Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, promising he’d “always be an Aggie,” announced Wednesday that he was declaring for the NFL draft and forfeiting his last two seasons of college eligibility.
The news was expected, although Manziel waited more than a week after his last game to make his decision public. Underclassmen have until next Wednesday to file paperwork with the NFL and enter the draft.
Manziel, in a statement issued by Texas A&M, thanked his coaches and administrators and said he’d discussed the decision with his family before making it public.
“The decision was not an easy one, but we all felt this was the right time to make the next step toward a professional career,” Manziel said. “My experiences here … will be something that I carry with me for the rest of my life.”
It’s a near guarantee that Manziel, who lacks the height of the average pro quarterback but brings with him incredible play-making savvy, will be the most discussed prospect in the draft. Scouts will get their first look at the rookie class at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Feb. 22-25.
“I think the interview process will be particularly important with him,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. “Some teams will undoubtedly be turned off by his swagger, but my guess is that those teams will be in the vast minority.”
Draft projections are very fluid in January, but Manziel is thought to be a top 10 draft pick. With the Houston Texans leading the way, half the teams picking in the top 10 of the draft are in the market for a quarterback.
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, as of now, is ranked as the top quarterback prospect. Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Manziel are second and third.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper likened Manziel to former Minnesota great Fran Tarkenton, who set every major NFL passing record and dazzled fans with his scrambling ability for 18 seasons.
Tarkenton liked the comparison to Manziel. He tweeted Wednesday: “Would love to see Johnny Manziel in a Vikings uniform. This guy is the real deal. He will be a big time player on Sundays.”
But Manziel also can’t grow any taller. He’s listed at 6-foot-1, but admitted a year ago he’s really only 6 feet. Of the current starters in the NFL, only two are Manziel’s height — Seattle’s Russell Wilson and New Orleans’ Drew Brees.
Manziel also is as well known nationally for his spectacular play as he is for his socializing. No doubt, scouts will study and ask about both.
In his two seasons at A&M, Manziel threw for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns and ran for 2,169 yards and 30 scores. He won the Heisman as a freshman and finished fifth in 2013. He posted the top two seasons in SEC history in total yards, although no other conference schools have run the same sort of free-wheeling offense that the Aggies brought to the league.
“In all of my years of coaching, Johnny Manziel is the most exciting football player I have ever seen,” Sumlin said in a statement.
In the months between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Manziel’s partying, which he often documented on his social media accounts, generated unwanted publicity. Manziel kept a lower profile last fall. But he’s become more public since his last game, with stories of his exploits appearing on gossip web sites.
Just this week, the web site TMZ.com posted two videos this week of Manziel out partying in Hollywood. Manziel left Atlanta after the Aggies bowl win over Duke and flew to Miami to spend time with the Drake and was spotted at an after-hours party hosted by Jay Z. The rapper Wale posted a photo on Instagram of he and Manziel eating a giant pizza.
“There’s going to be some concern when he steps into that locker room,” said ESPN analyst Jerome Bettis. “The question that the players are going to ask themselves is: Is this a ‘me’ guy? Is he an ‘I’ quarterback? Is he going to come in and be part of a team concept? We saw some of the things that happened since he won the Heisman Trophy, and it’s not been all good from a team concept. The players will ask themselves ‘Is he a guy I want to follow?’”
MANZIEL’S CAREER NUMBERS
Year;Comp.;Att.;Yds;TD/INT;Rsh;Rsh yds.;Rush TD
Manziel’s game highs
Most passing yards: 464 yards (2013, Alabama)
Most single-game TD passes: 5 (2013, Alabama)
Longest TD pass: 95 yards, to Mike Evans (2013, Alabama)
Best rushing game: 17 carries, 229 yards, 2 TDs (2012, Oklahoma)
Longest run: 72 yards (2012, Louisiana Tech)
Career passing yards: 7,820
Career passing TDs: 63 (22 interceptions)
Career rushing yards: 2,169
Career rushing TDs: 39
Career record as a starter: 20-6
Career bowl record: 2-0
NFL DRAFT: WHERE WILL JOHNNY GO?
First-round order for May’s NFL Draft, as of now, including teams potentially looking for a quarterback:
No. 1: Houston Texans*
No. 2: St. Louis Rams
No. 3: Jacksonville Jaguars*
No. 4: Cleveland Browns*
No. 5: Oakland Raiders*
No. 6: Atlanta Falcons
No. 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 8: Minnesota Vikings*
No. 9: Buffalo Bills
No. 10: Detroit Lions
No. 11: Tennessee Titans*
No. 12: New York Giants
No. 13: St. Louis Rams
No. 14: Chicago Bears
No. 15: Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 16 (t): Baltimore Ravens
No. 16 (t): Dallas Cowboys
No. 18: New York Jets
No. 19: Miami Dolphins
No. 20: Arizona Cardinals
No. 21: Green Bay Packers
No. 22: Philadelphia Eagles
No. 23: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 24: Cincinnati Bengals
* Teams possibly drafting a QB in the first round
Note: The Cowboys and Ravens will determine the 16th and 17th picks by coin flip. Picks 25-32 to be determined by the playoffs (Seahawks, Broncos, Panthers, 49ers, Patriots, Saints, Browns and Chargers. Cleveland owns Indianapolis’ pick.)
2014 QB DRAFT CLASS
The top quarterback prospects for May’s draft, with comments from the American-Statesman’s Kevin Lyttle:
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: The 6-3, 205-pound Bridgewater is lauded for his accuracy (71 percent in 2013), eyes, ability to quickly survey the entire field and his sharp football mind.
Blake Bortles, Central Florida: The 6-4, 230-pound Bortles is the rising star on some draft rooms, but not everyone is on board. He’s good on short passes, less reliable on longer ones.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The 6-0, 210-pound Manziel was a transformational college player with the biggest stats and most highlights. But will his helter-skelter style play in the pros?
Derek Carr, Fresno State: The 6-3, 218-pound Carr might have the best physical tools of the four. Nice release, good velocity, placement, etc. Yet he hasn’t always held up well under pressure.
By Suzanne Halliburton
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