Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is unquestionably one of the most intriguing prospects to enter the NFL draft pool in years, and while every team will likely have differing opinions on him, several factors suggest that Johnny Football should come off the board quickly.
Most figured that 2013 would be Manziel's final season in the collegiate ranks, and while he kept his intentions under wraps initially, Manziel officially declared for the 2014 NFL draft on Jan. 8, as NFL on ESPN reported:
Manziel later made the announcement official, via CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman:
After long discussions with my family, friends, teammates, and coaches, I have decided to make myself available for the 2014 NFL Draft. The decision was such a tough one for me because of how much I wanted to go back and be with all those guys that I love playing with, and to work with Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and Coach (Jake Spavital) Spav and be part of a program that's continuing to grow. But I felt like this is what's best for me now.
I feel very relieved. It's a weight off my shoulders. I'm ready to become a professional and dedicate myself to making my dream a reality of becoming the best quarterback I can be.
The decision was an obvious one for Johnny Football after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman in 2012 and following that up with yet another spectacular season that resulted in him being a Heisman finalist yet again.
Manziel is a special talent, and it can be argued that he is one of the greatest college football players of all time despite playing just two years. That argument is bolstered by the fact that he dominated SEC competition, as evidenced by this stat courtesy of SportsCenter:
Not only did Manziel excel as a passer, but he was also an extremely dangerous threat with his legs, which resulted in him racking up nearly 10,000 total yards and 93 touchdowns in two seasons:
Manziel wasn't as dynamic as a runner in 2013, but that may have been by design. He made strides as a passer, and head coach Kevin Sumlin acknowledged that, according to the Associated Press via The Trentonian:
I think he moved from an athlete that was playing quarterback to a quarterback that's an athlete. I think he's improved as a passer, improved in his knowledge of not only what we're doing, but his knowledge of defenses, and I think that shows.
Speaking of Sumlin, NFL.com's Gil Brandt makes a great point regarding what Manziel's departure means for him in 2014.
It's extremely difficult to ignore all the accolades, but there is far from a consensus feeling that Manziel will translate to the NFL level. For starters, it can be questioned whether or not he has elite arm strength, and it remains to be seen if he can play in a pro-style offense.
Of course, the lines between collegiate and NFL offenses have been blurred in recent years with the spread- and read-option gaining traction in the professional ranks, but Manziel still may have to play under center and do some things that Sumlin and the Aggies didn't ask him to.
Also, Manziel's slight frame could cause some issues. Johnny Football's size is comparable to Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who suffered a torn ACL in last year's playoffs and was unable to return to form in 2013.
Manziel is just 6'1" and 210 pounds and dealt with a few different ailments throughout this past season. To his credit, though, he displayed a huge amount of toughness by playing in every game despite the fact that it would have been very easy to sit out with the NFL draft and a big payday looming.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah admitted that his size could be an issue, but he feels as though Manziel has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the draft:
NFL insider Jay Glazer agreed and has high hopes for Manziel's NFL career:
It's also no secret that Manziel has a penchant for making spectacular plays, such as this one against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, courtesy of SportsCenter, which would prove to be his final collegiate game:
Manziel simply seems to have intangibles that no other quarterback prospect does. They are immeasurable and difficult to project to the NFL level, but they probably shouldn't be ignored.
The biggest thing working in Manziel's favor is that four of the first five teams that will select in the 2014 NFL draft could really use a quarterback, as well as the Minnesota Viking at No. 8. Because of that, it's tough to imagine him falling below the eighth pick unless he decides to work out at the Scouting Combine and totally tanks.
The consensus seems to be that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the top guy at the position, with UCF's Blake Bortles and Manziel next in line. That means Manziel could either go No. 3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars or No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns. No. 5 to the Oakland Raiders is also possible if they are ready to move on from Terrelle Pryor, and the Vikings are the worst-case scenario at No. 8.
Adam Caplan of ESPN believes that most will tab the Browns as the favorites to select Manziel at No. 4 overall:
ESPN's resident draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Manziel No. 3 among the draft-eligible quarterbacks:
Despite Manziel's perceived lofty draft status, not everyone is buying in. ESPN's Mike Greenberg doesn't take anything from Manziel's collegiate career, but he doesn't view him as a first-round talent:
There are probably plenty of others who agree with his point of view, but there are just as many who feel the opposite. Manziel is as divisive as a prospect can possibly be, and that is what will make following him throughout the draft process and beyond so interesting.
Teams may also take into account Manziel's star status since he can instantly re-energize a moribund fanbase, which means the Jags and Browns have to take a long, hard look at him.
An even bigger winner could be the NFL. ESPN's Colin Cowherd believes that Manziel's involvement will drive television ratings for the draft:
All it takes is one team picking high in the draft to fall in love with Johnny Football, and it's hard to imagine that not happening.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter