NFL Nation: Johnny Manziel declares for NFL draft

 

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Among the plethora of questions surrounding former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and the odds his ability translates to an NFL field, there’s one obvious reason why the Arizona Cardinals won’t be summoning him out of the green room.

He’s too small.

Sure, he’s a padded highlight reel, with incredible scrambles and jaw-dropping passes for touchdowns, but that can only take Manziel so far. And it might help him fit in with other teams, just not the Cardinals.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians has a type of quarterback he’s fond of and it doesn’t take much to figure it out. Look at the men he’s had success with: Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. It’s safe to say Arians is even working his magic to resuscitate Cardinals slinger Carson Palmer.

What do they all have in common? They’re big and tall with strong throwing arms.

Manning was 6-foot-5, 230 pounds.

Roethlisberger was 6-5, 240.

Luck was 6-4, 234.

Palmer was 6-5, 230.

Clearly, Arians has a type. Even look at the two Cleveland Browns quarterbacks who Arians worked with -- Kelly Holcomb was 6-2, 212 and Tim Couch was 6-4, 220 -- and neither had the same success as the other signal-callers.

Arians wants a big, tall and preferably athletic presence in the pocket, and all of those quarterbacks listed above – even Manning and Palmer – gave that to him. And they all own big arms, another necessity for Arians' offense.

Manziel stands 6-1 and 210. Athletic? Yes. Tall and big? No, not even close. He’s a fine athlete and solid college quarterback, but he just doesn’t fit what Arians wants to do. Chances are that Manziel won’t be around when the Cardinals pick 20th in May’s draft. But if he is, general manager Steve Keim will contemplate picking Manziel if he’s the best option left on the board.

Don’t expect them to settle on Johnny Football.
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has already said he will not use an early draft pick on a quarterback to possibly begin the process of finding Tony Romo's successor.

Could Johnny Manziel sway Jones' mind?

Manziel will be the story of this year's draft. He drives attention with his style of play, with his brashness, with how he has handled the fame since winning the Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M. Wherever he goes in May, Manziel will be a draw.

I've already mentioned Jones can't so easily dismiss the possibility of taking a quarterback. History suggests otherwise.

Since taking Troy Aikman with the No. 1 pick in 1989, Jones has selected just three -- Bill Musgrave (1991), Quincy Carter (2001) and Stephen McGee (2009) -- in the regular draft and used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on Steve Walsh in 1989.

Before the change in the collective bargaining agreement, he did not want to make the huge financial investment in an unproven commodity early in the draft. Now that the rookie prices have come way down, Jones remains reluctant.

But we all know Jerry Jones loves a draw.

He didn't need to draft Dez Bryant in 2010 with the first round. He committed megabucks to Roy Williams in 2009. He had Miles Austin coming off a Pro Bowl season and would soon pay him megabucks. But Bryant kept slipping and the Cowboys moved up slightly to take Bryant with the 24th pick in the first round. Somehow he could not envision passing on Randy Moss and Bryant.

This year the Cowboys will pick either No. 16 or 17 in the draft, depending on a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens.

Manziel figures to be gone by then, but what if teams are scared off by Manziel and he slips in the same way Bryant slipped? Does Jones make the move? Does he bring in the star of the draft?

There will be tons of work done on Manziel between now and the draft. The Cowboys will do their due diligence and know the player inside and out.

The general manager will have all of the reports and know if it would be a smart football move or not.

Would the owner be able to stay out of the way?

It sure it would set up an interesting dynamic on draft day.
Last season while writing a story for the Houston Chronicle about the Texans' focus on character, I talked with general manager Rick Smith about what that means to him.

Manziel
Quickly, I learned that the perception that the Texans value character above all else was one that Smith disagreed with. To him, a player's character is important as it relates to what he does on the field.

The Texans take plenty of chances on players with questionable off-the-field pasts. Sometimes those chances work better than others. But would they gamble with the most important position on the field, with what might be the most important draft pick in franchise history?

They will if they think he can win. That's the only question that matters.

What the Texans have done so far at the position hasn't worked. The even-keeled David Carr and Matt Schaub never made off-the-field headlines the Texans didn't want. Instead, those quarterbacks made plenty of cringeworth on-the-field headlines. At their best, their play was as bland as their quotes and more dependent on everything around them than you want a quarterback to be. At worst it cost the Texans big.

Which brings us to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who will enter the NFL draft according to sources. An electric personality is not a reason to draft someone, but it doesn't hurt. More importantly, Manziel's ability to improvise, his success at scrambling out of problems (6.3 yards per carry during his time at Texas A&M) even against the fast and physical defenses he faced, and his increasing comfort at passing from the pocket could make him a successful NFL quarterback.

I'd have concerns about his size, especially since Texans coach Bill O'Brien likes big quarterbacks, his durability and whether he would resort to his legs too often. Improvisation isn't always necessary. That's a lesson Texans quarterback Case Keenum learned the hard way.

But I wouldn't have concerns about the celebrity lifestyle he's embraced.

He's already shown the ability to be an elite player despite the partying with models and Texas fraternities. The NFL spotlight won't be bigger than the one that's on him now, though the league's media rules will force him to be a more public face than he's allowed to be in college.

Save for egregious criminal offenses, the only kinds of character concerns that scare the Texans away are ones that will impact someone's play. So far Manziel has shown that his antics haven't.


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Well, Johnny Football has announced he's going pro. The top of the quarterback class for the 2014 NFL draft is effectively set. And among the many pivotal decisions Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has to make this offseason, one of them could be this: Should the Vikings trade up from the No. 8 overall pick to give themselves a better chance at one of the top quarterbacks in the draft?

I'm inclined to think the answer there is no, even if that puts the Vikings at great risk of not getting one of the top prospects (Johnny Manziel, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Fresno State's Derek Carr). The Vikings have an extra third-round pick, courtesy of the trade that sent Percy Harvin to Seattle last year, but that pick could effectively be a fourth-rounder, if the Seahawks reach the NFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl. And with as many needs as the Vikings have, the price might be too steep to move up to say, No. 5 or No. 6 and put themselves in line to get one of the top QB prospects.

Now, that's not to say a franchise quarterback isn't the Vikings' biggest need. It is. They know it is. Spielman said as much earlier this month when he said, "it's maybe the most difficult position to fill, but we're going to do everything and use every resource we can to try to get that corrected." As we've discussed in the past, one of the great benefits to having a franchise quarterback is how many other holes he can cover up.

But these decisions all come with a price. And with as much star power as there is at the top of this quarterback class, the general opinion from talent evaluators is that there's no Andrew Luck here, no sure thing that would almost guarantee a sizable return on a major investment. What if the Vikings forked over three or four picks to move up, missed on chances to fill other holes on their roster and wound up with another first-round bust? As Spielman admitted last week, he hasn't gotten the quarterback decision right yet, and another failed first-round QB would likely cost him his job. He might be better off finding a linebacker or a cornerback in the first round and coming back later to take a look at someone like Alabama's AJ McCarron or Georgia's Aaron Murray. That route would put less pressure on a rookie QB to succeed right away, and it would put less pressure on Spielman to nail the draft pick. And if Matt Cassel decides not to opt out of his contract, the Vikings would be able to cover themselves for at least a couple months while a new QB develops.

Now, there is enough uncertainty with this group of QBs that it's possible one could fall to the Vikings at No. 8, and at that spot, it'd be tough for Spielman not to take one. If it came to trading up, though, and adding even more of a cost to a decision where the stakes are already so high, the Vikings would have to think very carefully before making a move like that.

Finding a great QB is unquestionably their biggest need, and it's entirely possible they could get one in this draft. I'm drawn more to college players who have won on the field more than I am to players who impress scouts in workouts, and Manziel fits that description wonderfully. His confidence and playmaking ability, in the same backfield as Adrian Peterson, could be a blast to watch and a chance for big-time success. But there are many other teams that probably have similar visions for Manziel, or Bridgewater or Bortles or Carr, and if the Vikings have to mortgage a big chunk of their draft to secure their own plans, they'd better be sure of what they're going to get out of it.

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?
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has just begun the process of evaluating college quarterbacks in preparation for the upcoming draft, but he may have offered a clue about which kind of quarterback he would prefer.

During his weekly meeting with the media in mid-December, he was asked if he grits his teeth and worries when he sees quarterback Chad Henne scramble. Not only did he say no, he said he wished Henne would scramble more.

"I get excited when they [quarterbacks] scramble," he said. "I think guys need to scramble. I think quarterbacks need to get first downs with their legs as well as their arms. I encourage scrambling.

"I encourage throwing it up and trying to get pass interferences and I encourage scrambling because I think both of those things happen in the NFL. Take a chance. When you have a chance to launch one, launch one. When you have a chance to run, run, because yards are hard to come by."

A seemingly perfect fit just became available on Wednesday when Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel submitted paperwork to the NFL to be included in May’s NFL draft.

Maybe that's reading too much into what Fisch said, but there is no college quarterback in the country that fits Fisch’s description better than Manziel. There’s no one who scrambles better, frustrates defensive coordinators more, embarrasses all-conference players and pulls big plays out of nowhere better than Manziel.

The two other players generally considered among the top quarterbacks in the draft -- Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles -- don’t compare. Bridgewater is the best pure passer, most NFL ready and most polished quarterback in the draft and he’ll likely go No. 1 overall, but he’s not the kind of improviser and scrambler Manziel is. Bridgewater moves exceptionally well in the pocket and can run if needed, but he doesn’t do it often -- he has rushed for 164 yards and four touchdowns on 226 carries, an average of 0.7 yards per carry.

Bortles ran for 561 yards (2.3 per carry) and 15 touchdowns in his three seasons at Central Florida.

Manziel rushed for 2,169 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. He ran for 181 yards against Louisiana Tech in 2012.

Quarterbacks are ultimately rated by what they do as a passer and Manziel certainly has more work to do regarding his skills in the pocket than Bridgewater. There are questions about whether he can sit in the pocket, scan the field and find an open receiver, not only because of his penchant to scramble but also because of his height (6-foot-1).

But there are few quarterbacks who can play the entire game in the pocket. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are a rarity in today’s NFL. Quarterbacks have to at least be able to get outside and scramble for a first down every once in a while or move around to extend plays. That’s what Fisch meant when he said he encourages his quarterbacks to scramble.

Things rarely go as planned on the field, and games are often determined by what happens on two or three broken plays. That’s where Manziel excels, and there was no better example of that than his 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Labhart in which he tried to leap over a defender, pulled his leg free from an apparent sack, rolled left and found Labhart wide open.

Manziel isn’t the best quarterback in this draft. That’s Bridgewater, and that’s who the Jaguars would most likely take if he’s somehow available with the third pick. Fisch wouldn’t have a problem with that, either, and the offense would be the same style it was with Henne and Blaine Gabbert, bigger quarterbacks who don’t scramble much.

But if he’s not, then Manziel -- whom Todd McShay predicted the Jaguars would take in his first mock draft -- would be the best option.

And Fisch will most likely end up answering questions about whether Manziel is scrambling too much.

ST. LOUIS -- If indeed the St. Louis Rams are looking to continue perpetuating the deal they made with the Washington Redskins in 2012 by trading down and adding even more high-value future picks, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's declaration that he's entering the 2014 NFL draft does nothing but strengthen their position.

While it seems extremely unlikely that the Rams would draft Manziel or any other quarterback -- the team has repeatedly made clear its devotion to Sam Bradford as the starter -- the more quarterbacks capable of going in the top five, the better the trade market will be. There's no position in the game that draws more attention on the open trade market than quarterback.

As it stands, our NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay rate Manziel as a top-three quarterback in this draft, behind only Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Between now and the draft, that could change and, of course, teams place different values on different players.

Since it's clear the Rams don't necessarily want to draft a quarterback as high as the first round, they find themselves in the unique position of being surrounded by teams who are in desperate need of a franchise signal-caller. After Houston picks first, the Rams go second and they are followed by Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland, all of which could use a long-term quarterback solution.

Atlanta sits at No. 6 and is set at quarterback but right after that Tampa Bay at No. 7 and Minnesota at No. 8 could also be in the quarterback market. That means between picks three and eight, five of six teams could well be in the hunt to add a quarterback.

The early consensus seems to be that Bridgewater is the top quarterback prospect in the draft, though there's plenty of time for players like Manziel and Bortles to close whatever gap may exist. The more they do, the higher the price could go for the Rams' No. 2 pick. There's almost no chance that price will rise as high as what the Rams got for the rights to Robert Griffin III in 2012, but there could be a nice return awaiting the Rams should Manziel or Bortles begin to separate.

For the Rams, if Manziel can interview well and boost his stock between now and May, the better their position will be. With more pressing needs on the offensive line and at wide receiver, the chances for the Rams to move down only a spot or two, get some extra picks and still get the player they want at a position of need are only growing.
 

What is the main thought that comes to mind now that Johnny Manziel has made himself eligible for the NFL draft?

The Cleveland Browns should take Sammy Watkins, the receiver from Clemson.

That won’t stop the offseason Manziel chatter, though. In fact, the chatter and the debate will rage through the offseason. Manziel declaring for the draft might be the best thing that could have happened for Browns CEO Joe Banner and team owner Jimmy Haslam. Because it takes the attention away from yet another rebuild and generates excitement about another guy with potential.

Potential, poschmential.

As they used to say before the draft became an offseason obsession, potential gets coaches fired.

Talent wins. The Browns should use logic for a change instead of reams of analysis and overthinking. Watkins is a good player. Pairing him with Josh Gordon and adding Jordan Cameron makes any offense strong.

Take a quarterback later. Nick Foles was not a top pick. Colin Kaepernick went in the second round. Russell Wilson was a third-round choice. Guy named Brady was drafted later.

Yes, Andrew Luck was the first overall pick, but he’s a rare, Manningesque player. David Carr was the first overall pick, too. For every Matthew Stafford there’s a JaMarcus Russell.

Look at what has happened to Robert Griffin III, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder ... who also were first-round picks. Griffin, like Manziel, is an undersized guy who likes to run. How has that gone for the Redskins? ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. compared Manziel to Fran Tarkenton. A comparison to Ben Roethlisberger might make him more appealing.

The Browns face what Haslam called their “crucial offseason.”

Once this monster of a coaching search is put in the cage, they can focus on personnel -- and all those draft picks.

They need to find a quarterback, but they have Brian Hoyer progressing well in his rehab from a torn knee ligament. He can enter the offseason as the starter. If the Browns want, they can keep Jason Campbell and make him the backup.

Draft a guy, bring him along and win with talent around him.

But don’t pass up a potentially great player. Watkins catches the ball and runs with it like Gordon, which is to say quickness and speed. He has explosiveness the Browns lack, and need.

Manziel has talent. Clearly. He threw 63 touchdowns and 22 interceptions at Texas A&M. He completed 68.9 percent of his passes.

But those pass-rushers he could elude in college are bigger, stronger and faster in the pros. He’s also a diva, willing to taunt fans for taking money for an autograph signing and be photographed leaving every party known to humankind at major events.

This is a college kid who has perfected the art of celebrity.

Please.

Imagine if the Browns could add a legitimate running back via free agency or at some point in the draft, buttress the offensive line a bit, add Watkins to go with Gordon and Cameron and have an efficient quarterback.

Imagine being the defensive coordinator trying to stop that group.

When they draft -- and let’s not forget the draft ISN’T UNTIL MAY -- the Browns will have their choice of quarterbacks. Blake Bortles, Manziel, Derek Carr, maybe Teddy Bridgewater. Who knows.

But good quarterbacks are everywhere in the draft (AJ McCarron). It’s the job of the team to find them. But it’s not the team’s job to take him simply because he’s a quarterback.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The 2014 draft just got a lot more interesting with the news that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be a part of it.

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sitting at No. 7 there’s going to be a lot of talk about Manziel. Would the Bucs take him? Will he still be available at No. 7?

The personnel people I talk to are all over the board on Manziel. Some say he’s a legitimate first-round pick and others have concerns, mostly about his size.

Like every other team in the league, the Bucs will at least do some homework on Manziel. But the first thing Tampa Bay’s new administration has to do is make a determination on whether Mike Glennon is in the plans at quarterback.

Coach Lovie Smith and whoever ends up as general manager are in a draft spot where they could end up with a franchise quarterback. They need to figure out if Glennon or Manziel can be that guy.

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