11, 2o7 pounds, 31 3/8-inch arm length, 9 7/8-inch hand span.
Pros: Manziel's college results are hard to dispute; he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and did it against the toughest competition in the country. He's got a short memory and ability to shrug off mistakes, which most great quarterbacks have. His panache and creativity make him a rare playmaker, and his hand size should alleviate concerns about his ability to drive the ball downfield in light of how short he is. And as ESPN's Kevin Seifert pointed out yesterday, Manziel has been much more accurate as a pocket passer than most realize. "He has plenty of arm strength to do a lot of the things that (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) does in his offense," Riddick said. "It's not just down-the-field bombs with Norv." Said Williamson: "I didn't want to like him, but he grows on me."
Cons: Zimmer's comments about the "sideshow" at Manziel's pro day, and the "flags" that come up (likely pertaining to his well-documented social life) shouldn't necessarily be taken as an indicator that the Vikings have ruled Manziel out. But as we've discussed, Turner has never had a quarterback who runs as much as Manziel, and his system -- with its play-action passes and quick timing throws off dropbacks -- would mean Manziel would have to dial back his gambling ways quite a bit. "He makes a lot of bad decisions, and he does a lot of unorthodox things," Williamson said. "If you have Adrian Peterson, if you have a young, emerging defense, if you've got these other pieces, I don't know if you need the crazy gunslinger, Johnny Football, as well."
Bottom line: There's no doubt the combination of Manziel, Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson in the same offense would be exciting, but the Vikings don't seem like the right place for Manziel to land. It's tough to envision him running Turner's offense, and as both Williamson and Riddick put it, the Manziel-to-Minnesota idea seems to be an odd fit. "There's a history and a profile he looks for, and Johnny really is not that profile," Riddick said. "It doesn't seem like a good fit, both from a schematic standpoint and from a cultural or philosophical standpoint. I think it's trying to force a square peg into a round hole on that one."