Experts say Manziel will be high first-round pick

Texas A&M quarterback worked the last two summers with quarterback guru George Whitfield to improve his mechanics.
MCT Regional News
Jan 9, 2014

Johnny Manziel and his game will be dissected for the next four months now that he's declared for the NFL draft.

"This is going to be a draft dominated by Manziel talk," CBSsports.com's Dane Brugler said Wednesday. Brugler also owns nfldraftsource.com. "The next few months are going to be about why or why he should not be drafted high [and] will he be a successful quarterback in the NFL?"

Brugler said there's no player in the NFL to compare Manziel with and there's been few in college in recent times.

"The only other player in college football who compares -- who transcended the game -- is Tim Tebow," Fort Worth-Star Telegram NFL writer Charean Williams said. "That is the only way he compares with Tebow, though. Manziel is a legitimate franchise quarterback prospect. If he was prototypical quarterback size -- the average starting quarterback in the NFL last season was a shade over 6-3 -- we would be talking about him as the No. 1 overall pick. As it is, he will go in the Top 10.

"I know Johnny grew up idolizing Michael Vick, but Fran Tarkenton might be a better comparison. That's who one scout compares him too, pointing out that when Tarkenton scrambled, he scrambled behind the line to buy time and ran only when necessary. That's the quarterback Johnny became in 2013, which I know is something he worked on hard during the offseason."

Manziel worked the last two summers with quarterback guru George Whitfield to improve his mechanics. He stayed in the pocket more this season with better results. He completed 69.9 percent of his passes and averaged 13.7 yards per completion and 9.6 per attempt. Last season, he completed 68.0 percent of his passes, averaging 12.6 yards per completion and 8.5 per attempt.

"I do like his ball position," former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. "His drop is smooth. His release is smooth. It's compact. All those little things are very, very important. The arm strength seems to be fine, but until I see him live, it's really hard to say, 'Yeah, he spins it great.'"

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit has seen the improvement.

"From an intangible standpoint ... from an ability to make throws, he's worked as hard as any quarterback I've ever seen," said Herbstreit, who played quarterback at Ohio State.

But for all the praise Manziel gets, questions about his size seem to be a constant concern.

"Scouts will be very interested in what his real height is," Williams said. "A&M lists him at 6-1. He says he's 6-0 exactly. I had one scout tell me he thinks Manziel is a shade under 6-0. Russell Wilson measured 5-10 5/8 and fell to the third round, but Wilson opened the door for Johnny, whatever he measures."

Manziel didn't miss a game at A&M but played through several injuries this season. He admitted at the Chick-fil-A Bowl that he was banged up in season-ending losses to LSU and Missouri. He threw for only 419 yards on 40-of-76 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions combined in those two games.

"They'll also want to see that none of his injuries last season are long term," Williams said. "He looked fine in the bowl game, so I think they were relieved to see Johnny play like Johnny again after the LSU and Missouri outings. All of that -- the size and the injury issues last season -- go to durability. But he did start every game.

"A couple of scouts I have talked to question his arm strength. Most think it is strong enough, that he can make any throw necessary. Cleveland is a place where a quarterback really needs arm strength, so for the Browns, that might be more important."

Williams points out other concerns Manziel will have to address.

"He will have to change the way he carries the ball," Williams said. "He will have a lot of fumbles if he continues to hold it away from his body in the NFL.

"I don't think scouts are overly concerned about Manziel's off-field issues, but they will ask. When they talk to him, he'll impress them. I don't think that will be a concern for anybody once they meet with him."

Brugler has his doubts and says Manziel isn't a Top 10 pick in his estimation but that he will go in the top 5 because so many teams need a quarterback -- Houston with the No. 1 pick, Jacksonville at No. 3, Cleveland at No. 4 and Oakland at No. 5.

Brugler said all four of those teams will do their due diligence and "one will bite."

Williams believes Manziel could be a big catch for someone.

"His assets are obvious," she said. "He has the 'it' factor. He leads. He puts the team on his back and usually finds a way to win. He is a dual-threat quarterback, which a lot of teams are seeking now."

The NFL draft is set for May 8 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

 

By Robert Cessna

The Eagle, Bryan, Texas

(MCT)

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