Thursday, May 1, 2014
The Jaguars should draft ... Johnny Manziel
By Michael DiRocco
Which player should the Jacksonville Jaguars take with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft? That's a question that general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are trying to answer before the first round on May 8. Not that they're asking, but I'm here to offer some help. Every day until the first round I'll argue for a certain player. We're going to go with the caveat that each of the players is available when the Jaguars make their selection.
Today I make the case for quarterback Johnny Manziel. Friday will be quarterback Blake Bortles.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There is no Andrew Luck in this draft, a can't-miss quarterback that can carry a franchise for 10-15 years.
But there is one available that abused one of the country's top college defenses coached by one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. Twice.
He made All-Americans look confused and silly. He made high draft picks look like walk-ons getting their first playing time. He had coaches throwing up their hands because they didn't know what more they could possibly do to stop him.
So when it's time for the Jaguars to make their pick in next week's NFL draft, they should select Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
The Jaguars finished 22nd in passing, 31st in rushing, and 31st in total offense and averaged just 15.4 points per game last season, so they desperately need a playmaker on offense. There has been no bigger playmaker in college football than Manziel the past two seasons. He threw for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns and ran for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns while playing in the toughest conference in the nation.
In two games against Alabama and Nick Saban, Manziel accounted for 907 yards and seven touchdowns of total offense. The Aggies beat the Crimson Tide, which would go on to win the national title, in 2012 but lost by a touchdown in 2013. He rushed for 190 yards in those games and most of that came on scrambles outside the pocket.
Then again, a lot of his passing yards came that way, too, with him running around, juking defenders, and finding receivers for big gains.
Granted, that style is not going to be as successful in the NFL. Manziel has to learn to play more from the pocket and quit taking off and running at the first sign of trouble. He has to refine his fundamentals and mechanics so he's not relying on his strong arm and athleticism. He has to get stronger so his somewhat slight frame (5-foot-11 3/4, 207 pounds) can better handle the pounding he's going to take at the NFL level.
That's what coaches are for, though. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo can fix those problems (all but the height, obviously).
But it's the other stuff that makes Manziel special. The ability to escape from trouble, improvise, extend plays with his legs, and make big plays. That's instinctual, and it's Manziel's greatest asset. You have to have all those things to be an elite quarterback in the NFL. Robert Griffin III does, and so does Luck. Unless a quarterback is operating at the level occupied by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, he's got to have the ability to make plays outside the pocket.
Caldwell and Bradley still have work ahead in improving the talent level on the roster. The team won't contend for the playoffs until they do. But adding Manziel can speed up the process a bit.
Though it shouldn't factor into any football decision, there's also this: Adding Manziel would make the Jaguars instantly relevant nationally. The NFL would surely flex a couple Jaguars games to get Manziel on national television. Fans, tired of being the butt of jokes around the country, would revel in the attention.
Manziel isn't a perfect quarterback, but he is the best choice for the Jaguars.