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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Johnny Football: Better in 2012 or 2013?

By Rob Nelson, ESPN Stats & Info

Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel has been a better downfield passer in 2013.
Johnny Manziel became the first freshman (redshirt) to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, leading Texas A&M to an 11-2 record.

His signature moment came when he led the Aggies to an upset victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

So far in 2013, Manziel is second in ESPN’s latest Heisman Watch. Despite losing to Alabama this time around, Manziel has the Aggies at 5-1 and ranked seventh in the latest AP Poll.

Let’s dive into the numbers and compare Manziel in 2012 to the 2013 version of Johnny Football.

Rushing
One could say that Johnny Football "ran away" with the Heisman in 2012, as he led all SEC players with 1,410 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns.

Manziel also led the SEC in rushing yards per attempt (7.0) and rushes of 20 or more yards (22). He was one of five FBS quarterbacks to average over 100 yards per game on the ground.

So far this season, the production hasn't been at the same level, as Manziel is averaging four fewer rush attempts and 35 less rushing yards per game than he did a year ago. If he plays 13 games this season, he would run for just 11 touchdowns based on his current pace.

Advantage: 2012

Downfield Passing
Big plays and precise downfield passing have been trademarks of Johnny Football in 2013.

His 32 completions of at least 20 yards ranks fifth among FBS quarterbacks this season. He was seventh among FBS quarterbacks with 54 such completions a year ago.

Manziel is completing 64 percent of his passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield in 2013. Last week against Ole Miss, Manziel went five-of-six on such pass attempts, his highest career single-game completion percentage on such throws. In 2012, Manziel completed only 41 percent of such pass attempts.

Advantage: 2013

Making plays outside the pocket
Johnny Football burst onto the scene in 2012 partly due to his playmaking outside the pocket and on scrambles.

Manziel led all BCS AQ quarterbacks with 805 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on scrambles last season. He was one of only two players from BCS AQ schools to have more than two touchdowns on scrambles for the season. Manziel is first among AQ quarterbacks in yards (316) and touchdowns (3) on scrambles once again in 2013, but is on pace to fall short of his numbers from a year ago.

On throws outside the pocket, Manziel had a 62.8 completion percentage and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt in 2012. In 2013 on such throws, those numbers are down to a 54.8 completion percentage and 7.7 yards per attempt.

Advantage: 2012

Third-down Passing
Johnny Football has been at his best on third down this season, posting a FBS-high 99.6 Total QBR.

Texas A&M is converting 63.3 percent of third down passing plays with Manziel at quarterback in 2013, the best rate in the FBS. Manziel is averaging 14.7 yards per attempt and completing 81.5 percent of his passes on third down, both second among qualified FBS quarterbacks.

Manziel also led FBS quarterbacks in third-down Total QBR (98.5) last season, and the Aggies converted on passing plays a FBS-high 51.7 percent of the time. Manziel ranked third among qualified quarterbacks in yards per attempt (9.8) and completion percentage (67.9%) on third down in 2012.

The difference so far in 2013 is that Manziel has not committed a turnover on third down, after throwing five interceptions in those situations a year ago.

Advantage: 2013

Conclusion
Manziel might not be as flashy with his legs in 2013 as he was in 2012, but his passing has improved.

When looking at ESPN’s new metric, opponent-adjusted QBR, Manziel had a slightly higher rating in 2012 (90.5) than so far in in 2013 (88.3).

So after looking at the numbers, which version of Johnny Football do you think is better? Vote and share your thoughts in the comments.