AJ McCarron: A Better NFL Quarterback Prospect Than Johnny Manziel

Ben FederCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2013

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Well, the magical tales of AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel are coming to an end. These two quarterbacks have provided the college football world with some of the best games and memorable moments over the past two seasons.

It was November 10, 2012 when the rivalry between McCarron and Manziel took off. The underdog Aggies upset the defending national champs in Tuscaloosa behind the heroics of some scrawny, undersized redshirt freshman nicknamed Johnny Football. 

This year, McCarron turned in a four-touchdown performance and beat Manziel in College Station in one of the most thrilling games of the season. Although Manziel shredded the Crimson Tide defense, McCarron out-dueled the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Throughout the season, McCarron and Manziel have been mentioned as two of the top five quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL draft.

While Manziel is ranked higher in most mock drafts, I believe McCarron would make a better NFL quarterback.

McCarron has been called a game manager for almost his whole career. Niners fans—does this sound familiar? Yes, it’s an unfair label, but we all saw what happened when Alex Smith was finally given a good coach. A 30-8-1 record over the past three seasons ain’t too shabby at all.

McCarron doesn’t have fantastic arm strength, he doesn’t put a ton of zip on the ball, and he certainly doesn’t have a lot of speed. What McCarron does have is two national championships, a 36-3 career record as a starting quarterback and a second-place finish in this year’s Heisman Trophy race. He’s an accurate passer who takes care of the football and always gives his team a chance to win. 

People argue that McCarron is just another average Alabama quarterback whose team has an elite defense that wins games.

However, I highly disagree. McCarron is a versatile and smart quarterback who can orchestrate the clock-eating drive to wear out opposing defenses, but he can also turn the game into a shootout, which we saw this year against Texas A&M and Auburn.

McCarron loves the big stage, and he thrives in it. In his two BCS National Championship wins, he combined to throw four touchdowns without a single interception. He was named offensive MVP in the 2012 game.

Despite having one of the winningest college careers of all time, McCarron is still undervalued by NFL scouts. Instead, scouts look at a player like Manziel and believe he could be a game-changer at the professional level.

Manziel has dominated college football since he took over at starting quarterback last season. As a frequent member of SportsCenter’s "Top 10 Plays," Manziel has better moves than Carlton Banks in his prime. 

Although Manziel has racked up huge accolades at the college level, there have always been concerns with how his size and spread offense game will translate to the NFL.

If Manziel does not get his first read, he turns to his legs to help pick up yards. At the NFL level, quarterbacks have to be poised in the pocket because if they scramble, those linebackers and linemen will run you down.

Just thinking about Manziel trying to evade Patrick Willis or Clay Matthews makes me cringe. 

Manziel seems like a wild card for the NFL team that selects him. Sure, he dominates the college game, but there is a lot of risk in selecting a guy like him.

We all saw what happened with former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. Smith, a player with a similar build to Manziel, dominated college football and won the Heisman Trophy in 2006. However, his scrambling abilities and spread offensive style did not work in the NFL. Smith has been out of the league since 2010.

McCarron is not a flashy player, but he understands what it means to be a pro-style quarterback. He’s a winner. And as a three-year starter in college, McCarron would bring consistency and leadership to an NFL team. 

Come April, we’ll see where Mel Kiper has McCarron and Manziel in his 784th mock draft. Until then, you can find me re-watching those Bama/A&M games.