Johnny Manziel Could Go No. 1—What Questions Must He Answer for NFL Teams?

Mike FreemanNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 9, 2014

Getty Images/Joe Robbins

This is what we are witnessing with Johnny Manziel. In many ways, it is remarkable. 

NFL personnel men are having the kind of perception transformation, the kind of rapid shift in an opinion of Manziel from overly negative to total infatuation, at a rate not seen in the modern history of football. 

Manziel is now universally seen as a top-five NFL pick. He is seen as a game-breaking phenomenon. He is seen, one general manager told me, as the 21st-century Brett Favre.

Go back in time to when scandals erupted all around Manziel, covering him with volcanic ash. At that time, some in the NFL viewed him as almost undraftable. I remember a scout calling him a spoiled brat who deserved to be punched in the face. The smirk. The stupid hand gestures. NFL personnel men disliked him almost universally.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel reacts to Levonte Whitfield #7 of the Florida State Seminoles scoring on a 100-yard kickoff return against the Auburn Tigers in the fourth quarter of the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Manziel in 2013: public enemy No. 1.

Manziel in 2014: just No. 1.

It's unlikely, but definitely possible, that Manziel goes first overall in the draft. While he doesn't fit the mold of the tall, lanky quarterback that I know Texans coach Bill O'Brien likes, multiple people around the sport believe that O'Brien remains open to drafting Manziel. Again, a long shot, but not impossible by any stretch.

There is also the distinct possibility that the Houston Texans trade down and draft Manziel. The main point is, Manziel could go in the top five. Easy. And No. 1 is not out of the question.

What Manziel must do is alleviate the concerns that he's an immature putz. Go back to Favre. Million-dollar arm, 10-cent cranium. The NFL believes it knows what it will get on the field with Manziel, and that's a player who needs his explosive tendencies and recklessness slightly tempered with smart decision-making.

It's off the field where Manziel will have to do the convincing. I asked one scout to give me 10 questions he was certain he and every other team would ask Manziel, particularly at the scouting combine in February. The scout's answers:

1. What do you care more about: fun or winning?

(Obvious reason for asking this question.)

2. How much are your parents involved in your life?

(Scout: "I think finding out that dynamic is one of the most important things to discover about him. Has he just been living off their cash, or do they actually have an impact on his life?")

3. Who is your best friend? Can I speak to him?

("What does his inner circle look like?")

4. Tell me exactly what happened at the Manning camp.

5. Do you like girls? Just kidding.

5. How important is money to you?

("I would say maybe 20 percent of all draft picks I've been around … once they got the cash, they stopped caring. He comes from money so that might not be the case with him, but that's something I want to know.")

6. How important is fame to you?

7. What is the worst mistake you've ever made?

("I want to see how he handled whatever that mistake is.")

8. How many girlfriends do you have?

("Sex and money are interchangeable. We all know the guy is on TMZ. I expect him to chase women and get laid. I just want to make sure football is top priority, not the ladies.")

9. Who do you admire most outside of football?

10. Who exactly is Johnny Manziel?

This is just a tiny sample of the queries Manziel will face. It will be far more intense. By a factor of a cabillion.

Teams don't care if he's photographed on TMZ with his arms around two nuclear scientists. They just don't want him to become TMZ. They don't want him to become a spectacle. They want him to be a quarterback.

The concern I hear the most about Manziel from NFL team officials is they do not yet have a grasp on who he is. Is he Joe Namath, a fun-loving guy off the field who, when it was time to study and play, was able to fully focus on football?

The question is no longer, can Manziel play in the NFL? That question, many feel, has been answered.

The questions now are deeper. Who is Johnny Manziel?

And who will he be?