The NFL Draft is still a couple weeks away, but the most intriguing story besides Michael Sam, who I wrote about a couple months ago, is the draft prospect of Texas A & M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football has been one of the most fun, most exciting, and most polarizing player in college football. Manziel has helped ease the Aggies’ transition from the Big 12 to the SEC, performing at a high level in the toughest division of college football’s toughest conference. Where he lacks in size, he makes up for it with a big arm and a boatload of swagger (try measuring that one Sloan Sports Analytics Conference). He’s been compared by college football analysts to Brett Favre, which is intriguing to me. While Favre’s act grew stale after nearly 20 years in the National Football League, there is definitely a place for that type of quarterback in the League today. There are many teams that could take a chance on Johnny Football next month, but some are better fits than others.
The Houston Texans. Houston has the #1 overall pick in the draft. New head coach Bill O’Brien, who was the head coach at Penn State the last two years, and the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots before that, is one of the best quarterback gurus in the business. O’Brien has enough pressure going into an NFL market that really knows its football, and he would probably be better off loading up on defense in this draft and getting a game manager QB through free agency or the later rounds of the draft. Not getting picked by Houston might be better for Manziel. A kid from Texas with maturity issues getting selected with the top pick by a team in Texas after he’s already a state hero could be a disaster waiting to happen. Also, if the home state team passes up on him, it could put a chip on his shoulder that would make him more motivated to perform well for the team that does draft him. I expect the Texans to pick South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney with the #1 pick. It’ll be fun to watch Clowney playing alongside J.J. Watt.
The St. Louis Rams (via the Washington Redskins). The Rams will not likely be looking for a QB. They traded the #2 pick to Washington two years ago because they were confident in Sam Bradford. Last season, the Rams missed the playoffs because they were in the NFL’s toughest division (the NFC West) and because Bradford got hurt. I expect them to stay the course again with Bradford and possibly trade the pick.
The Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags could use a QB, but I really don’t want Manziel to go there. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the most boring franchise in the NFL. Nothing about them excites me. Tim Tebow would have been an intriguing choice because he’s from there, but not Johnny Football. I predict that that Jags will be the Los Angeles Jaguars by 2024. Johnny Manziel isn’t enough to change that.
The Cleveland Browns. This is a great fan base and a franchise that has experienced a lot of turnover in the front office and the coaching staff over the last few years. Fans are growing restless. Johnny Football would be a good bone to throw them, but I’m not sure it will be successful. The Browns have made some atrocious draft picks in recent years (see Richardson, Trent and Weeden, Brenden), and fans should have no confidence in the teams ability to evaluate and pick the right players. At this point, whether they pick Manziel or not, the Browns will have made the wrong decision.
The Oakland Raiders. The Autumn Wind is Johnny Football. This is another organization that can’t do anything right, it seems, but he seems like a typical Raider. The Raiders branded themselves as an aggressive, gun-slinging team that would knock you down and laugh in your face afterwards. Johnny Manziel would have been great in the 70s. The Raiders have plenty of options at QB, and no matter what they do, they will initially get heckled for it, but if Manziel ends up being the guy to get Oakland out of the funk they’ve been in for over a decade, then the Raiders will have the last laugh.
The Atlanta Falcons. Another team like the St. Louis Rams that has a franchise quarterback, and Matt Ryan has had more NFL success than Sam Bradford, so there’s no way the Falcons take Manziel with the #6 pick.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have hired a new head coach in Lovie Smith, and already have a pretty good defense. Tampa has three quarterbacks on the roster in Mike Glennon, Mike Kafka, and Josh McCown. Nothing to write home about, but serviceable options. Manziel could make things interesting for the Bucs, but they have plenty of areas of need, and if they’re not expecting to contend this year, the Bucs may decide to go for quarterback another year or later in the draft.
The Minnesota Vikings. I’m not draft expert, but I’d be shocked if Johnny Manziel makes it past the Minnesota Vikings with the #8 pick. The Vikes have a pretty good defense, good offensive options including superstar running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Greg Jennings, and they have a good new coaching staff headlined by head coach and former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. All they need is a quarterback and they’re a contender. Last year they had a tag team of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, and Josh Freeman at quarterback. Cassel is a good QB, and Ponder is awful. The Vikes are a franchise QB away from being a legit contender in the NFC. Johnny Football makes all the sense in the world for this franchise. It’s just a matter of if he falls that far.